Record keeping for different species

I’m just getting back into working with bonsai and was wondering what methods different ones use to keep track of the care, etc of different kinds of trees.

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I used to have a software when I was on my old window PC but I loss it and can’t find it back now :frowning:
It was pretty interesting but limited in number of pictures you could take.

I then switched to an excel sheet but it works when I’m with only 10~20 tree, but with 50+ trees in various states and several weeds in the process of being converted it got overloaded.

I now use my flickr account as a tracking record. Using pictures and their internal dates to get to know what I did or when I took a set of actions.

I found those while searching again today (not the software I was using before but looks interesting, now how to get hold of it is another story )

and this

Great question. I like keeping records in general but somehow I don’t keep track of my bonsai this way. I take many photos when I work on trees and tag them in a way that lets me find them afterwards, and often I write about the work too. (I regularly use Google to find old posts to see what a tree looked like in the past or for details about the work I did.)

For years I’ve searched for clues as to what work was done in the past and what work is necessary at any given time. For example, repotting on a schedule is less important than repotting when the tree needs it. If an infestation or a cool summer slowed down a tree’s growth, maybe it can wait another year before repotting. I really wish I knew when I decandled each of my trees each year, but changes in weather - or my fertilizing schedule - can have just as big an effect as selecting the day for the work.

Learning to “read” what a tree needs is particularly important when purchasing new trees as the information about past work isn’t always available.

Thanks for asking - do let us know what you come up with.

Thought I would let you know what I decided about my record keeping. I had started an index file on the trees as I had collected them. Since not all can be repotted, etc, at the same time, I find a spreadsheet is helpful. I had starting making note on a calendar so I refer back to last years and make new notes on each years calendar.

I have found some seemingly conflicting info on web sites but have found most have been so helpful. I have appreciated the time those have spent keeping up their web sites.
For me, I may never have a prize winning bonsai but it’s the journey that counts. :smile:

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I use Bonsai Album but it can only be used on Apple products like an IPad. It works great and affordable…like $7.50 or so.

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I have only been really active with bonsai for a little over a year, but I’ve been active in my garden for four. I am a compelled to track my actions and progress because everything is so new. It is hard to know what will be important a year or ten years from now. Plus my memory is crap. I have tried three approaches. The first was digital; an iPad app. It was a disaster. After inputting all kinds of information about my plants and trees and months of activities, the data was lost. Problem was the data was stored only on my iPad and the app was not well supported. Then I went old school and bought a different Moleskin notebook for each genus. That approach was unwieldy. My library quicky grew to 20+ volumes, and I never seemed to have the one I needed when i wanted to write something down. Now I’m back to digital, but I’ve addressed the shortcomings of my first attempt. I use a program called Evernote. It is free to use up to a certain amount of data. Then you can get a premium subscription for 50 a year; well worth the conveniences it offers. Evernote saves my information in the cloud (it’s own servers) so I don’t risk losing it. The application is loaded on my PC, iPad and iPhone. I can enter something into my phone, and instantly see my new entry on my computer. I can combine text and images and tables in the entries. Each entry is marked with the date and location if you like. And you can organize the information the way you like with different virtual notebooks. I can email someone one of my entries and I can assign myself tasks with reminders. No tool is 100% what you want, but this one has come pretty close for me.


Thanks for all the suggestions & replys. I really like the Evernote one. I have taken a couple of pictures & started a record to update started bull pine seedlings. Much easier than what I was doing.

I use a program called OT2 but may switch to the Bonsai Album since I read it will have a PC version soon.


I’'m a bit of a dinosaur, long ago I decided I’d rather spend my time growing trees than writing about them. For keeping track of what I did to specific trees, I invested in a box of 1000 standard plant labels. Write dates and notes on the label as to what I just did, and stick them in the pot. That way the record is where you need it, with the tree. Example one of my tags reads: Re-pot 9/2011, Fert- 3/2014, Fert 6/2014, Clearys 3888 9/2014, etc. If you write in pencil, a pink rubber eraser will work when the tag is full. Key is relevant short term info is with the plant, easily accessible with out the need for electricity. Though I do like the idea of a phone app, only if it did synchronize with the home PC without a lot of work. If you want to save long term the data stored on the tag you can take a photo of it. My trees do have 2 or 3 tags in them, but it is easy to take the tags out for photos, just remember to put them back.

Photos - I too use embedded data for dates, in the home PC, I created a folder for my bonsai trees, and in that folder are multiple folders one for each tree. Name and date acquired for the folder title. then as I download pics from my camera, I simply dump them in the corresponding folder. Primitive, but it works.

This way I don’t have to keep paying someone for cloud storage, because I am bound to forget and loose everything due to late payment. I do have an external back up hard drive, for the PC and Laptop. Terra bytes are cheap these days.

Thanks for sharing, Leo. I too, have used markers to keep track of trees. Had a g grander daughter paint iniatials on plastic makers. Of course, names change, like Liam’s tree. Color coded with plastic makers for different years. Last year was red strips from plastic lids, this year is black.

Another question. Does everyone feel compelled to keep every seed they find? Looks like 64 Pomelo Citrus seeds should be good. At least they all sank to bottom. But 64???

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Headings for each column in Excel
Botanicl Name - Common Name &/or ID - Gen. Backround , Features, Comments - # of plants - Root pruned and repot date - How Often - Best root prune months - Seller - Acquired Date - Cost

An added note - I always use pencil on plant tags. Markers - even Sharpie’s Permanent Black marker (which is one of the best) had a disconcerting habit of fading, the ink from a marker photo-degrades in direct sun, and over the course of 2 to 5 years will fade away completely. A cheap marker can fade in one summer. When the color goes, it seems to go fast. Markers do not ‘scratch’ the surface of the tag, once faded it is almost impossible to figure out what was on the tag.

Pencil is graphite, and it does not photo-degrade. It does fade, but usually much slower than marker. It is usually possible to decipher what had been there. Additionally, the pressure used when writing with pencil often scratches the surface of the tag, so it is possible to read the scratch marks in the case of extreme fading. So avoid markers and use pencil if you have more trees than you can remember the names of.

Paul - I do use a spreadsheet- open office - similar to Excel but free - and your system matches almost exactly what my spread sheet looks like. However it is almost always out of date - I never seem to have enough time to keep the spreadsheet current. My spreadsheet also has over 1000 entries for orchids in my collection, originally intended to keep track of orchids, because I had ended up duplicating ones I already had. But it is always a couple months out of date.

I use the Bonsai Album on my iPad. Excellent features. Easy to pick up and use. Can be viewed by me anywhere at any time with my iPad or iPhone. Connects to my calendar. Has ample space for photos. Has a word document type note section to jot down any thoughts. A nifty section for pots. Easy navigation. The developer is also awesome at explaining answers to questions as well as accepting suggestions for updates. Without the iPad and App…I just stumbled along with a great desire to track but always forgetting.

Leo, I use colors for each of these categories
Flowering-Fruiting Forest-Group-Multi Trunk-Raft
conifers Broadleaf Evergreens Prune and/or re-pot After Flowering
Tropical In Trouble
Planted in the ground, Some for recovery. Water basket or colander
and back round color for the year the tree was re-potted. it saves time when I am looking for a certain tree
I also have 2 spread sheets, one alphabetically and one by date of purchase.

The main problem I have found with this program is the ability to sync between two devices. I currently sync my phone to my iPad, but it is a manual process. Would be nice if it would backup to the cloud and sync from that.
I also wish it had the ability to mark up pictures so I could more readily remember what I was thinking throughout the life of the tree. Otherwise, I find this a useful program.