Common Name: Pomegranate
Species: Punica
This small tree is native to Asia and the Mediterranean. In colder environments the species is deciduous, but in our environment the growth is continuous. It only makes small, densely twigged trees or shrubs with narrow, alternate leaves. When appearing the leaves are red then green. The intense, red-colored flowers form at the end of new shoots from midsummer onwards. Pomegranate grows best in warmer climates, but needs a cool dormant period to produce fruit in abundance. The trunk naturally twists, making it perfect for bonsai with the ancient and gnarled presentation.
-Punica granatum ‘Nana”: Dwarf Pomegranate: This miniature version has small blossoms and fruit and works well for smaller size bonsai.
-Punica granatum ‘Nochi Shibari’: This plant produces a truly outstanding deep red flower that resembles a carnation in form, but does not produce fruit.

Feeding: Fertilize heavily in early spring and throughout the growing season with organic fertilizer.

Repotting: Minimum night temperature – low to mid 60°’sF. Repot second year in early spring until 10 years old, then as necessary. Roots are delicate, and it does not mind being pot bound. Plant in a pot that is a bit deeper than usual.

Soil: 6.6-8.0 pH. Some organic materials may be added to bonsai mix. When using well-draining non-organic soil watering and fertilizing need to be increased.

Propagation: Can be propagated from either seeds or cuttings.

Insect/ Disease: No major pests or diseases have been reported.

Watering: In order to produce fruit this plant likes moisture. Never allow to dry out. Keep water away from blooms, as this might hinder fruiting.

Light: This plant is does best in full sun.

Temperature: Protect below 40°F.

Training/Pruning: Wire with care as branches are brittle. Clip and grow works best on the foliage, but be careful on bloom shoots in spring. Some growers reduce the number of flowers and fruit on the branch, in order not to weaken the tree, allowing a branch to fruit once every two years. With careful selection there will be flowers and fruit somewhere on the tree every year. Trim non-flowering new shoots during the growing season. It is considered best to root prune lightly at each repotting. The top can be pruned heavily.

Styles: Pomegranate is ideal for making into small bonsai. Informal upright works well in order to display the flowers and fruit. Other styles have also been used successfully.





Common Name: Ixora

Species: Ixora is a genus from the family Rubiaceae, consisting of more than 400 tropical evergreens and shrubs.  Other common names include Indian Jasmine, Jungle Flame, Jungle Geranium. Though native to topical regions in Asia, especially India, Ixora now grows in tropical climates in the USA, namely Florida and Hawaii.  Ixora can grow up to 12’.  Red Ixora flowers are commonly used in Hindu worship, as well as in Indian folk medicine.  Ixoras are noted for their showy flowers, which can be red, yellow, orange, pink, or white. The flowers have flaring tips and are arranged in clusters. The outer flowers in the cluster open first. The leaves are leathery, ranging from 3” to 6” in length. There are many hybrid varieties now available with smaller leaves. The fruit is a hard, fleshy berry.

Feeding: Ixora is a heavy feeder and acid lover. It is advisable to use an acid fertilizer with additional iron and minor elements.

Repotting: This is a tropical - Average minimum night temperature low to mid 60°F. When using nursery stock, reduce the root ball gradually over several repottings.

Soil: Well draining soil is a must.

Propagation: Can be grown from cuttings.  Due to slow growth it is best to use nursery stock or a collected tree.

Insect/ Disease:  Aphids and scale can be a problem.

Watering: Ixora requires heavy watering.  Drying out can cause leaf damage.

Light: Full sun is best to produce flowers, but will tolerate some shade.

Temperature: Protect below 40°F.

Training/Pruning: Wire young branches only when they are green due to their brittle nature. Clip and grow works best.  Remove blooms when past peak.  Removing one or two leaves below the blossom will promote branching and increase blooming.  Remove undesired branches at any time plant appears healthy.

Styles: Ixora lends itself well to multiple trunk style, where a full canopy can be developed. 

Sources: Wikipedia, http://www.bonsai-bci.com/files/Ixora.pdf, Tropical Green Sheets 




Common Name: Buttonwood

Botanical Name: Conocarpus erectus

Flower/ fruit: Flower is an unimpressive small greenish white “ball.”

Soil: Prefers a coarse, fast draining soil. Add a little organic matter if you cannot water often, but it must be well draining. Mix some old soil into new when repotting.

Fertilizer: Use a balanced fertilizer.

Repot: In May, June, or July in South Florida, not August, (minimum night temperature mid to high 70’s) and only when root bound or drainage inhibited. Repot before there is significant leaf development.

Prune: Top may be heavily pruned but roots are delicate. Be sure there are plenty of feeder roots left.

Training: Subject to scarring from wire – wrap with raffia first. Old growth is brittle. Maintain shape by pinching out new leaf buds as they form. Grows vigorously in spring and summer. March is a good time to prune/defoliate leaving the petiole. Diligence is required to achieve leaf reduction and full pads.  Style in spring but not during winter dormancy nor the heat of summer.

Propagation: Seeds, cuttings, air layering. 

Insect/ Disease: Resistant to most insects and disease. Deadly to buttonwood are: Malathion, diazinon and oil based pesticides. Trunks are susceptible to molds, fungi and rot. Clean wood occasionally with soapy water and a stiff brush. Use lime sulfur on moistened deadwood. 

Watering: Plenty of water in well-draining soil.

Light: Morning to full sun. Blooms best in full sun.

Driftwood: Before treating with lime sulfur the trunk should be cleaned with vinegar. For darker looking wood a drop or two of India Ink may be added to the lime sulfur. For the bleach-out driftwood effect Chine White or Acrylic White paint may be added to the lime sulfur.

Temperature: Protect below 45°F.

Editor’s note: For detailed information regarding Buttonwood pruning, repotting, and design control, refer to the Florida Bonsai magazine, volume XXI.




Common Name: Simpson’s Stopper, Twinberry

Species:    Myrcianthes fragrans
A member of the Eucalyptus family the Simpson’s Stopper is a hardy, evergreen tropical that is  native to South Florida, the Keys, and the Caribbean. It may be a large shrub or small tree and can reach a height of 20’ with a 15’ spread. The red, peeling bark is beautiful.

Foliage: The tiny, deep green, oval shaped leaves are arranged opposite.                                                   They contain aromatic oils with the fragrance of nutmeg.

Flower/ fruit: The Simpson’s Stopper has fragrant, white flowers that occur periodically throughout the year. These flowers then develop into attractive red-orange berries that are edible. The fruit has a sweet citrus-like flavor. The flowers attract butterflies and the fruit is appealing to birds.

Fertilizer: Use balanced fertilizer.

Repotting: Repot in spring when the average night temperature is in the low to mid 70°’sF.

Prune and Training: Can be pruned back hard, as it is a vigorous grower. Shorten new shoots with 6-8 pairs of leaves to 1-2 pairs. Can be wired while in active growth, but better shaping results are achieved with pruning. Protect the branches, as they scar easily. Leaf pruning can be done in summer on strong plants, but is not generally advised, as better leaf reduction results from timely pruning.

Styles: The Simpson’s Stopper is especially suited for multiple trunk style as well as informal upright.

Soil: Use well-draining soil. PH 6.5-7.8 (from mildly acidic to mildly alkaline).

Propagation: Cuttings in summer, air layering in spring and collecting.

Insect/ Disease: No major pests noted.

Watering: Moderately water in a well draining soil.

Light: Stoppers like morning sun to partial shade.

Temperature: Protect below 40°F. 





Common Name: Dwarf Turk’s Cap, Dwarf Hibiscus, Cardinal’s Hat
Species:  Malvaviscus Arboreus
Turk’s Cap, a small evergreen shrub is native to Mexico, Cuba, and Brazil, as well as the Gulf States of the U.S. It is a member of the mallow family and a Hibiscus cousin. Average size is approximately 3’.

Leaf/Flower: The leaves are heart shaped like Hibiscus leaves, bright green and alternate and approximately 1 ?” long.  In our area, the plant will bloom year round. The bright red flower petals only unfurl partially and the stamen is protruding. 

Feeding: Fertilize light and often. Time release fertilizer works well as the Hibiscus family likes to be fed small amounts regularly rather than large amounts at one time.  Foliar feeding with water soluble fertilizer can be applied weekly.  Avoid ‘super blooms’ or ‘bloom busters’. They are high in phosphorus and can hurt the plant.

Repotting: Repot in spring, summer or when average night temperatures have reached mid 60°F.

Soil: Use well draining soil pH neutral 6.6 to 7.5

Propagation: Can be grown from cuttings.

Insect/ Disease: Quite resistant, but ants may introduce aphids.  Bud drop can be caused by stress as well as thrip. The thrip girdles the flower’s calyx stem where it connects to the base stem.  Orthene or soap solution will help control thrips.  Can be treated weekly with soap solution.

Watering: Keep moist, but well drained.

Light: Full sun during to partial shade.

Temperature: Protect below 40°F.

Training/Pruning: Can be pruned any time.  Expect blooms on new growth in about 3 months.  Plant should be kept trimmed to keep full, tight and compact which will help generate the most blooms.  Wire as needed.  It is does not mind having its roots confined.  When transplanting, prune equal amounts from top as well as roots.

Styles: Lends itself to informal upright, multiple trunk, root over rock style.

Sources: http://www.bonsaiboy.com/catalog/product3108.html
Picture on right published with permission of Gene of bonsaiboy.com, also my thanks for his comments on care.                                                

Also thanks to Eric Wigert of wigertsbonsai.com for his support. 
http://www.strictlyhibiscus.com/care.html; For some close up pictures, go to: Turk’s Cap Photos​​




Common Name:    Weeping Malpighia  
Species: Malpighia pendiculata- Named to honor Marcello Malpighia (1628–1693), a distinguished naturalist from Bologna Italy; there are more than 800 species of Malpighiaceae growing as trees or shrubs mainly in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America. Malpighia is related to the Barbados as well as the Surinam Cherry.

Foliage: It is a dwarf evergreen shrub with opposite, short petiole, spiny tooth leaves.

Flower/ fruit: The flowers are rose-pink, often several together in a cyme**. Flowers appear during spring months.  Its fruit is a small red berry.

Fertilizer: This plant prefers heavy feeding during spring and summer months. In early spring feed super phosphate to facilitate blooming. A time release fertilizer works well the rest of the year. 

Repotting: Minimum night temperatures mid 60°F. Can be repotted through summer.

Soil: Malpighia prefer a slightly acid (pH 5.5 to 6.5) rich, moist, well draining sterile soil, as it is highly subject to nematodes. Never place on ground (soil).

Prune/Training: Will tolerate moderate root pruning but heavy top pruning. It does not bud back easily on old wood.  Grow 8 to 10 sets of leaves, cut back to one or two. Always leave at least one set of leaves to prevent die back. Can be easily trained through wiring.

Propagation: Roots easily from cuttings. Also, can be acquired in nurseries.

Insect/ Disease: Nematodes can be a problem. Occasional treatment is recommended. Scales, mites, and aphids may occur.

Watering: Moderate watering in a well-draining soil.

Light: Prefers full sun for small leaves, flowers and fruit.

Temperature: Protect below 40°F. Cold sensitive.

Styles: Difficult to develop bigger trunks, therefore suitable for small bonsai.  As the Malpighia pendiculata naturally grows weeping twigs and branches, it is suitable for cascade and semi-cascade styles, as well as other styles.

Sources:http://www.bonsai-bci.com/by-common-name/evergreen-flowering/569-malpighia-sp, Tropical Green Sheets, other online sources

**Cyme |sīm| noun: Botany - a flower cluster with a central stem bearing a single terminal flower that develops first, the other flowers in the cluster developing as terminal buds of lateral stems.




Common Name: Weeping Yaupon Holly 

Species:Ilex vomitoria ‘Pendula’  This fast growing Holly is an evergreen shrub native to North America from zone 7 to 9, but does well throughout zone 10.  It is perhaps the most popular of all ornamental berry plants. The long lasting berries are attractive to birds. The Yaupon Holly is unisexual. It is a good idea to have 2 plants, only the female plant produces flowers/fruit.**

Foliage/Flowers: The glossy green leaves are alternate. The tiny white flowers are arranged in clusters. The translucent red berries remain through out our winter.  

Feeding: Being a heavy feeder use a balanced fertilizer like 20-20-20 for most of the year. Good growth in early spring and summer has also been reported with the use of 9-6-6. During fall and early spring a super phosphate is suggested to promote bloom.
Repotting: Minimum night temperatures mid to high 50° F, but can be repotted year round. Care must be taken when reducing the root ball on nursery stock or pre-bonsai plants. No more than 1/4 should be removed at a time.

Soil: Neutral pH 6.0 to 7.5.

Propagation: The Yaupon Holly can be grown from seed, cuttings, or air layering, as well as purchased from a nursery.

Insect/ Disease: To ensure protection against leaf miners use a systemic to control this pest and protect the leaves.

Watering: It likes plenty of water and misting. Do not let dry out.

Light: Holly is most compact and fruitful in full sun, but will tolerate some shade, especially during our hot summer months. 

Temperature: Protect below 35°F.

Training/Pruning: The top can be pruned heavily as long as several leaves remain in order to prevent die back. The tree will back bud. The weeping holly can be wired according to its style.

Styles: Naturally very attractive in the weeping style.

Sources: Tropical Green Sheets, http://www.sunnygardens.com/garden_plants/ilex/ilex_1443.php
Special thanks to Merv Greenberg for the use of his picture on the left and his in-put.

**for more information about plant reproduction, go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plant_reproductive_morphology​​




Common Name: Jacaranda (Blue Jacaranda, Fern Tree,  Mimosa-leaved Ebony                                

Species: Jacaranda mimosifolia  is a sub-tropical deciduous tree widely known because of its beautiful and long-lasting lavender blue flowers that appear in spring and early summer. Native to Brazil, the stunning large trees have been introduced to countries around the world that have warm climates. Jacaranda can reach heights of 80’ or more.

Foliage/Flowers: As a bonsai the fine fern-like leaves of the Jacaranda are its main attraction. They do not close up at night as do many other tropical trees with compound leaflets. The individual leaves are pointed and approximately 1/4” in length.  During the flowering season the mature trees are covered with purple-blue flowers. These trees line streets of many roads in cities in South Africa. The fallen flowers leave a blue carpet on the ground under the trees.

Feeding: For most of the year use a balanced fertilizer. During fall and early spring a super phosphate is suggested to promote bloom.

Repotting: Jacaranda is a rapid grower during the summer months and enjoys frequent repotting.  It takes severe root pruning; minimum night temperature low to mid 60°’s F.

Soil: Requires a well draining soil, pH 6.0.

Propagation: Can be grown from seed or softwood cuttings. Jacarandas are also available in nurseries.

Insect/ Disease: There are no major problems with the species. During rainy season protect against root rot.

Watering: Moderate watering in a well-draining soil. During the dry season keep slightly on the dry side, but do not allow to dry out completely.

Light: Enjoys full sun.

Temperature: Protect below 40°F.

Training/Pruning: It is fairly difficult to achieve good branching and ramification of branches, it tolerates severe top pruning. Jacaranda has strong upward growth, which makes it difficult to develop lower branches. New shoots need to be pinched regularly coupled with loose, looping wiring for more compact foliage.  Vigilance is required because the delicate branches bruise easily.  Removing leaves that grow too large helps to reduce overall leaf size in the long run.  Trim the leaves within an inch or so and allow to fall off naturally.  With a mature bonsai allow the tree to grow freely in spring to produce bloom.  After blooming prune back severely.

Styles: Beautiful as group planting Jacaranda should be allowed to develop a large canopy.

Site for original source no longer active.




Common Name: Aralia
Species: Araliaceae
General Description - Aralias are ornamental evergreen shrubs from tropical regions of               the Pacific islands and Southeast Asia. There are six species of the Ming aralias genus,                    Polyscias, that are actively cultivated for outdoors in warm climates, as well as indoor                    houseplants or bonsai in colder climates.

Foliage: Aralias are especially interesting for their foliage. The name polyscias means many-shaded a reference to the luxuriant foliage. The compound leaves can have up to seven opposite leaflets. The dwarf cultivar Polyscias fruticosa ‘Elegans”, also called Parsley Aralia, is most suitable as a bonsai. Its leaves resemble parsley. The growth of Aralia is vertical.

Feeding: Every two weeks during growing season, every six weeks in winter. A time release fertilizer can be applied any time.

Repotting: Night temperatures high 60°’s F and above and throughout the summer every 2-3 years. Roots tend to be fragile and few, so caution in repotting is necessary.

Soil: pH6.5-7.5. Use well-draining soil mix.

Propagation: Grows well from cuttings or air-layering. The plant frequently produces suckers, which can be removed and grown. When starting with cuttings for a forest planting use different size cuttings.

Insect/ Disease: Outdoors plant is hardy. Indoors plant is susceptible to mites, scale and aphids. Root rot can be a problem if water is allowed to stagnate around roots. 

Watering: Loves moist soil, allow to surface dry between watering. Also appreciates misting of leaves, especially as an indoor bonsai.

Light: Prefers a bright location with indirect sun, but also thrives in shade.

Temperature: As bonsai protect below 40°F.

Training/Pruning: Aralia is usually shaped by pruning rather than wiring. Trimming inner branches results in a more tree-like appearance. Pinching will encourage branching. Partial defoliation can be used effectively for leaf reduction. 

Styles: Aralia works best in group or forest plantings.





Common Name: Chinese Fringe Flower
Species:Loropetalum chinesis - is an evergreen shrub native to Japan and                                                Southeastern Asia. First introduced to the United States about 1880 it only                                         started to find its way into the landscape around 1990, when the purple-leaved                                    and pink flowering forms were introduced. In the ground Loropetalum has a                                         rapid growth rate. It is reported that as bonsai the growth is considerably slower. Loropetalum has a spreading habit with branches arranged in horizontal layers. The botanical and common names refer to the shrub’s strap-like flower which looks like a fringe.

Flower/leaves: Although spring is the normal time to flower, the shrub will flower off and on throughout the summer and into fall.  The leaves of the pink blooming varieties are darker green and have burgundy, red or copper tints.  The green-leafed varieties have fragrant flowers that are white or yellowish.  The alternately arranged leaves are oval, 1-2” long and about 1’ wide. 
The following cultivars are available:
 Loropetalum "Ruby” is a rounded plant 3-5ft tall. The leaves are more rounded and pink flowers bloom year round.
 Loropetalum “Burgundy"  also called ‘Sizzling Pink’ grows more upright than ‘Ruby’ up to 6-10ft tall. Its elongated, pointed leaves turn bright red in the fall and the flowers bloom intermittently.
 Loropetalum ‘Plum’ also known as ‘Hines Purpleleaf, ‘Plum Delight’ or ‘Pizzazz’ will grow to 6-8 ft. It has dark foliage and tends to have smaller, darker flowers.

Feeding: Prefers a fertilizer for acid loving plants. Add super triple phosphate 0-45-0 during the growing season.

Repotting: Repotting is best during the spring and fall when night temperatures are in the low to mid 70°'s.

Soil: Prefers bonsai soil that balances toward acidic with rich, gritty, organic content that still drains well.

Propagation: Plant fresh seed or cuttings taken in spring or early summer. Also available as nursery stock.

Insect/Disease: Mites, nematodes, root rot, and nutrient deficiency (especially micronutrients).

Watering: Likes moist conditions with a well-draining soil. Do not allow soil to dry out.

Light: It does well in full sun to partial shade.

Temperature: Can withstand temperatures down to freezing 32°F.

Training/Pruning: Moderate styling is advisable considering its slow growth. Normal wiring is appropriate.

Styles:  As mainly nursery or pre-bonsai stock is available in our area informal upright is best.

Sources:  http://santarosa.ifas.ufl.edu/documents/lg_loropetalum.pdf; photo Theresa Friday​




Species: Chinese Elm

Ulmus parvifolia and sub-species with several sub-sub-species. (e.g., Lacebark Elm, Corkbark Elm, Caitlin Elm, Seiju Elm, Winged Elm)
A native of China, the Chinese Elms are semi-deciduous; they may lose their leaves while dormant in December and January.  Most trees purchased in South Florida come from China and can be recognized by their contorted trunks.  The Chinese Elm is a good beginner's tree.  One of its main attractions is the great contrast that can be achieved between a thick trunk and the delicacy of very fine growth at the tips of the branches.

Foliage: Small “double-toothed” alternate leaves. 

Soil: Well draining soil.  Chinese Elms love water but don’t like wet feet.

Fertilizer: Any balanced fertilizer; use weekly during growing season and monthly 
during dormant season.  Note: Over fertilization prevents good ramification and causes
long internodes.

Repot: In early spring with nighttime temperatures low to mid 50°’s when the new buds are appearing. Root prune carefully and gradually; remove the same percentage of foliage and root growth. 

Prune: Clip and grow method works well. Trim foliage any time of year. During the growing season, foliage may be pruned severely.  Elms may be defoliated 3 to 4 weeks before a show to get small, springtime leaves.  Elms will readily bud back on the trunk. In spring when new leaves emerge, remove unsightly old leaves. Most people avoid deadwood on Elms because of a tendency to rot. 

Propagation: From root or softwood cuttings, as well as air layering.

Insect/ Disease: Known to be very hardy.  Attack by spider mites and aphids are possible, treat accordingly.




Common Name: Water Jasmine (Wild Water Plum)

Wrightea religiosa (leaves may be 3” long) 
Wrightea coccinea (has short internodes and smaller 1” leaves) In its native Southeast Asia, Water Jasmine is used as a hedge and grows up to 20’ tall. It is widely planted because of its medicinal qualities. Wrightias are delightful plants with good bonsai character.

Foliage: Tropical evergreen with opposite leaves and slightly drooping branches. Leaves reduce well in response to pinching and defoliation. Yellow leaves indicate a lack of fertilizer.

Flower/fruit: Clusters of long lasting, fragrant, white pendulous flowers from early spring to late fall. Flowers form at the ends of new growth. The seed pod is slender, horseshoe shaped. Blooms may be forced by applying a bloom fertilizer every 2 weeks for 2 months. Then stop fertilizing and defoliate completely, leaving the petiole on the stem. Place in full sun.  Flowers will form in about 4 weeks.

Soil: Use a soil with a good balance of drainage and water retention. It likes moisture but will not tolerate soggy soils.

Fertilizer: A heavy feeder; use a balanced fertilizer with an occasional boost of phosphate.

Repot: Repot annually during the summer or when night temperatures are above 50°F.

Prune: Both roots and foliage will accept heavy pruning. May also be wired. Buds back readily on old wood. In the tropics Wrightias are defoliated several times a year to produce smaller leaves and increase twigging.

Propagation: Sprouts easily from branch and root cuttings. Also forms seeds contained inside a green bean-like pod.

Insect/ Disease: Leaf miner or aphids are sometimes seen. Sevin insecticide causes leaf drop.

Watering: Enjoys moist soil.

Light: Morning or full sun. Full sun works best to aid leaf reduction.

Training: Prolific back budding and angular growth. Trim after the blooms. Wrightias have prominent almost succulent roots that may be used to great advantage in many exposed root bonsai styles.

Temperature: Protect below 40°F.​​