Common Name: Desert Rose, Karoo Rose, Impala Lily, Sabi Star
Species: Adenium obesum
Is a succulent of the family Apocynaceae native to East Africa and the Middle East. In the wild the species range from 8 inches tall to ‘shrublets’ to small trees with swollen trunks (caudex) up to a height of 15 feet. The main attraction of Adenium is their showy flowers. Adenium are fast growing and easy to maintain when given the right conditions and proper care. They adapt readily to container culture and make interesting and untraditional bonsai specimens. Adenum produces a milky sap, which can cause skin irritation as well as serious internal poisoning if sap is swallowed.
Bark/Foliage: The bulbous trunk (caudex) can be almost globoid to conical, narrowing before dividing into numerous irregularly spaced branches. Branches are smooth, grayish green to brown, with small, terminal, spirally arranged glossy green leaves. The exotic flowers are 2” pink and white and open trumpet shaped, blooming throughout the year. Adenium will defoliate during the dormant season. In South Florida they never go completely dormant.
Fertilizing: Use a 13-13-13 slow-release fertilizer together with a monthly application foliar feeding with a water-soluble fertilizer during the growing season. Adenium require high nitrogen to flower well. Adenium prefer constant low levels of feed to infrequent high doses. Adenium does NOT need phosphorous bloom fertilizer to bloom.
Repotting: Mature trees can be repotted every 2 to 3 years, younger trees yearly during the active growing season. Do not water for a week after repotting if any large roots were removed or damaged. Root prune lightly not more than a third of the root mass. Soil level can be slightly lowered with each repotting to slowly expose the thick, fleshy roots. Newly exposed roots are sensitive to light, and benefit from being partially shaded for the first few months.
Soil: A well-draining bonsai soil is a must. Some advice no organic matter. Other sources recommend using a mix of peat, adding 10-15 percent crushed pine bark, perlite or coarse builders' sand or a mix of all three.
Insect/ Disease: Very susceptible to fungal root and stem rots. In South Florida there can be a problem with scales, mealy bugs and spider mites. It is susceptible to the Oleander Caterpillar (Polka Dot Wasp Moth) as it is in the same subfamily as the oleander. Adeniums are sensitive to most pesticides. Insecticidal soaps are safe for the plant.
Watering: Soak plant until water leaches from the bottom of the pot then allow it to become completely dry (within 3 to 5 days). The beginning of dormancy has a drop in water consumption and sometimes yellowing and dropping of the plant’s leaves. Decrease watering accordingly. In spring slowly increase water again, watching for new growth. Adenium cannot come out of dormancy without the increase of water, but too much too soon can cause root death.
Light: sunny position or in semi-shade
Pruning/Training: Occasional trimming and pinching is necessary to keep the tree miniature. Never remove all of the new growth; a little should be left to sustain the health of the tree.
Temperature: Protect below 40° F.
Propagation: 5” long cuttings, preferably leafless, dipped into rooting hormone with fungicide. Air layering has been used to a limited extent. Roots form in 6-8 weeks. Best results are during hot, humid weather.
Styles: A bulbous trunk with multiple branches.
Common Name: Divi Divi
Species: Caesalpinia coriaria
This is the national tree of Curacao. In sheltered locations, the tree is symmetrical with a spreading mounded top as shown in the illustration. Exposed to the prevailing winds, however, it leans away from the wind, and its top, growing mostly to the lee side, appears to be blown out horizontally in the wind. This has produced an excellent example of a natural windswept style. In this characteristic it can be confused with Crescentia cujete (calabash tree) which may do the same. As a tree it grows to approximately 30 feet tall. Is part of a family of trees and shrubs of mostly tropical and subtropical origin comprising about 150 genera and 2,2oo species. The new growth is copper and pink colored and is the most attractive feature of the tree. The Divi Divi tree is native to the Caribbean, North and Central America, and some parts of the United States. In its native Aruba and Curacao, the trees are exposed to the prevailing winds.
Bark/Foliage/Fruit: The trunk is corky with a grayish bark. The feathery leaves are stipulate, alternate, and mostly pinnate compound, but may be bi-pinnate or simple. The fragrant white or yellow flowers are in racemes. The fruit is usually a flat “S” shaped legume and are a rich source of tannin.
Fertilizing: Fertilize with a balanced fertilizer with an occasional boost of phosphate.
Repotting: Repot in late spring when minimum night temperatures have reached low to mid 60°F.
Soil: Use well-draining soil; pH 7.0.
Insect/ Disease: Resistant to most pests
Watering: Moderate watering in a well-draining soil. Will tolerate some dry conditions.
Light: Prefers morning sun to full sun.
Training/Pruning: This tree is slow to increase its trunk size. It is advisable to prune top and roots at the same time. The top can be pruned more severely than the roots. Reduce roots over several repotting's. As the branches are brittle, wiring needs to be done with care. Clip and grow is a good method. The Divi Divi can be defoliated at least twice during the growing season.
Temperature: Protect below 40° F.
Propagation: Seeds and cuttings work. The tree is readily available in Florida Bonsai nurseries.
Styles: Suitable for all styles.
Tropical Green Sheets
Bonsai-bci species files
Common Name: Dwarf Black Olive, Spiny Black Olive
Species: Bucida spinosa
Is a tropical evergreen native to Cuba, The Bahamas, the upper Florida Keys, and Puerto Rico. Even though it is called an olive tree it is related to the mangrove and buttonwood family. It is very salt tolerant. The tree will grow to a height of 15 – 25’, with a spread of 15 to 25’. Sometimes the crown will flatten with age and the crown grows in a horizontal zigzag pattern. The growth rate is slow. Today it is illegal to collect the tree from its native habitats.
Bark/Foliage/Fruit: The trunk is gray and develops a deep fissured textured bark. The zigzag branches are opposite and spiral. The small green leaves turn orange or scarlet before they drop, producing a new set within a week or two. This normal process can occur several times during spring and summer. The small thorns can be removed and do not re-grow. Yellow-beige flowers appear during spring and summer, followed by small black seed capsules.
Fertilizing: During growing season likes frequent fertilization including a boost of nitrogen. Any balanced fertilizer e.g., 20-20-20 or 10-10-10.
Repotting: Repot in July and August when the difference between day and night temperatures is minimal. Root prune carefully and gradually; remove the same percentage of foliage and root growth. Plant loss occurs when repotted at the wrong time of year.
Soil: Any well-draining soil, can be slightly alkaline.
Insect/Disease: Fairly hardy – not many insect pests, occasionally bothered by sooty mold.
Watering: Keep evenly moist. Do not let them dry out. Leaf loss may occur if they dry out.
Light: Full sun with good air circulation.
Pruning/Training: Trim foliage any time of year. During the growing season pinch or trim back new growth, always leaving some to sustain the health of the tree. As the plant growth it changes direction at every internode, making a bend of 25 to 35 degrees, which can be incorporated into the styling. Clip and grow is easy with this plant. New growth occurs in whorls. Remove the ones growing straight up.
Temperature: Protect below 40° F.
Propagation: From seeds or soft wood cuttings. Seeds may not be true to form as they may have been pollinated by the larger forms such as Bucida buceras. Air layering is possible though somewhat difficult.
Styles: Can be successfully adopted to any style.
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’.
Foliage/Flower: The leaves are heart shaped like Hibiscus leaves, bright green and alternate and approximately 4 inches long. In our area, the plant will bloom year-round. The bright red flower petals only unfurl partially, and the stamen is protruding.
Fertilizing: 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 boosters. 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.
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. Orthane 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.
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.
Temperature: Protect below 40°F.
Propagation: Can be grown from cuttings.
Styles: Lends itself to informal upright, multiple trunks, root over rock style.
Common Name: Dwarf Jade, Elephant Grass or Elephant Bus
Species: Portulacaria afra
Even though this evergreen shrub is referred to as Dwarf Jade it is not related to the larger-leaved Jade plant which belongs to the Crassula family. In its native habitat, the arid, sub-tropical areas of South Africa, it reaches a height of approximately 10’. Portulacaria is a succulent, which means that trunks and branches are water laden, semi-pliable, and depend on their moisture content rather than hard wood to maintain their rigidity. Elephants graze on the leaves
Bark/Foliage/Flower: The trunk and branches are reddish-brown and are smooth when young and become peeling and papery when mature. Primary branches are often alternating, but secondary branches and twigs are almost always opposing. Leaves are about 1/3 of an inch long, smooth, oval and thick, and appearing in opposite pairs. Each pair of leaves grow at right angles to the next with a very short petiole. Light pink to purplish star shaped flower in autumn when grown in the ground. Rarely blooms as bonsai.
Fertilizing: Well-balanced timed-release fertilizer throughout the growing season with a boost of high nitrogen every two to three weeks, poured over the foliage and allowed to wash into the soil, tapering off in late autumn to a once-a-month application. Yellow leaves could be an indication of lack of nitrogen.
Repotting: Repotting in early spring is best, every 2-3 years. Allow the soil to become dry before repotting. After repotting and root pruning, place in semi-shade and do not water for about a week, in order to avoid root rot; then water thoroughly. Portulacaria supports itself with far fewer roots than other plants. One half of its root ball may cut off without removing any top growth.
Soil: Any well-draining soil.
Insect/ Disease: Generally, pest free although aphids, mealy bugs and root rot can be a problem. Do not use petroleum-based pesticides.
Watering: Allow soil to dry out between watering. Yellow leaves and leaf drop may also be a sign of overwatering.
Light: Full sun will result in vigorous and compact growth of leaves, twigs and short internodes.
Pruning/Training: New growth should be continually pinched. Clip and grow as close as possible to the preceding set of leaves. Do not prune branches/twigs to unfoliated part. Leave 1 – 2 pairs of new leaves. Prune back to a horizontal rather than vertical pair. If only a vertical pair of leaves if available, you can wire and twist the branch so that the leaves become horizontal. Horizontal leaves promote side growth rather than upward or downward-directed shoots. Use scissors to cut flush instead of concave cutters. Deep scars may cause die back. Do not use a wound sealer. Dwarf Jade can become top heavy (because of the water content in the trunk and branches). Removal of the top is required when this happens. The bark scars easily when wired. Branches may break if bent too far. Wire when plant is dry. Allow plant to dry out completely before removing leaves. After defoliation place plant in a semi-shaded location. Do not water until new growth appears.
Temperature: Protect below 50° F.
Propagation: Allow branch or root cuttings to dry completely, then plant in dry sand. Water lightly until growth occurs.
Styles: All styles including, root over rock, forest plantings, and cascade.
Common Name: Dwarf Schefflera, Dwarf Umbrella Tree
Species: Schefflera arboricola
Is named in honor of 18th century German botanist Jacob Christian Scheffler. Native to Australia and its surrounding islands Scheffler aboricola are evergreen shrubs or lianas 3 to 6 feet tall and very hardy, fast growers.
Bark/Foliage/Fruit: The trunk is not particularly woody; it does not develop growth rings as trees do. The trunk and stems have a similar external “woody” layer and a central pith stem. The leaves are alternate compound elliptic and range from solid green to variegated. The orange-yellow fruit may form in the winter. Schefflera develops aerial roots with ease.
Fertilizing: Any balanced fertilizer e.g., 20-20-20 or 10-10-10 weekly or every 2 weeks at half strength during the growing season, once per month during the winter months.
Repotting: Every 2 to 3 years in early spring. Roots can be severely pruned but are also subject to damage by rough handling. Schefflera likes to be in a shallow pot.
Soil: Any well-draining soil on sandy side; pH 6.0-7.5.
Insect/ Disease: Usually none, occasional scale, mealy bugs and aphids.
Watering: Prefers soil on the dry side but must not be allowed to dry out. Reduced watering during the winter months.
Light: Full sun to partial shade. Variegated varieties prefer more sun to maintain color. More sun is beneficial to reduce the size of the leaves.
Pruning/Training: Regular hard pruning is needed to develop strong branching. Clip and grow is best. Only young branches can be wired. Healthy trees can be totally defoliated. Branches developing in the wrong spot can be easily rubbed off.
Temperature: Protect below 50° F.
Propagation: Seed, air layering in spring or summer cuttings. It is readily available in nurseries.
Styles: Informal upright with a large canopy and aerial roots. Banyan Style. Root over rock with lots of exposed roots. Any design that emphasizes aerial roots. Multiple trunk style.
Tropical Green Sheets
Common Name: Escambron, Escambron Blanco, Prickly Myrtle, Haggarbush
Species: Clerodendrum aculeatum
The genus has 400 species and is found in the warm parts of the world with greatest diversity in Asia and Africa. The species is found in the Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda and has been introduced to Hawaii. The French name for Escambron is Amourette and it is used widely in both Guadeloupe and Martinique as bonsai material. In Florida the species has been introduced through Puerto Rican bonsai artists, and most of the collected specimens available in Florida bonsai nurseries are imported from there. Escambron is a viny shrub with widely spreading branches, sometimes climbing over trees and shrubs, forming a dense ticket up to 20’ high. In Puerto Rico it is used as a hedge plant. The trunk has a rough wrinkled texture of up to 6 inches in diameter. The wood is hard and fine grained. Escambron is both salt and draught tolerant. Leaf poultices have been used to treat skin problems and other ailments.
Flowers/Fruit: During the summer month Escambron develops clusters of small white flowers with long stamens, followed by small yellow fruit containing seeds.
Fertilizing: Well balanced fertilizer year-round.
Repotting: During the summer months.
Soil: Well-draining soil.
Insect/Disease: Fairly resistant to pests.
Watering: Prefers dryer conditions similar to Bougainvillea.
Light: Full sun is best for smaller leaf size.
Training/Pruning: Escambron has a dense root system. Plant will yellow and slow in growth when root bound. Branches can be wired when young and green, even though care must be taken because they are fragile at this stage. Escambron will bud back well. Repeated pinching of some of the large leaves helps to reduce leaf size.
Temperature: Protect below 40° F
Propagation: Collecting in Puerto Rico or collected species imported by local bonsai nurseries. Also grows from cuttings and probably seeds.
Styles: Informal upright as well as multiple trunk style.
Common Name: Elaeagnus, Russian olive, oleaster
Species: Elaegnus angustifolia
Elaeagnus is a genus of about 50 to 70 species of deciduous or evergreen flowering shrubs. The alternate leaves and shoots are usually covered with tiny silvery to brownish scales, giving the plants a whitish to grey brown color from the distance. The fragrant flowers are small, with four-lobed yellow flowers and no petals. The colors range from pale yellow to creamy brown, often with brownish speckles. The fruit is a drupe* containing a single seed, edible in many species. The colors range from yellow to red to silvery. Elaeagnus is native to temperate and subtropical regions of Asia. Some species can be found as far south as northeastern Australia (E. triflora), and southeastern Europe (E. angustifolia).
Elaegnus commutatna: common name - Silverberry; the berries have a distinctive silvery color; the leaves are narrow with a silvery cast and curl slightly at the tip.
Elaegnus multiflora: is cultivated in China but is growing in popularity in the rest of the world. The berries of E. multiflora are used as a nutraceutical plant Elaegnus pungens: common name - Silverthorn, Spotted Elaeagnus, or Thorny Elaeagnusis an evergreen that sometimes has thorns. The leaves are shiny green above with silvery spots and white with brown speckles underneath. The fragrant flowers appear in the fall through early spring, followed by brownish fruit speckled with silver.
Elaegnus umbelata: common name - Autumn Olive, blooms and fruits in the fall. The leaves are narrow, and the underside has a silvery cast. The berries are red; they are said to have high carotenoid antioxidant properties.
Elaegnus umbelata and E. pungens are presently rated a Category II exotic invasive species by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council.
Foliage/Flowers/Fruit: Leaves are not compound in nature. Flowers are indistinct and small with an aroma. Deciduous and evergreen species of Elaeagnus flower in spring and fall respectively. Fruit is called as drupe, which has a single seed cream-colored. Size of fruits vary. For example, Elaeagnus angustifolia has longer seeds compared to umbellate. Taste like sweet tart, and they are edible in some species. Used in the production of jams, jellies, and Koreans love them.
Fertilizing: Every 2 weeks through growing season with acid fertilizer, alternating with balanced fertilizer (20-20-20).
Repotting: Repotting in early spring every 2 to 3 years as leaf buds extend.
Soil: Prefers well-draining, non-alkaline soil with some organic added. pH 5.5-6.5.
Insect/Disease: Resistant to pests and disease, but can suffer from scale and aphids, also susceptible to coral spot.
Watering: Keep soil moist during summer months, never allow to dry out; reduce water slightly during winter months.
Light: Full Sun or partial shade.
Pruning/Training: Hard pruning should be carried out in winter. New shoots- trim back to 2 leaves: clip and grow method. Branches can be wired. Elaeagnus can be defoliated to encourage ramification. Wire new branches before they become too inflexible. Older branches are stiff and hard to move. Clip and grow works well.
Temperature: Protect below 40° F.
Propagation: Grows well from green cuttings, also from seeds.
Styles: Can be trained into various styles like multiple trunks, informal upright, group planting, as well as cascading; adapts well to many styles.
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 rock lands and at hammock edges. In nature Florida Privet prefers moist, well-drained sandy or limestone soils, with a humus top layer. Nutritional requirements are moderate, and Florida Privet can grow in nutrient poor soils, but needs some organic content to thrive. Florida Privet has a low salt tolerance and does not tolerate long-term flooding by salt or brackish water. On the other hand, Florida Privet is draught tolerant when established. Growth rate is moderate too fast.
Trunk/Foliage/Fruit: The bark is pale or creamy, thin, smooth with many breathing pores (lenticels). Florida Privet is semi-evergreen; a natural thinning of foliage can be expected in January and February. In spring Florida Privet 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. Florida Privet 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.
Fertilizing: A regular feeding schedule with a balanced fertilizer.
Repotting: During late spring and early summer when new leaves appear.
Soil: A well-draining bonsai soil is a must.
Insect/Disease: No known diseases. Insect tolerant.
Watering: Likes to be moist, but soil must be well draining.
Light: Full sun is best
Pruning/Training: Can be heavily top pruned, but moderate root pruning is advised. Young branches can be wired.
Temperature: Frost tolerant.
Propagation: Can be grown from de-pulped seed. Cover with soil and place in full sun. Florida Privet 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.
Styles: Lends itself to various styles.
COMMON NAME: Fukien Tea or Philippine Tea Tree
SPECIES: Ehretia microphylla (Carmona microphylla/buxifolia)
This evergreen tree is native to Southeast Asia, and it can be found from India, China, Japan to the Solomon Islands. The bark of the Fukien Tea is gray with darker, warty elevated areas. The leaves are used (both dry and fresh) to prepare a delicious tea. The US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health recently reported that an anti-snake venom was extracted from the root bark of Ehretia buxifolia against Echia carinatus, a venomous viper species responsible for most snake bite cases and death in Southeast Asia.
Flower/Fruit: Small star-shaped flowers year-round. The small, leafed variety produces abundant fruit and seeds; the large leaf variety rarely produces fruit. The leaves have a “sand-paper” surface containing small gray spots.
Fertilizing: Use a balanced fertilizer (e.g., 20-20-20) alternating with a high phosphate (e.g., 10-15-10). Chlorotic leaves may indicate a need for Iron.
Repotting: Repot when minimum night temperatures are low to mid 60’s.
Soil: Any well-draining soil containing approximately 50% organic material. Do not allow soil to become compacted or roots will rot.
Insect/Disease: The flowers on Fukien Tea attract ants, which in turn open the way for aphids, scale, sooty mold and fungi. When you see ants on your Fukien Tea beware! Keep foliage thinned out. A blast of water from the hose will remove many aphids. Flowers can also be removed to control the insect problem. Fukien Tea is sensitive to many chemicals including dormant oil or any chemical that contains oils. Diazinon is toxic to Fukien Tea.
Watering: Needs plenty of water in well-draining soil.
Light: Full sun prevents fungi and keeps leaves small and dark green.
Pruning/Training: Fukien Tea may be heavily root and top pruned. Clip and grow is best; utilize directional growth pattern when clipping to minimize need for wiring. A prolific grower, Fukien Tea handles reduction cuts with good back budding. Large cuts do not heal over and need to be placed at the back of the tree or turned into jinns. The largest leaf in a whorl should be removed. Fukien Tea does not like to be root bound. Mame and Shohin size in very small bonsai pots can be placed in training pots filled with sand. When the roots extend into the sand, the tree is healthier, and the trunk thickens. The roots can be cut off any time.
Temperature: Protect below 40° F.
Propagation: Seeds, cuttings, air-layering.
Style: Suitable for small to large size bonsai, informal upright, cascade or semi cascade, also good for forest, Penjing (tray scenery).
Common Name: Gardenia
Species: 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 feet with an almost equal spread. In the ground Gardenias require acid soil.
Trunk/Foliage/Flowers: 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.
Fertilizing: Specially formulated fertilizer for Gardenias is 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.
Repotting: During late spring and early summer when nighttime temperatures are in the low to mid 60 F.
Soil: A well-draining bonsai soil is a must.
Insect/ Disease: 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.
Watering: 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.
Light: Full sun to partial shade.
Pruning/Training: 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.
Temperature: Protect from freezing
Propagation: 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.
Styles: Lends itself to various styles.
Common Name: Gumbo Limbo
Species: Bursera simaruba
This large semi-evergreen tree, with an open irregular to rounded crown, can reach 60’ in height with an equal or wider canopy. The trunk and branches are thick and are covered with resinous, smooth, peeling coppery bark. The tree typically develops from two to four large-diameter limbs and its branches tend to droop. In our environment the tree loses almost all its foliage just before the new spring growth comes in. Gumbo Limbo is a native of South Florida as well as all the Caribbean Islands.
Foliage/Flowers/Fruit: The leaves are alternate, odd-pinnate compound of 5 leaves per set. The leaves have a peppery smell and when dried was once used in the Caribbean for stomach ailments. In spring the tree is covered with clusters of small green inconspicuous flowers. The fruit is a red oval shaped berry.
Fertilizing: Regular seasonal feeding schedule with balanced fertilizer should be maintained.
Repotting: Minimum night temperature low to mid 60°F. Repotting can continue through summer.
Soil: In nature the tree will tolerate clay, sandy loam, acidic and alkaline. As bonsai any well-draining soil with a pH of 6.0 – 7.5 is advisable.
Insect/ Disease: Free of serious pests and diseases.
Watering: Maintain a regular watering schedule.
Light: Full sun is recommended but will tolerate partial shade.
Training/Pruning: Gumbo Limbo tolerates severe root and branch pruning and will bud break on hard wood. Some die-back will occur. When styled the tree has the tendency to produce one shoot only. To encourage multiple shoots during the growing season, remove several internodes and defoliate. New growth will only have 3 leaves per set. As soon as the leaf set grows back to 5, clip back to 3 sets. Keep directional cutting in mind as well. Repeat as needed. Wiring of new growth is best but keep on eye on scarring. Tie downs work well.
Propagation: Can be grown from seed, but easily grows from cuttings of any size twig or branch.
Temperature: Protect below 40° F.
Styles: The attractive part of Gumbo Limbo is its beautiful trunk. Any style that emphasizes the trunk is suitable. Because of its large leaves Gumbo Limbo lends itself to formal and informal upright, as well as literati.
Sources: Tropical Green Sheets, UF/IFAS publication ST104 published Nov 1993
Common Name: Dwarf or Miniature Holly, Holly Leaf Malpighia, Florida Holly, Singapore Holly, Okinawa Holly
Species: Malpighia coccigera
Is an evergreen shrub native to the Caribbean. It is related to the Barbados cherry and Surinam cherry. It is not a true holly. In nature the shrub typically grows multi trunked and with clumping stems. Mature growth is woody, with light to medium brown bark. The bark is speckled all over with tiny spots, which actually are dormant buds each with the potential to grow a new branch. The growth is crisscrossed and haphazard and needs to be controlled.
Foliage/Flower/Fruit: The 0.78-inch, leathery, emerald dark green leaves are arranged opposite, prickly and shaped like holly leaves. New growth tends to be horizontal. The blooms are small (about the size of a dime), five-petaled, blush pink with yellow stamens at the center and appear almost all year with heaviest blossoms occurring late spring and early summer. Blooms appear all along the branches, and flowers are not sacrificed by tip pruning. In late spring segmented cherries develop, which technically are drupes*. Both flowers and cherries can appear simultaneously.
Fertilizing: A heavy feeder, a balanced liquid fertilizer should be used weekly during the spring and summer month. From October to March monthly applications are sufficient. If a timed-release fertilizer is used, it should be supplemented occasionally with a high nitrogen fertilizer applied directly to the leaves and allowed to drip down to the soil. Yellow leaves indicate a lack of chelated iron.
Repotting: Repotting from early spring, just as the new buds appear – usually mid to upper 60°F. and throughout the summer.
Soil: Soil mixture should be slightly acid (pH 5.5 to 6.5), water retentive, but well-draining.
Insect/Disease: Highly susceptible to nematodes, also scale and mites.
Watering: Keep evenly moist. Do not allow to dry out.
Light: Will thrive in full sun but will require sun at least half the day.
Pruning/Training: The Dwarf Holly has an extensive, fibrous root system with well-developed surface roots and will tolerate heavy root pruning. It quickly will develop numerous new feeder roots. The top as well can be heavily pruned. The goal is to develop compact flat planes of foliage, which can be achieved by diligent pruning and shortening of new shoots. Grow shoots 7 to 8 pair of leaves to cut back to 4 or 5 sets of leaves on the primary branch, and 2 to 3 sets on secondary branches. Clip and grow method is best. Keep unwanted growth along the trunk rubbed off.
Propagation: Easily grows from cuttings, even large branches and trunks, through air layering, and from seed. Occasionally available as nursery stock.
Temperature: Protect below 50°F.
Styles: The Dwarf Holly lends itself to a variety of styles like multiple trunks, root over rock and informal upright.
BCI species Index guide.
WTBF Autumn 1989 article by Mary Miller, Fact Sheet FPS-380
Common Name: Ixora, Indian Jasmine, Jungle Flame, Jungle Geranium
Species: Echinocereus engelmannii
Ixora is a genus from the family Rubiaceae, consisting of more than 400 tropical evergreens and shrubs. 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. There are many hybrid varieties now available with smaller leaves. The fruit is a hard, fleshy berry.
Foliage/Flowers: The leaves are leathery, ranging from 3” to 6” in length. 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.
Fertilizing: 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 repotting's.
Soil: Well-draining soil is a must.
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.
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.
Temperature: Protect below 40°F.
Propagation: Can be grown from cuttings. Due to slow growth, it is best to use nursery stock or a collected tree.
Styles: Ixora lends itself well to multiple trunk style, where a full canopy can be developed.
Wikipedia, Tropical Green Sheets