Common Name: Nia, Neea, Saltwood
Species: Neea buxifolia – is member of the Nyctaginaceae family, which includes the Bougainvillea. A native to Puerto Rico, as well as the US and British Virgin Islands, the shrub grows to about 15 feet with a trunk circumference of 5 – 6 inches. There is usually a single stem emerging from the ground with multiple branches low on the stem. The taproot is weak with lateral and fine roots, all brownish orange in color. Neea is a relatively slow grower.
Trunk/Foliage/Fruit:The bark is smooth and grey. The inner bark is bitter. The wood is soft and does not have discernible annual rings. The twigs grow laterally in all directions. With careful attention the close growth of the twigs create a compact outline desirable in bonsai. The petioles are short. The ¼" leaves are oblong, opposite or in whorl-like groups. The shrub is especially attractive during the growing season due to the deep red color of its new shoots. Neea bears small flowers in spring and summer followed by little, red fruit in summer.
Soil: Well draining soil.
Fertilizer: Starting in spring, Miracle Grow Time Release fertilizer every 3 month until November. In Spring 2 – 3 applications of liquid Chelated Iron over the whole tree and roots.
Repot: Repotting only if the minimum night temperatures are in the high 60oF. Younger trees need to be repotted yearly. Young trees can be severely root pruned, but it is recommended not to root prune until necessary. Older, established trees can be repotted every 3-5 years. Neea like to be slightly root bound, as this enhances flowering.
Pruning/Training: Clip and grow is the recommended training method. The branches and twigs elongate so rapidly, frequent pinching and trimming are necessary. Wiring is difficult due to profuse and erratic branch growth. Young branches can be wired, but older branches become more brittle.
Propagation: Branch cuttings between March and June, air layering as well as seed propagation.
Insect/Disease: No major diseases reported apart from the average garden pests like mealy bugs, aphids and scale.
Watering/Light: Neea like to be moist but not soggy and will not tolerate wet feet. Neea like lots of sunshine, however during the intense summer heat filtered sun is recommended.
Styles: As the trunk of the Neea grows very slowly it is best to start with a bigger trunk. Shohin is a good choice as well as informal upright and broom style.
Temperature: Protect below 40°F.
Common Name: Star Flower / Lavender Star Flower / Star of Africa / African Star Bush
Botanical Name: Grewia occidentalis, G. Caffra, to Australia and South Africa. There are about 100 species of evergreen and deciduous trees, shrubs and climbers throughout the warms regions of Africa, Asia and Australia. In nature the shrub or tree will grow to a height of 9’. Nectar seeking insects and birds are attracted by the flowers. Grewia was named after the English physician, vegetable anatomist and botanist Nehemiah Grew (1641-1712).
Foliage/fruit: Evergreen, dark green foliage with fine toothed edges with three to five distinct veins, borne alternately on the stems. The undersides of the leaves are slightly hairy. Grewia is a prolific grower, but trunk development is slow. Occasionally orange fruit develop that will ripen to purple.
Flowers: Star shaped lavender flowers on G. occidentalis occur in groups of 1 -3 on new growth called peduncles. The flowers are 1 ½” blooming from spring to fall. Fruits sometimes form from the flower. G. caffra has yellow flowers. G. flava (also called Raisin Bush) also has yellow flowers.
Soil: Any well draining soil. Grewia likes plenty of water, but not wet feet.
Fertilizer: Use a fertilizer for acid loving plants. Add chelated iron to correct for chlorotic leaves.
Repot: Repot in early or late summer. Minimum night temperatures should be in the low to mid 60s.
Prune: Grewia will take severe top pruning and moderate root pruning. Leaves reduce well with pinching back. To encourage bloom, allow to grow freely in the early spring until blooms appear. After the first bloom, prune to desired shape and allow to grow freely again. This will produce continual bloom until late fall. The tree may be pruned back hard in the late fall.
From soft wood cuttings in spring, air layering or seeds.
Insect/ Disease: Scale and white fly can be a problem. Using a fertilizer (rose food) containing a systemic insecticide helps to control this problem.
Watering: Keep evenly moist but not soggy.
Light: Full sun is best; will also grow in partial shade. As this species likes more temperate temperatures it may be a good idea to protect against summer’s noon day heat.
Training: Wiring may be used, but be careful to prevent scarring delicate wood or new growth. Grewia is a rapid grower. Flowers form at the end of the shoots.
Temperature: Protect below 50°F.
Common Name: Parrot’s Beak, Snapdragon Tree
Gmelina philippensis – consists of 33 evergreen species native to the Philippines, India and Southeast Asia. Gmelina can grow as small tropical tree or shrub, but is mainly growing as a vine or climber reaching a height of 10-15 feet. Gmelina is a short-lived tree, reaching an age between 30 – 50 years. Apart from yellow there are white and red varieties. Gmelina blooms mid spring to mid fall. Gmelina will bloom as bonsai, but the flowers are out of proportion to the tree.
The trunk over time will develop a cork like texture. As a shrub Gmelina produces pendant branches.
Gmelina has spines or sharp edges. The ivy shaped leaves are sized up to 3” long.
The exotic yellow flowers resembling a parrot’s beak emerge at the end of a tube like structure of over lapping brats. Flowers open during the night and remain open 1 to 2 days, before falling off. The large yellow pod contains one seed.
Any well draining soil. Gmelina likes a variety of deep moist soils with an ample supply of nutrients.
Use balanced fertilizer during the growing season with an occasional boost iron during the summer month. Lack of iron will produce yellowing of leaves.
Root prune every year in spring before the leaves emerge. The root mass need to be contained or the branches and bud nodes will elongate excessively. Does not like to be root bound.
Gmelina can be defoliated in order to reduce leaf size. It will reduce leaves to ½”. As it grows in a vine-like fashion it needs to be pruned often to maintain a bonsai style. Branches can be pruned to 2 or 3 leaves after it has developed 5 or 6 leaves. As Gmelina breaks out easily on old wood, major trimming will stimulate intense budding. During the dormant season it is a good idea to defoliate, thereby encouraging an early new growth of smaller leaves.
From woody cuttings and air layering. Collect seed head/pod when flowers fade: depulp, allow to dry. Remove any remnant of pulp, which will otherwise cause rapid fungal infection during storage. Sow seed in spring in standard potting mix with good drainage. Keep lightly moist.
No known insect problem.
Keep evenly moist but not soggy.
Full sun is best for small leaves.
Protect below 50°F.
Lends itself to many styles, including informal upright and cascade.
Common Name: Serissa, Tree of a Thousand Stars, Japanese Boxthorn
Serissa foetida – is a flowering semi-evergreen or evergreen shrub native to the sub-tropical woodlands and wetlands of South East Asia, from India, China and Japan growing to a height of 45 – 60 cm. There are different cultivars. The main difference is in the size and shape of the flowers. Snow Rose can only differentiated by measuring the difference in the shape and size of the flowers. Pink Rose has pale pink flowers and leaves edged off-white. Other varieties include Variegated Pink, Pink Mystic, Pink Fairy, Snowflake, Snowleaves, Mt. Fuji, Kyoto and Sapporo.
Serissa is used a lot as bonsai, but is a very fussy tree. It drops it leaves if over-watered, under-watered, too cold, too hot, or even moving the tree to a new location. Very often it does not recover from the shock.
Serissa flowers year round, but particularly from early spring to near fall. The 4- to 6-lobed flowers are funnel shaped and 1 cm wide. The buds appear pink but turn to a profusion of white flowers. The leaves are naturally small, oval, deep green, and rather thick. When bruised the leaves have an unpleasant smell, hence its name foetida. The trunk has an attractive rough, grey bark, which tends to get lighter in color with age.
Every other week during the growing season, at other times once per month. Organic fish emulsion is recommended. As always only fertilize when soil is moist.
Serissa dislikes root pruning and can be left for 2-3 years. Repot when average nighttime temperatures are in the low to mid 60o F. This helps the root system to recover quickly.
Prune/Training: The branches are quite flexible and can be wired. As to pruning, Serissa is a hardy plant and can be pruned to shape as needed and responds well to directional pruning. Hard pruning can cause root suckers to develop, which should be removed unless in a multiple tree style and the sucker is needed.
Soil: A well-draining bonsai mix.
Propagation: Softwood cuttings in spring or early summer.
Insect/ Disease: Scale insects. Yellowing leaves and leaf drop caused by incorrect placement, irregular watering and humidity levels.
Watering: Regular watering in a well-draining soil.
Light: Grown in full sun to partial shade.
Temperature: Protect below 50°F. Cold sensitive.
Common Name: Walter’s Viburnum, Small-leaved Viburnum, Small Viburnum
Species: Viburnum obovatum – is a flowering evergreen shrub or small tree native to the coastal plains of the southeastern from South Carolina to Central Florida to Alabama. This species was named by Thomas Walter, an 18th century botanist, active in the Carolinas. He was the first to write a broad account of Southeastern plants, called “Flora Caroliniana”. As a tree the species grows 12' – 15’, as a shrub it is usually kept a 3’. It is easy to grow and compact. Songbirds like to nest in the tree and the flowers attract butterflies.
Flower/Fruit/ Leaves/Trunk: For a few short weeks during spring Walter’s Viburnum puts on a spectacular show with pure white, attractive flowers, held in flat-topped clusters at the ends of the branches. Blooming can occur from late winter to the end of spring. The fragrant flowers are bisexual with 5 petals and stamens. The flowers are followed by hanging clusters of oval drupe*, turning from green to red and black when ripe. The seed is self-sowing. The small opposite dark green glossy leaves are somewhat spoon-shaped with the narrow end attached to the branch with red petioles. During the winter months the leaves sometimes blush purple. The bark texture is rough, reddish brown.
Regular fertilizing schedule for most of the year with an occasional acid fertilizer. During the fall Viburnum likes a high phosphate fertilizer to promote blooming.
Repotting: Can be safely repotted in early spring when nighttime temperatures are above 55oF.
The branches can be heavily pruned with normal wiring during the growing season. Moderate root pruning is advised. Viburnum develops suckers that need to be removed.
Soil: A well-draining bonsai mix with neutral ph.
Propagation: Cuttings from new fast growing shoots in spring root easily. Seeds require a period of dormancy and can take 2-3 years to germinate.
Insect/ Disease: Treatment with a systemic will usually take care of any fungal or mildew problem.
Watering: Regular watering in a well-draining soil, somewhat draught tolerant, but likes water.
Grown in full sun to partial shade.
Protect below 35°F.
*drupe: noun, Botany, a fleshy fruit with thin skin and a central stone containing the seed, e.g., a plum, cherry, almond, or olive. ORIGIN mid 18th century: from Latin drupa ‘overripe olive,’ from Greek druppa ‘olive.’
Common Name: Bald Cypress and Pond Cypress
Taxodium Native to North America these conifers consist of 3 species T. distichum, T. ascendens, T.mucronatum. The Name is derived from the Latin word taxus, meaning “yew”, and the Greek word eidos, meaning “similar to”. It is closely related to the Sugi, Cryptomeria japonica, and Chinese Swamp Cypress, Glyptostrobus pensilis. Taxodium is deciduous, but in our zone during warm “Winters” could be semi-evergreen. T. mucronatum is native to Mexico, the Rio Grande Valley, and South Texas, and is not included here. All Taxodium species are extremely flood-tolerant. There are 800 to 1000 years old trees in the Cache River basin in Illinois. In Florida the last remaining 500 year old trees can be found in the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Naples. The trees are prized for their heartwood, which is extremely rot and termite resistant. In the past the wood has been used for roof shingles, as well as other uses. Now it is priced for making furniture because of its anti fungal properties. The shredded bark is used as mulch, which at present is causing substantial environmental damage. The trunk grows thick toward the base, even in young trees. Both species have the ability to develop “knees”. The spherical fruit starts off green then turns brown.
T. distichum – Bald Cypress or Baldcypress (Picture #1) prefers silt, rich wet swampy soil along riverbanks, lake floodplains and wet depressions. They often grow in pure, almost circular dome-shaped stands with shorter trees growing around the edges and the taller trees toward the center. It can be found from Texas to Delaware, inland up to the Mississippi River to Southern Indiana, and of course Florida. The feathery like green leaves have no petiole, are simple, smooth and alternate (Picture #3). The trunk grows perfectly straight.
T. ascendens – Pond Cypress or Pondcypress (Picture #2) grows in still backwater rivers, ponds and swamps without silt-rich flood deposits in the southeastern coastal plain from North Carolina to Louisiana as well as Florida. It has a narrower crown and is smaller than the Bald Cypress. The green, alternate, simple leaves are needle- or scale-like and grow vertically from the branches. (Picture #4) In the fall the leaves turn copper colored. The fruit is similar to the Bald Cypress. The trunk is perfectly straight and has a narrower crown.
Well balanced fertilizer like 10-10-10 weekly in spring and summer, every 2 weeks in late summer/fall until leaves turn brown. No fertilizer during the dormant season.
Trees grown in water need to be root-pruned every year during the coldest time of the year when tree is dormant.
Trees not grown in water can be root-pruned every other year. Recovers quickly from root pruning.
The branches are quite flexible and can be wired. Fast grower, watch out for wire cutting into bark. Will bud back vigorously on old wood. If a thick branch needs to be pulled down, a V-shaped incision can be made at the underside of the limb where it joins the trunk. The V closes when the branch is pulled down, the wound heals quickly. Twigs sprout at sharp angles, which over the years create gnarly branches. Pruning can be done throughout the summer, then shape in the fall just before dormancy. Can also be shaped by pinching back new growth. Knees can be collected and grafted onto the roots.
Any well-draining bonsai soil.
By softwood cuttings in spring or early summer, seeds, air layering, and collecting.
Borers can be a problem. Galls caused by the gall midge fly (picture #5) have to be removed to stop theinfestation. The galls mimic normal fruit, but are white when they appear.
Best grown in standing in water (pond or pan of water). Keep wet during the summer, drier during the winter months.
Enjoys full sun.
In Zone 10 a & b not cold sensitive.
Any style including: formal upright, twin trunks, hollowed trunks and jinned tops, literati.
COMMON NAME: Florida Privet, Wild Olive, Inkbush
SPECIES: Forestiera segregate – Native to the coastal regions of Florida excluding the Panhandle, the Florida Privet is a member of the olive family. It can grow as a shrub or small tree with a dense, irregular crown and many small crooked trunks. Their habitat is understory shrub in pine rocklands and at hammock edges. In nature FP prefers moist, well-drained sandy or limestone soils, with a humus top layer. Nutritional requirements are moderate and FP can grow in nutrient poor soils, but needs some organic content to thrive. FP has a low salt tolerance and does not tolerate long-term flooding by salt or brackish water. On the other hand FP is draught tolerant when established. Growth rate is moderate to fast.
The bark is pale or creamy, thin, smooth with many breathing pores (lenticels). FP is semi-evergreen, a natural thinning of foliage can be expected in January and February. In spring FP produces small clusters of yellow green inconspicuous flowers in the axils of the previous year’s growth. The peak of the flowering season is in spring, but can produce some flowers all year round. Bees are attracted to the nectar. New opposite simple oblong leaves with straight margins follow the flowers. FP is dioecious, only female plants will produce the small blue to purple colored berries, which are an attractive source of food for birds, thus spreading the seeds growing new plants.
A well draining bonsai soil is a must.
A regular feeding schedule with a balanced fertilizer.
During late spring and early summer when new leaves appear.
Can be heavily top pruned, but moderate root pruning is advised. Young branches can be wired.
Can be grown from de-pulped seed. Cover with soil and place in full sun. FP can be air-layered as well as grown from woody as well as green cuttings. Collecting is a great way to achieve a sizeable trunk.
No known diseases. Insect tolerant.
Likes to be moist, but soil must be well draining.
Full sun is best
Lends itself to various styles.
Common Name: Gardenia
Gardenia augusta – This evergreen shrub is native to Southern China, Taiwan, Japan and nearby regions of the subtropical eastern hemisphere. The shrub grows to a height of 6-8 ft. with an almost equal spread. In the ground Gardenias require acid soil.
The trunk is smooth and grey. The lustrous, dark green leaves are arranged opposite and are 2 to 4 inches long. White flowers appear during mid-spring to early summer, turning yellow as they age. The waxy, highly fragrant flowers can be as big as 4 inches in diameter and are very fragrant. They may be single or double, depending on the cultivar.
A well draining bonsai soil is a must.
Specially formulated fertilizer for Gardenias are available in hardware stores and garden centers. When leaves turn yellow it indicates a lack of iron. Fish emulsion can also be applied. Do not fertilize when plant is in bloom.
During late spring and early summer when nighttime temperatures are in the low to mid 60oF.
Prune gardenias right after they finished blooming. Young branches can be wired, older branches as stiff. The root ball should be reduced gradually at a rate of approximately 10% each time.
By cuttings, roots easily in moist soil during warm summer months. Gardenias may be obtained in garden centers. Grafted Gardenias are not suitable for bonsai because of the graft scars.
With all its fragrance and beauty the downside is a plethora of problems and pests. Watch out for insects such as aphids, weevils, mealybugs, scale, spider mites and whiteflies. Roots are affected by nematodes. Sooty mold is a byproduct of scale infestation, mealybugs and aphids. A treatment with a systemic like Bayer is advised. Environmentally safe soap and oil sprays may also be used.
Likes to be moist, but soil must be well draining. Never let a Gardenia dry out. It will drop its leaves and possibly die. Avoid wetting the flowers when watering.
Full sun to partial shade.
Lends itself to various styles.
Protect from freezing
Common Name: Chinese Sweet Plum, Chinese Bird Plum, Sageretia, Mock Buckthorn
Species: Sageretia theezans – Is an Evergreen shrub belonging to a family of 35 species of small shrubs and trees native to South East as well as North East Asia. CSP is semi tropical. The shrub is named after French Botanist Auguste Sageret. One curious fact about CSP: Quote “When ground up (leaves, branches or trunk? This is not mentioned) mixed with salt it forms a minor explosive capable of shattering glass.” In China the leaves are used as substitute for tea. In nature/landscaping the shrub grows to a height of 3 – 9 ft. CSP are slow to form thick trunks and have very fine formative growth. Thick-trunked specimens are usually field grown and imported from China.
The dark-brown bark quickly becomes scaly and starts shedding scales when tree is quite young, creating a multi colored trunk. The leaves are arranged opposite and approx. 5/8” long. New leaves are reddish-bonze before they mature. Inconspicuous tiny flowers appear in the leaf axils of previous season’s growth, followed by larger clusters of white flowers. Small (1/4”) edible blue to black fruit (drupe) develop during summer into fall.
A well draining bonsai soil is a must. PH 5.5 is preferred.
Chinese Sweet Plum is an acid loving plant. In spring when new growth appears start a regular feeding schedule once per week or other week. During dormancy it is sufficient to fertilize once per month.
Every 2 years during late spring and early summer when nighttime temperatures are in the low to mid 60 oF, but only if fully root bound. Root pruning should be done with care, never exceeding more than 30% of root ball at a time, preferably less.
Trim to shape throughout growing season. CSP is a prolific back budder and produces dense new growth. The growth habit is stiff and angular. Shape by selective pruning. CSP can be wired. Never remove all new growth at one time. Young plants allow to extend 4 – 6” before shaping to allow the trunk to thicken.
From seeds and softwood as well as hardwood cuttings throughout the growing season.
In order to avoid mildew CSP needs good air circulation. Aphids and white flies can affect the plant. Mealy bugs can hide under the bark.
Likes to be moist, but soil must be well draining. Never let a CSP dry out. If the plant dries out it will probably die.
Morning sun with afternoon shade is advised. It can take full sun, but watering requirements might increase.
Lends itself to various styles. In China CSP is a favorite tree for Penjing.
Protect below 40F. If exposed to colder temperatures CSP may drop its leaves, but will recover.
Common Name: Bougainvillea
Bougainvillea peruviana, B glabra, B. spectabilis, B. ‘Pink Pixie’ – is a tropical and subtropical woody vine growing to a height of 3 to 40 ft. It can be found climbing up inside trees. It is native to the warmer regions of South America, where it is known under many different names. Today there are over 300 varieties around the world. This includes many cultivars that include double-flowered and variegated varieties. In rainy areas the shrub is evergreen, whereas in areas with a pronounced dry season it is semi-deciduous. The dryer the season, the more bracts seem to develop. In areas where several species grow together Bougies seems to create hybrid crosses spontaneously.
The trunk is gray and the wood is soft. The leaves are alternate. The flowers are very small, insignificant and white. They are surrounded by colorful leaves called bracts. These bracts give the Bougie their attractive and colorful appearance. Colors range from white to magenta, with almost any color in between. The bracts are very often thin and papery. Some natural species have thorns.
A well draining bonsai soil is a must. PH 6.5 to 7.5 is preferred.
A special Bougainvillea fertilizer called ‘Bougain’ (6-8-10) is available at hardware stores especially formulated for Bougies.
Every 2 to 3 years when root bound, when minimum night temperatures are in the mid to high 50ºF and can continue throughout the summer. The roots are fine and not very defined.
Foliage can be pruned heavily, as well as defoliated leaving 1 leaf at the end of the branch. Bougies strive through repeated trimming, producing more bracts. After 80% of the bracts have fallen off, remove all remaining flowers and bracts to maintain the health of the tree. Young branches can be wired. Older branches are brittle and break easily. Bougies do not lend themselves to include deadwood, as the wood rots easily.
Interesting large diameter hardwood cuttings can produce instant bonsais. Can also be grown from softwood cuttings as well as air layering. Collected specimen (Yamadori) from gardens make wonderful large bonsai.
In general pest free. Roots fungus can destroy roots from over watering. Apply fungicide drench.
Moderate watering with a well draining soil. Root bound trees dry out faster.
Must have full sun for optimum growth and bloom.
Lends itself to various styles, which will show off the beautiful bracts.
Protect below 40ºF.
Common Name: Podocarpus, Buddhist Pine, Fern Pine
Podocarpus – The name is derived from the Greek for podos – foot, karpos – fruit. Podocarpus is a very ancient species. Members of the Podocarpus family can be found in Australia, South East Asia including southern China and Japan, as well as Chile and Argentina. This evergreen species is tropical to sub-tropical. P. is used in landscaping as shrubs and trees. Trees can grow to a height of 40’ and higher. The edible fruit can be eaten raw or cooked into jams. The fruit is slightly toxic and should only be eaten in small quantities. Birds eat the fruit, which disperse the seeds with their dropping. For Bonsai the species most commonly used is P. macrophyllus.
P. is slow to develop trunk size and bark. With age the bark will produce scales, which can be removed with a steel brush while the trunk is wet, exposing the beautiful burgundy colored bark. The leathery leaves are arranged spirally, glossy green on top and lighter underneath. New leaves are bright green, turning darker with age. P. is self pollinating, having both male and female flowers on the same tree, followed by red, purple or blue fruit.
P. likes moisture, but a well draining bonsai soil is a must.
A well balanced fertilizer (20-20-20) may be enough. P. also thrives with fish emulsion and fertilizer cakes. If the leaves turn pale it might indicate a Magnesium deficiency. This can be remedied with 2 – 3 applications of Epson Salt (1 tbsp per gallon of water) per year. Do not fertilize before or after leaf pruning until new growth appears.
Every 2 – 3 years when nighttime temperatures are low to mid 50ºF (or February), when buds begin to swell. Moderate to heavy root pruning is successful, but avoid removing more than 50% of the feeder roots.
P. has the tendency to grow straight up. Growth can be cut back hard, resulting in heavy back budding. In Florida P. will produce 3 to 4 growth spurts. It is best to time work to the beginning of these growth spurts. After the last growth spurt, any major pruning should be left to the next growing season. Branches remain flexible for a long time and can be wired. The wire can be left until it cuts in slightly, in order that the branch is set.
Through air layering and cuttings. Cuttings can be rooted in water and then planted when roots developed. Can be grown from seed, but seeds are difficult to come by.
Scale, mealy bugs and blue aphids can be a problem. A Systemic insecticide in granular form works well. Overwatering can cause root rot.
Likes to be moist, but soil must be well draining.
Full sun is best, but strives for some protection during the hottest part of the day.
Lends itself to various styles, except broom. The hard wood is suitable for Jin and Shari.
Protect below 45ºF