Common Name: African Lilac, Fascination, Chastetree
Species: Vitex trifolia 'Purpurea'
A very fast-growing evergreen to semi-evergreen shrub or small tree to 10 to 15 feet tall by as wide with distinctively colored leaves. Originally from East Africa.
Foliage/Fruit: The leaves divided into three elliptical leaflets that are a gray green on the upper surface but upturned to display the showy velvety purple below. They give off a peppery scent when crushed and drop as they age as fresh new ones emerge. This plant can go deciduous after a cold frost but leaves back out rapidly. In summer through fall into winter appear the delicate small lavender purple flowers in 10-inch-long panicles at the branch tips followed by small, rounded berries that are first a pale yellow but darken with age.
Fertilizer: In spring, summer and fall every two weeks. During the winter month reduce fertilizer to once a month.
Repotting: Can be done when night temperatures are low to mid 60F in early spring with a good draining bonsai mix. Repot young trees (up to 10 years) every other year, older trees every 3-4 years. During the spring and early summer, the roots can be sawed off without attempting to comb them out. Prune roots moderately.
Soil: With a good draining bonsai mix
Insect/ Disease: Mealy bugs underneath the bark need to be removed with tweezers. Scale can also be a problem. Spray with non-toxic insect spray or soap solution. Soaps should be rinsed off the next day.
Watering: Abundantly in summer, and moderately the rest of the year.
Light: Full to partial sun.
Prune/Training: Perform pruning for cleaning of dry, weak or diseased branches, in spring. Throughout the growing season you can perform light pinching to get a denser cup, better in spring.
Temperature: USDA zones 8 and above. Protect below 45°F.
Propagation: Cuttings and air layering during spring and summer.
Styles: Suitable for formal upright, informal upright and slanted.
From online sources.
Common Name: Aralia
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.
Fertilizing: 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.
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
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.
Temperature: Protect below 40°F.
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 cutting.
Styles: Aralia works best in group or forest plantings.
Common Name: Bahama Berry, Mounjean Tea, Pineapple Verbena
Species: Nashia inauguensis
Is a relative of the Verbena and a native to the Bahamas, in particular, the island of Inagua. A loose shrub with informal branching it reaches approximately 7’ high. It grows along rocky outcroppings semi-protected from strong ocean winds. The bark becomes interesting with age. The trunk when mature is approximately 3 – 4” in diameter. Bahama Berry is also known as Mounjean Tea, because a decoction of the fragrant leaves, variously described as having the scent and flavor of citrus, vanilla, or pineapple is used as an herbal tea.
Trunk/Foliage: Bahama Berry has a naturally flaky bark, which can be removed with a soft brush, showing off a smooth yellowish bark that is quite beautiful. Do not use vinegar. The tiny, shiny leaves have a citrusy smell, with close. The leaves are opposite (or fascicled), elliptic to obovate or spatulate, 5-10 mm long.
Fertilizer: When new spring growth appears use a balanced fertilizer weekly continuing throughout the summer. During the winter month reduce fertilizer to once a month.
Repotting: Can be done when night temperatures are low to mid 60F. Repot young trees (up to 10 years) every other year, older trees every 3-4 years. During the spring and early summer, the roots can be sawed off without attempting to comb them out. Prune roots moderately
Soil: Tolerates slightly acidic to alkaline soils. pH 7.0. Do not use soil that dries out quickly.
Insect/ Disease: Mealy bugs underneath the bark need to be removed with tweezers. Scale can also be a problem. Spray with non-toxic insect spray or soap solution. Soaps should be rinsed off the next day.
Watering: Never allow to dry out, keep evenly moist. Bahama Berry is also called “I dry-I die” and likes high humidity.
Light: Does best with full sunshine.
Prune/Training: To develop the foliage, clip and grow is best. The branches are somewhat brittle but can be wired with care. Branches grow long and fast creating long internodes. Once the initial trunk and branches are established trim frequently to keep its shape.
Temperature: Protect below 45°F. Cold sensitive
Propagation: Cuttings and air layering during spring and summer.
Styles: Suitable for shohin or mame size, informal upright, as well as literati.
Common Name: Bald Cypress and Pond Cypress
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 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 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.
Bark/Foliage: Reddish brown bark and soft, it has needle-like foliage that is a soft, pale-green color needle-shaped leaves which develop a nice auburn color in autumn before they fall off along with some of the smaller twigs.
Fertilizer: 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.
Repotting: 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.
Soil: Any well-draining bonsai soil.
Insect/ Diseases: Borers can be a problem. Galls caused by the gall midge fly have to be removed to stop the infestation. The galls mimic normal fruit but are white when they appear.
Watering: Best grown in standing in water (pond or pan of water). Keep wet during the summer, drier during the winter months.
Light: Bald Cypress requires quite a bit of warmth and light, as you might expect by considering the plant’s native region. You should keep the Bald Cypress in direct sun during its growing season.
The plant is best pruned once its shoots begin to produce lateral ramification. Prune too soon, and your shoots will die back in the fall. However, if you prune in early spring, you’ll likely have good results. You’ll notice lots of new buds on the trunk, forks, and branches during the early spring growing period. You can get rid of any buds that don’t add to the overall aesthetic of the tree. It 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.
Temperature: In Zone 10 a & b not cold sensitive.
Propagation: By softwood cuttings in spring or early summer, seeds, air layering, and collecting.
Style: Any style including formal upright, twin trunks, hollowed trunks and jinned tops, literati.
Common Name: Bottle Brush, Lemon Bottlebrush, Red Bottlebrush, Weeping Bottlebrush, White Bottlebrush
An evergreen shrub or tree native to Australia, commonly known as Bottle Brush because of their cylindrical, brush-like flower spike. The textured gray bark gives the appearance of an old tree even on a 3- to 4-year-old bonsai.
Callistemon citrinus – In Australia this is the more popular variety for bonsai. This dwarf version of the Bottlebrush only grows to a height of 4 to 10’. The lance shaped; dark green leaves are 2 to 4” long. The leaf arrangement is alternate. The flower spikes are 2 - to 4” long and 1 - to 3” in diameter. The leaves when crushed smell like citrus.
Callistemon viminalis – Weeping Bottlebrush has pendulous foliage and is widely used in South Florida landscaping where it reaches a height of approximately 15 to 20’. As the trunk is slow to thicken it is good to start off with a nice size trunk. The flower spikes and leaves are slightly larger than citrinus and have a silvery green color.
Flower/Fruit: The bright red flowers appearing between spring and fall are actually long spikes of tiny flowers with very long stamens. They are irresistible to hummingbirds. The flowers are followed by a profusion of triple celled, rounded, woody seed capsules. These capsules will last for years.
Fertilizing: Well balanced fertilizer with an occasional boost of phosphate: weekly during the late spring and summer, monthly the rest of the year.
Repotting: Repotting in early spring, just before the new buds are swelling. Usually, mid too low to mid 60F. Bottle Brush does not like to be root bound. Roots can be cut back severely, leaving the main root ball undisturbed.
Soil: Likes moist but well-draining soil. Neutral PH 6.5 to 7.5.
Insect/Disease: Spider mites, Sphaeropsis gall, scale, root rot. Also is susceptible to Nematodes.
Watering: Dryer condition during the winter, but do not allow to dry out completely. Water heavily during summer.
Light: During the summer full sun to facilitate blooms is best.
Pruning/Training: Bottle Brush has a vigorous upward growth habit and requires heavy pruning after flowering. They can be cut back to bare wood and will back shoot well. Wiring can be done as long as the branches have not hardened off.
Temperature: Bottlebrush likes cool conditions during the winter (protect below 50°F).
Propagation: By seed and cuttings in spring or fall. Propagation from cuttings is more reliable, particularly if the leaves are removed from the lower half to two-thirds. Cuttings should be approximately 4” long. Wound the lower stem by removing a sliver of bark and treat with a rooting hormone. Nursery stock with a good size trunk and good movement is also suitable. Reduce the tree to approximately 8 to 9”. Shoots will appear within weeks and the branch development can be started. Within 2 years it will make an incredible bonsai.
Styles: Bottle Brush lends itself to a variety of styles.
Common Name: Bougainvillea
Species: Bougainvillea peruviana, B glabra, B. spectabilis, B. ‘Pink Pixie’
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.
Trunk/Foliage/Flowers: 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.
Fertilizer: A special Bougainvillea fertilizer called ‘Bougain’ (6-8-10) is available at hardware stores especially formulated for Bougies.
Repot: 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.
Soil: A well-draining bonsai soil is a must. PH 6.5 to 7.5 is preferred.
Insect/Disease: In general pest free. Roots fungus can destroy roots from over watering. Apply fungicide drench.
Watering: Moderate watering with a well-draining soil. Root bound trees dry out faster.
Light: Must have full sun for optimum growth and bloom.
Pruning/Training: 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.
Temperature: Protect below 40ºF.
Propagation: Interesting large diameter hardwood cuttings can produce instant bonsais. Can also be grown from softwood cuttings as well as air layering. Collected specimen or Yamadori from gardens make wonderful large bonsai.
Styles: Lends itself to various styles, which will show off the beautiful bracts.
Common Name: Brazilian Raintree
Species: Pithecellobium tortum
The Brazilian Rain Tree has a very distinctive history in Florida. It is a native of Central America and South America and considered one of the tropical world's most beautiful trees. It is a leguminous tree in the sub-classification of Mimosoideae and is the state tree of Brazil. As the story goes, a number of years ago Jim Moody of Jupiter Bonsai received an envelope containing seeds from his sister-in-law in Brazil. The botanical name was not known at the time. She simply called it a “Saman.” The rest is history. The Brazilian Rain Tree, recently classified as Pithecellobium tortum, is now one of the most popular bonsai subjects in the tropics.
Bark/Foliage/Flowers/Fruit: Another nice characteristic of the Brazilian Rain Tree is its naturally exfoliating trunk. As the tree matures, pieces of the outer bark peel off leaving an almost white color, a beautiful contrast in bark color. The tree has delicate, tiny compound leaves that close at night or when stressed. The common name was derived by the leaves that close at dark and when rain touches them. It was also once thought that the honeydew dropping for the ends of the branches was from the tree making many belie the tree "rained." It is now known that this honeydew was from heavy aphid populations in nature. They produce a powder puff type flower that is what at first turning yellow in a few days. The fruit of the Brazilian Raintree bonsai is a small, dark purple drupe that is edible and has a sweet taste.
Fertilizer: The Brazilian rain tree needs to be fertilized every two weeks with a balanced fertilizer diluted to half strength. Fertilize during times of active growth (spring and summer) with a high nitrogen fertilizer, or during times of slow growth (fall and winter) with a balanced fertilizer 20-20-20 or organic with mature trees. This plant is a heavy feeder.
Repotting: Minimum night temperature-Low to mid 60°’s. It does not like to be root bound but usually only needs to be repotted every 2 or 3 years. Repotting can continue through the summer. Roots may be heavily pruned but be careful to leave many feeder roots and take an equal amount away from the top of the plant.
Soil: Grows best in moist but well drained soil. Since Brazilian Rain Tree is susceptible to root rot, do not allow it to sit in soggy soil.
Insect/Disease: It is practically pest free. Nematodes are a problem throughout Florida. The Raintree is very susceptible to them. Do not put the pot nursery or bonsai on the ground. If growing in the ground to get a larger trunk, air-layer to get your tree. It is a good practice to use a Nematode treatment occasionally.
Watering: The Brazilian rain tree needs to be watered regularly and should never be allowed to dry out. It likes to be evenly moist but be careful. Make sure the soil is well draining. Wet feet will cause root rot. Gently pour the water over the soil until it begins to drip from the drainage holes in the pot. Check often during hot, dry weather or if you are keeping your bonsai in a sunny location.
Light: A Brazilian Rain Tree requires direct sunlight.
Prune/Training: Caution—very hard wood. Don't use of a concave cutter on the Brazilian Rain Tree. When doing heavy pruning, take care with your tools. The wood is so hard it has been known to “eat” tools. Brazilian Rain Tree can be heavily pruned, but it is extremely important to cut above the desired spot always leaving room for die back. It is not unusual to lose entire branches if pruned incorrectly. When the die back is complete, in 3 or more months, cut the dead stump off. Cambium growth over the wound is rapid and will heal the cut within 2 or 3 years. Take care when removing the die back so as not to injure live wood which will cause more die back. Wiring can be used, but the trunk scars easily. Clip and grow seems to be the best method once branches are established. Use tie-downs on your growth to establish branches.
Temperature: Protect below 45F.
Propagation: It can be grown from seed, but it is difficult to get seeds. Cuttings and air layering are very successful when the nights are warm.
Styles: Upright because of the nature of the tree.
Common Name: Brush Cherry (Stopper)
Species: Eugenia confusa
Brush Cherries have a hearty nature which makes them ideally suited for bonsai. Brush Cherry has small handsome evergreen leaves which are firm and glossy, and the flowers are white. If it receives enough light, the leaves will develop red highlights. When placed in an adequate environment Brush Cherries form a small cream-colored ball that later opens into a beautiful starburst bloom and beautiful berries. With a few simple guidelines your Brush Cherry bonsai can be grown without difficulty.
Foliage/Flower/Fruit: The leaves are dark green, firm and glossy, ovate formed in pairs. In spring and summer Eugenia develops puffy white to cream colored flowers. This is followed by the development of berries that vary in color from yellow to dark red or black. Most varieties have round fruit, but some are ribbed like a pumpkin. Some fruits are edible.
Fertilizer: Every two weeks during heavy growth, and every 4-5 weeks in winter. Eugenia likes a slightly acid soil, so the occasional use of a fertilizer such as Miracid™ is recommended.
Repotting: Every 2 years in spring when minimum night temperature has reached low to mid 60°F; will tolerate vigorous root pruning. Use basic bonsai soil, or an acid mix like azalea soil.
Soil: Use well-draining soil. PH 6.5-7.5
Insect/ Disease: Scale, mealy bug, fruit fly, and aphids are common pests but rarely found on healthy plants.
Watering: Moderate watering in a well-draining soil, less in winter but maintain consistent moisture.
Light: Most Eugenia like morning sun to partial shade with protection from the hottest time of year.
Training/Prune: 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. Will withstand vigorous root pruning.
Temperature: Protect below 40°F.
Propagation: By cuttings in summer, seeds in fall, air layering in spring.
Styles: Can be designed in most bonsai styles. In the trade you usually see the freely upright shape, sometimes the broom shape.
USDA Fact Sheet ST-241, bonsai-bci species files
Common Name: Buttonwood
Species: Conocarpus erectus
The buttonwood is native to tropical America and Africa, it is an absolute must for tropical bonsai. Known for their hard wood, natural Jins and amazing Shari collected buttonwoods are one of the most sought-after species for bonsai. Sometimes included in the mangrove family, it is not a true mangrove as it cannot tolerate salt on the roots. In the wild it is sometimes hard to tell the difference. The leaf shape is different and most buttonwood are found a little more inland while the mangrove are found usually with their roots in the water. Training for buttonwoods occurs almost all year long in south Florida with the majority of the work being done in the summer. Vigorous growth begins in spring and continues through mid-summer and require constant pruning and wiring to achieve compact foliage. Once branches are established, to maintain shape, pinch out new leaf buds as the form. Remove large leaves completely or leave 1/3 of the leaf along with the petiole. TO achieve full pads and leaf reduction you must constantly work the tree. Watch for scarring when using wire, wire scars occur quickly especially after a repot as the roots are stimulated and the tree wants to grow quickly.
Foliage/Fruit: Flowers are inconspicuous, with clusters of white flowers and fruit throughout the year.
Fertilizer: Subtropical and tropical trees do not have dormancy periods in the winter where they stop growing in order to survive the winter and prepare for growth in the spring. Because of this, Buttonwoods grow consistently all year round, you can either choose strong natural plant food with a well-balanced N-P-K proportion.
Repotting: Repotting buttonwoods is recommended when the nighttime temperatures are in the 70's and the trees are root bound or making a transition from nursery soil to bonsai soil. Make sure that the tree is defoliated completely to balance the stress on the tree. The roots are brittle at the point they connect to the trunk and can break away easily. Gentle root work will ensure a healthy recovery as well as placing the tree in shade for two weeks keeping the soil moist. Never let a buttonwood dry out as the like to be a little on the wet side.
Soil: Prefers a course, 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.
Insect/Disease: Buttonwoods are susceptible to Chili thrips, mealy bug, scale and aphids among others. Use insecticide sprays with caution. Malathion, diazinon and the oil-based soaps can damage or kill Buttonwoods. Avil, Conserve and Talstar work well for the control of most pests. Nemotodes are also a concern in collected trees. Look for 'knot' like galls in the root system upon repotting and remove them when seen.
Watering: Plenty of water in well-draining soil
Light: Morning to full sun. Blooms best in full sun.
Pruning/Training: Root pruning and timing are some of the most important parts of this tree. Never comb out buttonwood roots! Lightly hose off the old soil first. They can be defoliated twice a year in the tropics with no problem. In other climates, there have been reports of dieback from complete defoliation. Lots of twigging encourages smaller leaves, so prune frequently.
Propagation: Buttonwood trees propagate best from cuttings, which will root effortlessly if gathered during the active growing season. Although rooting hormone is not required, buttonwood cuttings will root faster and perform better overall if treated with mild hormone prior to planting.
Temperature: Buttonwoods must be protected from cold temperatures. If the weather is predicted to drop below 40 degrees, the trees need to be moved to a warmer location. Frost and freezing temperatures will severely damage or even kill the tree.
Styles: Double trunk, extreme slanting literati, formal upright literati, informal upright literati, pierneef literati, semi cascade literati, slanting literati, triple trunk literati and twin trunk.
Source: Different online sources
Common Name: Campeche, Logwood, Bloodwood
Species: Haematoxylum campechianum
Native to the tropical regions of America, it is distributed on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, Honduras, Belize, and Guatemala. The species has been introduced and naturalized across Central America, the Caribbean islands and northern South America. The wood of this tree is used as a source of the coloring matter called hematoxylin. In traditional medicine the wood is boiled in water to treat diarrhea and dysentery. Campeche is a fast-growing evergreen, thorny tree that can reach 15 meters, approximately 50 feet in height. The trunk has many shoots, branching off near the base. With age the trunk becomes gnarled. The sparse, spreading, rounded crown is made up of many rising and twisted branches.
Foliage/Flower/Fruit: The pinnate leaves consist of several pairs of reverse heart-shaped leaflets. Leaves vary in color or size depending on the growing conditions. The new growth tends to have a coppery red hue, which greens up as the shoots harden. The fragrant, light-yellow flowers are arranged in racemes. Campeche blooms from September through April, and the fruits (legumes) ripen March through May.
Fertilizer: Use a balanced fertilizer.
Repotting: When average night temperatures are above 70° F.
Soil: The tree responds well to a soil mix of lava rock, pine bark and Turface. Pedro Morales has successfully used akadama only.
Insect/ Disease: No major pests noted.
Watering: Moderate watering in a well-draining soil.
Light: Full sun is best.
Prune/Training: Can be heavily pruned. There is no need to worry about leaving foliage as this tree will leaf out quickly. New leaves will break out of old wood. Responds well to wiring. Due to the hardness of the wood it lends itself to carving.
Temperature: Protect below 50°F. Cold sensitive.
Propagation: Grows well from cuttings as well as collected from the wild.
Sources: Florida Bonsai Autumn 2009;
Anibal Niembro Rocas, Instituto de Ecologia, Veracruz, Mexico.
Common Name: Natal Plum, Carissa, Carissa Natal Plum
Species: Carissa macrocarpa
Is an evergreen, small thorny shrub native to the Northern South African province of KwaZulu/Natal, where it is primarily grown for its edible berry-like fruit. The Carissa is a strong plant and with the right conditions of high heat and humidity, the growth of this plant is rapid. In Florida Carissa is planted extensively as a hedge or ornamental shrub.
Bark/Foliage/Flower/Fruit: The Natal Plum has glossy dark green, oval leaves, which are arranged in opposing pairs. The branches are dense covered with forked spines. Wounds produce a white milky sap. Caution: All parts of Carissa are poisonous except for the fruit. Flowers are produced most profusely in spring on new growth. The star-shaped white flowers are thick and waxy and approximately 2” across. Red, egg-shaped edible fruit are followed in summer and fall. The fruit contains approximately 12 small brown flat seeds. The flower is pollinated by night flying insects. A failure to produce fruit is usually lack of pollination.
Fertilizer: Monthly during the winter months, every other week during the growing season with well balanced fertilizer.
Repotting: As the Natal Plum is a semi tropical plant repotting should be done in mid-spring to midsummer. Roots should be pruned minimally. After repotting limit watering until plant is firmly established to reduce risk root rot.
Soil: Well-draining bonsai soil, tolerant of different soils as well as salt tolerant.
Insect/ Disease: Fungal infection can be a problem as well as spider mites, scale, thrips and whiteflies.
Watering: Regular watering in well-draining soil; drought tolerant.
Light: Does best with full sun or a minimum of 4 hours of direct sun.
Pruning/Training: Major pruning should be done in mid to late spring. In order to avoid die-back leave some green foliage on the branch. The Natal Plum buds back vigorously. Continue to prune as necessary during the growth period. Younger branches can be wired but check regularly due to rapid growth. Older branches tend to be brittle.
Temperature: Protect below 50°F, very cold sensitive.
Propagation: Both green and woody cuttings will root in soil as well as water. Also propagates from seed.
Styles: Suitable for informal upright or cascade. The wood is not suitable for jinns as it is very soft.
COMMON NAME: Desert Cassia
SPECIES: Cassia polyphylla
Desert cassia, also known in Spanish as hediondilla and retama prieta is a shrub or occasionally small tree, 7 to 12 ft tall, native to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. This evergreen is slow growing, with a beautiful cascading habit suitable for pot culture and bonsai. The tree is now cultivated as an ornamental and was chosen as plant of the year in 1999 by the Florida Nurserymen & Growers Association. Desert cassia attracts the sulphur family of butterflies. Desert Cassia develops a root system with a strong taproot. The twigs are slender, warty, and light green, maturing to brown.
Bark/Flowers/Fruit: The bark of older stems is dark gray. These pinnate compound leaves have an average of 10 leaflets that are 0.4” long. The five-petal, fragrant, yellow flowers, usually grouped in axillary racemes of mostly 2 flowers are about 1.5” across. Some blooming occurs all year but more so from fall to spring. The legume is linear, 8 to 15 cm long, slightly contorted, flattened between the seeds, and dark brown at maturity. The seeds are round, flattened, and dark brown.
Fertilizer: Use a balanced fertilizer every 3 months. A bloom booster will encourage flowering.
Repotting: Night temperatures low to mid 60°F and above and through the summer.
Soil: The Cassia fistula species isn’t too particular when it comes to soil pH as long as the medium drains well. The beautiful tree will grow equally in acidic, alkaline, or neutral soil as long as it gets the water it needs to establish a strong root system. Should you want the best for your Cassia tree, then you should amend your garden soil with aged compost and peat moss. A dose of slow-release fertilizer upon planting will give the tree it needs to get a head start. When young, make sure to irrigate frequently and keep the soil moist.
Insect/Diseases: This tree is usually not bothered by pests or diseases but can suffer from common problems such as root rot, leaf spot, and mildew. Caterpillars can also sometimes invade the Cassia Tree and defoliate it. Leaf spot and root rot can be avoided by seeing if the soil is dry at the surface before irrigating your Cassia tree. It’s best to avoid watering overhead and getting its leaves constantly wet to avoid fungal diseases and mildew. The moment you see leaf yellowing and slowed growth, stop watering and allow the soil to dry out. Caterpillars may be picked off on sight, but an infestation may require an insecticidal spray. It’s best to spot these issues early on so you can prevent your cassia tree’s health from deteriorating. Established plants will be more resistant to pests and diseases, so keep a close eye on your cassia tree seedling in the first few months.
Watering: Moderate watering in a well-draining soil. In nature this tree requires little care and is drought tolerant.
Light: Full sun, but also thrives in shade.
Pruning/Training: Stems and branches turn woody quickly. Wiring should only be used on green wood. Clip and grow method works best to maintain shape. Cassia will tolerate severe top pruning and moderate root pruning. To encourage bloom let branches grow.
Temperature: As bonsai protect below 40° F.
Propagation: Allow seed pods to dry on plants, direct sow in the fall. Growth is very slow. One source suggests woody stem cuttings. Also available as nursery stock, but thicker stems are difficult to obtain.
Styles: In nature tree has a cascading habit producing multiple stems. As bonsai it is suitable for weeping style.
TopTropicals.com, Pictures toptropicals.com
Common name: Chinese elm or lacebark elm
Species: Ulmus parvifolia
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.
Fertilizer: Any balanced fertilizer; use weekly during growing season and monthly during dormant season. Note: Over fertilization prevents good ramification and causes
Repotting: 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.
Soil: Well-draining soil. Chinese Elms love water but don’t like wet feet.
Insect/ Disease: Known to be very hardy. Attack by spider mites and aphids are possible, treat accordingly.
Watering: The Chinese Elm cannot endure prolonged drought or constant moisture. Wait until the topsoil is dry, and then water generously, making sure the entire root-mass is watered.
Light: The Chinese elm thrives in either full sun and/or partial shade.
Pruning/Training: The Chinese elm thickens rather quickly and requires frequent trimming in order to produce a dense network of fine branches. Clip and grow works best. Allow the shoot to extend 3 or 4 nodes before pruning it back to 1 or 2 leaves. The tree buds well from old wood after strong pruning. The best time to prune larger branches is in late autumn. The Chinese elm is ideal for shaping with standard wiring and guy wire techniques.
Propagation: From root or softwood cuttings, as well as air layering.
Styles: Broom, Formal upright, Informal upright, Slanted, Cascade, Semi-Cascade, Windswept
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.
Foliage/Flower: 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.
Fertilizing: 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.
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.
Training/Pruning: Moderate styling is advisable considering its slow growth. Normal wiring is appropriate.
Temperature: Can withstand temperatures down to freezing 32°F.
Propagation: Plant fresh seed or cuttings taken in spring or early summer. Also available as nursery stock.
Styles: As mainly nursery or pre-bonsai stock is informal upright.
SPECIES: Holmskioldia sanguinea
Named after Theodore Holmskiold, an 18th century Danish Physician and professor, Coolie Hat is native to the Himalayan lowlands of India and China. Coolie Hat is an erect climbing vine. The growth habit is fast. As a bonsai this vine is grown for its unusual flowers, which in landscaping attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Varieties come in red, red-orange and orange parasol shaped flowers. Some flowers can occur throughout the year, but most heavily in the dry season from late fall to spring. Clusters of up to six hat-like flowers arise from in-between the leaves along the stems.
Bark/Foliage/Flower/Fruit: The bark is sandy brown. The branches are long and trailing. The mid green leaves are arranged in pairs.
Fertilizing: A balanced fertilizer during the growing season, adding phosphate late summer for blooms. Careful with nitrogen, as it will stretch the internodes.
Repotting: Repotting in early spring is best, every 2-3 years, when average nighttime temperatures are in the low to mid 60°'sF.
Soil: This plant can tolerate a wide range of soils from acidic to alkaline, to clay, to rocky, but prefers a well-drained, medium soil with moderate water.
Insect/ Disease: No serious issues. May be affected by tip and needle blight. Root rot can be an issue if good drainage is not provided. Aphids, bagworms, and webworms are minor insect problems. As most junipers, this can be susceptible to Cedar Apple Rust.
Watering: Likes lots of water during the summer months.
Light: Full sun is best, but also tolerates partial sun.
Pruning/Training: Coolie Hat will tolerate severe top and root pruning but die back needs to be considered. This tree is a fast grower and needs to be pruned back almost weekly back to the first or second node on secondary branches until mid-August. Buds will start setting in September. The tree can be wired for movement in the main branches, but branches break easily and watch for wire scarring.
Temperature: Can withstand temperatures down to freezing 32°F.
Propagation: Seed, cuttings and air layering.
Styles: Informal Upright and Cascade.
COMMON NAME: Chinese Juniper, Ames Chinese Juniper, Blue Point Chinese Juniper, Dwarf Blue Star Juniper, Fairview Chinese Juniper, Gold Lace Chinese Juniper, Hetz Columnar Chinese Juniper, Iowa Chinese Juniper, Chinese 'Itoigawa' Juniper, Kallay’s Compact Pfitzer Juniper, Keteleer Chinese Juniper, Mountbatten Chinese Juniper, Perfecta Chinese Juniper, Pfitzer Chinese Juniper, Sea Green Chinese Juniper, Chinese 'Shimpaku' Juniper
SPECIES: Juniperus chinensis
Is an evergreen conifer native to eastern Asia including China, Mongolia, Japan, and the Himalayas. This a bushy conical tree that can grow to heights of 50-60 feet spreading 15-20 feet. However, its multiple varieties may have many forms and heights from low ground covers through shrubs, both small and large, to short or tall trees. It’s unique in the sense that it is one of the few bonsai trees that can be placed indoors or kept outdoors. Juniper bonsais are some of the easiest trees to care for and are very forgiving. Established plants can tolerate slight drought.
Bark/Foliage/Fruit: The dark green, aromatic foliage is characterized as juvenile, paired or in threes, 0.3 inches long pointed needles called awl, and adult, flat, scale-like in 2 opposite pairs. The bark is light brown with ridges peeling in thin strips. The immature berries are often used in cooking for seasoning.
Fertilizer: You must feed your Juniper Bonsai with fertilizer, Nitrogen-rich fertilizers should be applied during springtime. Especially during months of summer, there are times when your Juniper Bonsai will receive all the things they need from the soil and the atmosphere, so it is not required for you to fertilize them that often. Junipers become dormant when winter comes. This is the reason why you need a fertilizer with low nitrogen levels, especially during fall seasons since your Juniper is going to be dormant all season long. A balanced fertilizer during the growing season, adding phosphate late summer for blooms. Careful with nitrogen, as it will stretch the internodes.
Repotting: Repotting in early spring is best, every 2-3 years, while the older trees can even go for as long as 5 years. Repot when average nighttime temperatures are in the low to mid 60°'s F.
Soil: Bonsai soil mixes can drain properly to allow both water and air to get to the roots and are often a combination of fine pit or gravel, pumice, organic potting compost, and akadama, a form of Japanese clay granulate.
Insect/ Disease: It is fungus susceptible as the first half of the cycle of Cedar-Apple Rust with round orange galls forming on infected branches and needles in spring reaching as much as 2 inches. The galls can form a brown gelatinous tendril or horn which harbor the spores that in turn infect nearby apple trees completing the cycle.
Watering: Water the plant well, allow for proper drainage, and then let the soil dry before watering again. Mist the leaves regularly.
Light: Most prefer sunny locations, with an uninterrupted flow of air, but will accept partial shade.
Pruning/Training: Regular and proper pruning is important for both the health and aesthetics of your trees, in the case of Juniper Bonsai, it is recommended to pinch back growth instead of cutting it back since cutting may lead to the death of the surrounding needles. A Chinese juniper will respond best if you perform any annual pruning to shape the plant in late winter or early spring just before its spring growth flush occurs. Cut long, leggy branches at the top of the Chinese juniper back by a few inches or up to half of the length of the branch. Make sure each cut is made into wood that has foliage or healthy branches growing out of it to avoid giving the juniper a bare appearance. Space your pruning cuts evenly around the Chinese juniper, selectively cutting back or removing branches in areas of dense growth to increase the amount of light able to reach the bottom branches of the plant. Each cut should be clean and slightly angled so that water cannot stand on the cut surface. If the cut is positioned just above a branch junction or bud, make the cut so that the long cut surface is facing the side opposite the branch or bud. Trim off the tips of any branches on the Chinese juniper that look out of place, are overly vigorous or are otherwise growing out of their allotted space. Prune off any dead branches in the juniper, which generally appear near the bottom of the plant where there is little light penetration. Make cuts to remove dead branches next to a junction with a healthy living branch or next to the branch collar, the area of raised tissue where the branch meets the trunk. If the dead limb is heavy, first cut off the bulk of it a few feet out before making a final cut to remove the remaining stub to prevent accidental injury to the trunk. Juniper trees can endure aggressive pruning well. However, you need to remember that these will not bud again from bare parts of the tree. Some foliage should always be left behind on the branches to guarantee ongoing growth.
Temperature: Protect below 10° F.
Propagation: Propagation requires both male and female trees (dioecious); male pollen cones are catkin-like while female plants have light blue seed cones that take the form of a fleshy berry. These take two years to mature and become violet brown to black.
Styles: Formal upright, informal upright, cascade, slanting, Semi-Cascade, Windswept.
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 Southeast as well as Northeast 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.
Trunk/Foliage/Flowers: The dark-brown bark quickly becomes scaly and starts shedding scales when tree is quite young, creating a multicolored 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.
Fertilizer: Chinese Sweet Plum is an acid loving plant. In spring when new growth appears start a regular feeding schedule once per week or every other week. During dormancy it is sufficient to fertilize once per month.
Repotting: 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.
Soil: A well-draining bonsai soil is a must. PH 5.5 is preferred.
Insect/ Disease: 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.
Watering: 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.
Light: Morning sun with afternoon shade is advised. It can take full sun, but watering requirements might increase.
Pruning/Training: 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.
Temperature: Protect below 40F. If exposed to colder temperatures CSP may drop its leaves but will recover.
Propagation: From seeds and softwood as well as hardwood cuttings throughout the growing season.
Styles: Lends itself to various styles. In China CSP is a favorite tree for Penjing.
Common Name: Crape Myrtle, Dwarf Crape Myrtle, Queen Crape Myrtle
Species: Lagerstroemia sp
is a genus of about 50 species of mostly deciduous trees and shrubs, native to Asia, Northern Australia and some Pacific Islands. French Botanist Andre Michaux introduced L. indica to Charleston, South Carolina in 1790. Most species grow as a small tree or multi-stemmed large shrub. There are many dwarf cultivars available. The most famous feature of Crape Myrtle is its striking flowers. The striking Queen Crape Myrtle or Banaba (L. speciosa) originates from India, grows to a height of 40’ to 60’. Because of its size of flowers and leaves it is not suitable for bonsai. Most cultivars available are Lagerstroemia indica or Lagerstroemia, fauriei.
Bark/Foliage/Flowers/Fruit: Grape Myrtle exfoliates its outer layer of bark from time to time, resulting in an attractive appearance, exposing pale gray through rusty brown to almost pink mottled bark. Although branches grow quickly the trunk thickens very slowly. Leaves are opposite and range from very small to 8 inches long. New leaves are bronze colored, turning green. Fall colors of the leaves range from bright yellow to deep rust. They are prolific bloomers during the summer. Colors range from white to pink, red and deep purple. Crinkled flowers appear in clusters during warm weather (June to August) at the end of new growth, followed by the green fruit, which ripens to a dark brown dry capsule. It produces numerous small, winged seeds.
Fertilizer: Use balanced fertilizer during the growing season with an occasional boost of high phosphate.
Repotting: Best time to repot is when tree is dormant, as well as in early spring or late summer. Minimum night temperatures should be in the low to mid 50’s F.
Soil: Any well-draining soil. Extra organic material may be added in a 60/40% ratio.
Insect/ Disease: Aphids, scale and powdery mildew can be a problem.
Watering: Keep evenly moist but not soggy. Allow the top of the soil to dry slightly between watering to promote flowering. During the dormant season, when the tree is almost devoid of leaves, be careful not to over water.
Light: Full sun is best.
Pruning/Training: Crape Myrtle will take severe pruning in the early spring, or in late fall after flowering is complete. Work the top first, to allow time for new flower buds to appear. Do not prune later than early summer, if you want flowers. The branches on Crape Myrtle grow rapidly and require constant pinching. Flowers may have to be sacrificed for a number of years to develop branch ramification. Branches can be wired.
Temperature: Protect below 40° F.
Propagation: From seeds, soft wood cuttings or air layering.
Styles: Informal upright, Cascade, Slanting, Semi-Cascade, Root-Over-Rock