So you've aquired a bonsai have you? Congratulations and welcome to the world of bonsai.
There are two types of bonsai you can buy - those at reputable bonsai nurseries that have been grown and trained by genuine bonsai artists; and those that are now termed as 'mallsai'. These plants are usually sold outside of nurseries, in malls or in roadside stands. They can basically be described as non-trained starter plants. The main problem is that they are sold as genuine bonsai when they have received little training, if any, and are likely to be little more than a few years old. Ideally, you are best off owning a bonsai in the former group, but do not feel disillusioned if you do not. If you follow the right steps you are likely to have a healthy and happy bonsai for many years to come.
If you have purchased a 'mallsai' - it could have a layer of glued on stones around the base of the trunk. These are mainly there to prevent soil from falling out during transportation of the bonsai. Now that you've got it home, these need to be removed. They can endanger the health of your bonsai by preventing water intake and by haboring pests underneath.
One of the most important things you have to do when you receive a bonsai is to find out what species it is and find out the correct care for that particular species. Unless you have bought the bonsai from a reputable dealer, you might find that the information they have given you on basic care is incorrect. Contrary to popular belief, most bonsai are not indoor plants and will die if you keep them inside all year.
You must also remember to frequently water your plants. Junipers and pines often look healthy even weeks after they have died, and it is not until the foliage turns dull green and brittle that people actually realise they have not been keeping their bonsai correctly.
If your bonsai is already in trouble, your best bet is to leave it alone, in a semi-shady position outside, with frequent watering. (But be careful not to over water.) Do not even think about fertilizing, repotting or adding extra compost mix - this will just stress the bonsai out further and diminish any chances you had of saving it.
Common choices for mallsai are Junipers, Serissas (very temperamental) and Jade trees (fairly hardy).
Irregardless of where you got your bonsai from, if you read the information on this site and take it to heart, and don't neglect your bonsai - you're well on the way!
Don't let this happen to your bonsai!
Junipers (like the one pictured above) are outdoor bonsai, and need to experience periods of dormancy each year. They cannot be kept inside all the time without special treatment and a lot of hard work.