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  Bonsai Care

On this page we will cover some of the basics of caring for a bonsai, as well as some of the mistakes that beginners frequently make. If you think we have missed something, drop us a line.

Where do I put it?

Pines and junipers go in full sun, while deciduous trees, such as maples and elms, will do well in a spot that gets some shade from late afternoon sun. Indoor, or tropical, trees will want quite a bit of sun. They are used to bright, humid climates found near the equator. If the Summers where you live are hot and arid, you must be careful that your trees do not dry out. You will want to give all your trees dappled sun during Summer. Azaleas will do well in a spot that gets bright sun until noon, with plenty of humidity. Last, it is a good idea to set your trees on a low bench about two feet off the ground. This will keep many of the bugs out of the pot and keep the tree from accidentally being kicked or stepped on. Plus, it looks nice.

How often do I water it?

In general, you should water your tree when the top of the soil is dry. Each tree uses water at a different rate, so do not water all your trees at once, unless they truly need it. Use a watering can or hose attachment that will cast a soft, rain-like spray so that you do not blast the soil out of the pot.

How do I train my bonsai?

A bonsai is not, in many cases, simply a dwarf form of a tree. A bonsai has been dwarfed by training. Training involves pruning, wiring, watering, repotting, fertilizing, etc. As you progress in learning about your tree, you will gradually become more aware of all the aspects of training and their use. For now, trim away any branches and leaves that do not add to the tree you are trying to produce. In order to do this, you must have a good idea of what it is you are trying to do. Take a picture (or draw one) of your tree before you begin work and draw a second, this time of how you want the tree to look in the future. You may or may not keep to this design, but it is important nonetheless to have an idea of the direction you want to take.

Good Trees for Beginners

Good outdoor (temperate climate) trees for beginners include Green Mound juniper, Trident maple and Chinese elm. These are very forgiving trees, and can adapt to most environments, with proper care. Good indoor (tropical climate) varieties include Ficus and Schefflera. These grow well in lower light conditions found in many homes. They still need as much light as you can supply, however.

Indoor or Outdoor?

Some people mistakenly believe that all bonsai can be kept indoors indefinitely. This is not surprising because these trees are often displayed indoors. However, all bonsai trees are species that grow outside in their native lands and therefore do best when grown outside in fresh air and natural light. That said, some bonsai originate in tropical environments; they do not thrive in cold weather. These trees are classified as “indoor” bonsai because they need to be protected from the cold. Indoor bonsai grow best when kept inside during cold months and outdoors during warm seasons. (See individual tree info for specifics.) We recommend keeping all bonsai, including those grouped as indoor, outside when temperatures are moderate. Most bonsai are temperate climate trees and just like their non-dwarfed cousins in your yard, they need to experience seasonal changes. Winter’s cold, gradually warming spring temperatures, summer’s heat and fall’s progressive cooling drive the normal active growth and dormant rest periods for these trees. While temperate climate trees may be displayed indoors during any season, it is ideal to do this for only a few days at a time. Then move them back outside.

Overwintering

Indoor bonsai are tropical species that must be keep inside when the weather outside is cold. During their months indoors these trees require locations with good light; see specific species care info for details to help choose an ideal site. Indoor bonsai trees also appreciate locations away from drafts and excess heat, i.e. exterior doors and hot air registers. Forced air, hot in the winter and cool in the summer, creates a desert-like environment in most homes. Indoor bonsai, and most other plants, appreciate more moisture. This is easy to achieve with humidity trays, low trays that contain a small amount of water and decorative rocks. Place your bonsai on the rocks in the tray and water from above. The excess water collects in the tray and evaporates to moisten the air. (This humidity is good for people, too!) See Shopping>Supplies & Accessories for tray options. Most outdoor bonsai can, and should, be kept outside year round. Low temperatures are best managed by first choosing a tree that is well suited to your regional weather (see info provided with individual trees) and then providing conditions for successful winter dormancy. In warm parts of the country, no special care is required. In cold areas, winter care for potted bonsai includes two considerations: temperature swings and temperature lows. If winter temperatures in your area drop to 20 degrees the main goal for winter care is to mitigate temperature swings so a few warm days don’t prematurely signal to your tree that spring has arrived and it’s time to start growing. To manage these variations, place your bonsai next to a wall that will shield it from drying winds and mound pine needles or bark mulch around the pot. Create a layer about 3” deep; this will help keep the air temperature around the root ball constant. Check the mulch periodically to confirm that it hasn’t shifted or blown away. Water your bonsai every week or two and never let your tree freeze when dry. Remove the mulch and reposition your tree when reliably warmer spring weather returns. For regions where the weather is very cold move your tree to a location where temperatures stay above 15 degrees – an unheated garage, shed or breezeway is ideal. Sunlight is not necessary as the tree is dormant and isn’t photosynthesizing (turning sunlight into energy) during the winter. Water every week or two and never let your bonsai freeze when dry. Move your tree back to its summer location when reliably warmer spring weather returns.




Bonsai Care For Specific Species

Bald Cypress | Bamboo | Black Pine | Blue Juniper | Bougainvillea | Chinese Elm | Dwarf Jade | Ficus | Fukien tea | Gardenia | Ginkgo | Hinoki | Hornbeam | Jaboticaba | Japanese Dwarf Garden Juniper | Japanese Maple | Japanese White Pine | Mugo Pine | Podocarpus | Sargent | Satsuki Azalea | Schefflera | Trident maple

Bald Cypress - Taxodium distichum

General information: There are trees 800 to 1000 years old in the Cache River basin in Illinois. Bald cypress has been planted far north of its natural range. There are specimens in Minnesota, Southern Canada, and some 75-year-old trees in New York.

The bald cypress prefers very wet, swampy soils. Riverbanks, lake floodplains, wet depressions. They often grow in pure, almost circular, stands; viewed on the horizon, these stands have a peculiar dome shape, with shorter, almost stunted trees growing around the edges and trees gradually growing taller toward the center. As a landscape tree it grows well in relatively dry soils.

The leaves of the bald cypress are tiny needles, grown in 2 rows along slender greenish twigs.

It is deciduous, although the dried, brown leaves often cling to the tree well into the winter.

A close relative is Pond Cypress (T. ascendans). Similar to Bald Cypress in that the trunk is perfectly straight 50 to 60 feet tall, Pond cypress has a narrower crown, is smaller, and has a more open habit. It is found along the edges of streams and around the edge of swampy ground where water is standing; whereas Bald cypress is usually found along stream banks. The bright green, awl-shaped leaves are arranged in an upright row formation along the branches when young, giving a somewhat stiffer and more upright appearance than Bald cypress. The leaves turn an attractive light brown in fall before dropping but the bare branches and light brown, ridged bark provide much landscape interest during the winter. The trunk grows unusually thick toward the base, even on young trees. This is thought to provide support for the tree in its wet habitat. The small seeds are used by some birds and squirrels.

Family: Taxodiaceae

Lighting: Full sun.

Temperature: Zone 5B through 9. The range of the bald cypress includes southern Delaware to south Florida, west to Texas and north to southeast Oklahoma, southwest Indiana, and southern Illinois.

Watering: Water daily during the spring, summer and fall. In the winter, cypress should be watered approximately every seven to ten days.

Feeding: Use a well-balanced time released fertilizer every four to five weeks. You may wish to supplement a time-released fertilizer with a liquid food.

Pruning and wiring: The bald cypress lends itself to formal upright, informal upright, slanting, literati, twin-trunk and group styles. The most natural style is “Flat Top” design.

In nature, a mature bald cypress growing in the open will have a long, limbless trunk, capped with a cluster of horizontal-to-drooping limbs and a very flat top.

The formal upright probably should take this shape. A younger tree in nature will have limbs growing lower on the trunk, and most will be angling upward. The informal upright might consider this aspect.

These trees are fast growing, and wires will damage the bark if they are not watched closely. Alternatively branches may be tied town using a soft raffia twine, tied near the end of the branch to be pulled down, then tie the other end to the base of the tree trunk, to the pot, or to something else (sometimes the base of the branch immediately below). If the branch to be pulled down is thick, you can make a V-shaped incision at the underside of the limb where it joins the trunk. The V will close when the branch is pulled down, and the wound soon knits.

Shape the foliage by pinching back new growth. Let a branch grow for a season if you want to thicken it, then cut it back the following spring. New growth will sprout at the site of your most recent pruning.

Developing cypress "knees." There's still considerable debate over what these knees are "for" in nature, but they are a distinctive feature of bald cypress. You should try to develop at least one "knee" in your mature trees. They are easily developed by going up to 3 years without repotting or root pruning. By then, roots will be jammed into the pot; many will have bent almost double. If you carefully bring one of these doubled bends (one that occurs quite near the base of the tree, or can be brought in closer) to the surface and let it protrude through the moss cover, you will have what is to all intents a knee. These should thicken and develop well over subsequent years.

Repotting: Potting and root pruning should be done in spring, just as little green nubs are showing up on the branches and trunk.

Although Cypress are not susceptible to rot cypress, we always recommend using high-quality bonsai soil when repotting. With Cypress, you may add 10% peat moss for water retention.

Pests: Root aphids are a common pest. You can use an Orthene liquid drench. This pest well cause branch die-back if left untreated.

Diseases: Twig blight is caused by a weak pathogen and is usually present on dead or dying tissue. When the tree is stressed the fungus can kill branch tips. Dead tips can be pruned off. Do not let dead or diseased branches remain on the tree. Keep trees healthy with regular fertilization.

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Bamboo - Bambusa sp.

General information: There are a number of things called bamboo which everyone agrees are bamboo: Arundinaria sp., Bambusa sp., Phyllostachys sp., Sasa sp, and Sasaella sp. In addition, there are a number of things that look like bamboo, and are called bamboo, but aren't, like Pogonatherum crinitum ("German bamboo") and Peperomia 'Bamboo Stalks.' Then there is, of course, Nandina domestica (sacred or heavenly bamboo) which isn't a bamboo, or even a grass, but a shrub related to barberry, and doesn't even look much like bamboo.

Temperature: Many bamboos need some frost protection. According to the Samsons, Bambusa sp. should never be exposed to temperatures under 66F.

Lighting: Full sun to partial shade.

Watering: Bamboo like lots of water, but not wet feet. They should be watered daily, but kept in fast-draining soil.

Feeding: Use a high-nitrogen food, such as a lawn fertilizer. (It is, after all, a sort of grass!) Feed every two weeks throughout spring and summer.

Pruning and wiring: Bamboo is generally styled as a grove, or used as an accent plant. Cut back yellowing or ratty-looking stalks. Cutting the stalks down in general will help to reduce the size of the plant. New stalks should appear almost immediately, although it is wise to leave a stalk or two uncut for good measure. The Samsons style their Bambusa as solitaires, saying that young bamboo can even be wired. Tomlinson says that large, interesting bamboo are occasionally grown alone, but that an individual stalk will only live for 5-6 years. Most shaping is done by thinning.

Propagation: Divide the rhizomes. Bamboo are invasive, and will grow like crazy if you give them the space.

Repotting: Every one to two years, in late spring. Use fast-draining mix, except in very shallow pots, or on slabs, where ordinary bonsai soil is OK. Murata notes that the rhizomes tend to push out of the soil and will need to be trimmed back when the plant is repotted to maintain a neat appearance. The Samsons recommend that the roots be spread evenly across the surface area of the pot.

Pests an diseases: Red spider mite is common. Also, bamboo easily becomes pot bound.

Some species suitable for bonsai:

  • Bambusa multiplex - A fine stemmed bamboo, with small yellow- green leaves.
  • Bambusa nigra: Black bamboo - As stalks mature, the turn black. Generally safe to freezing temperatures.
  • Bambusa ventricosa: Buddha's belly bamboo - Has a bright green trunk with ringed swellings that develop as the plant matures. Tomlinson pictures a Buddha's belly bamboo he classifies as Phyllostachys aurea, an incorrect nonminature

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Black Pine - Pinus thunbergii

General Information: An excellent, small, irregularly-shaped Pine, the size and shape of Japanese Black Pine is variable reaching a height of 25 feet and a spread of 20 to 35 feet. The exceptionally dark green, five to seven-inch-long needles are borne in groups of two. Although trees may or may not have a central leader prune to develop one if the tree will be grown to a large size. Black pine is a native of Japan. It prefers but does not insist on colder climates; needs special care if grown in the warmer regions. It has rough bark and dark needles.

Family: Pinaceae

Lighting: They require full sun and good air circulation. Turn the tree from time to time so that light reaches all parts of the foliage.

Temperature: Zone 6 through 8. The black pine does not like extreme heat, especially in the area of its roots. Spray the foliage with water daily during the summer.

Watering: May be allowed to go dry between waterings. Needs good drainage.

Feeding: Use an organic fertilizer beginning in the early spring and continue until mid-fall. You can supplement with a liquid feed to boost branch ramification.

Propagation: Black pines may also be grown from seeds sown in sand in early April. Seeds should be soaked in water for two days to hasten germination. Be sure to discard any seeds which are floating in the water. Black pines may also be propagated by grafting and from cuttings.

Repotting: Repot in Spring before the buds begin to swell. Use a well draining bonsai soil mix. The container may have to be larger than aesthetics dictate so the feeder roots do not dry out and die at the end of a summer day. To take up nourishment, pines need mycorrhyza in the soil around their roots. This fungus appears as a white, stringy material. When repotting, make sure some of this helpful fungus is included in the new soil mix.

Pests and diseases: Usually none serious, except Pine wilt nematode in the east and tip moth on recently transplanted Pines.

The Maskell scale has recently devastated large numbers of trees in New Jersey.

Some adelgids will appear as white cottony growths on the bark. All types produce honeydew which may support sooty mold. European Pine shoot moth causes young shoots to fall over. Infested shoots may exude resin. The insects can be found in the shoots during May. Pesticides are only effective when caterpillars are moving from overwintering sites to new shoots. This occurs in mid to late April or when needle growth is about half developed.

Bark beetles bore into trunks making small holes scattered up and down the trunk. The holes look like shotholes. Stressed trees are more susceptible to attack. Keep trees healthy. Sawfly larvae caterpillars are variously colored but generally feed in groups on the needles. Some sawfly larvae will flex or rear back in unison when disturbed. Sawflies can cause rapid defoliation of branches if left unchecked.

Pine needle miner larvae feed inside needles causing them to turn yellow and dry up. Pine needle scale is a white, elongated scale found on the needles. Pine tortoise scale is brown and found on twigs. Depending on the scale, horticultural oil may control overwintering stages.

Pine spittle bug lives and hides in a foamy mass.

Zimmerman Pine moth larvae bore into the trunk. The only outward symptoms may be death of parts of the tree or masses of hardened pitch on the branches.

The larvae of Pine weevils feed on the sapwood of the leaders. The leader is killed and the shoots replacing it are distorted. First symptoms are pearl white drops of resin on the leaders. The leaders die when the shoot is girdled as adults emerge in summer.

Aphids, mealy bug & red spider. Scale, shoot-tip moths and beetles may attack the tree and can best be controlled with a systemic insecticide. Do a preventive fungicide spray every two to three weeks with Benomyl® or Daconil®.

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Blue Juniper - Juniperus squamata

General Information: This juniper is notable for its striking blue-gray foliage. A number of varieties exist, including 'Meyeri', 'Blue Carpet' and 'Blue Star'. Blue Carpet is a prostrate variety that is especially suitable for cascade and semi-cascade styles. Other varieties can be used for any style other than broom.

Lighting: Full sun.

Temperature: No information available.

Watering: Spray the foliage with water daily during the growing season. Water when the soil is moderately dry (to a depth of 1/2 to 1 inch) but do not let the soil dry out completely.

Feeding: Simon and Schuster's recommends feeding junipers from early spring to autumn ever 20-30 days using a slow-acting organic fertilizer.

If you prefer to use chemical fertilizers, apply a half-strength solution every other week of a reasonably balanced fertilizer, such as Peter's 20-20-20. You may wish to alternate with an acidic fertilizer such as Miracid.

You should not fertilize during the hottest part of the summer (July-mid August in the northern hemisphere), or if the tree is weak or has recently (2-4 weeks) been repotted.

Pruning and wiring: Reduce the roots gradually, removing no more than one third of the roots at each repotting. To develop the foliage, pinch out the tender new shoots using your fingers. Do not use scissors, as the cut needles will turn brown. Pinching must be done continuously during the growing season.

Prune undesirable branches (especially those growing straight down from their parent branch) when repotting or during the growing season.

Wiring is best done in autumn or early winter, so that the branches can become accustomed to their new position while the tree is dormant. Wiring done at other times must be watched carefully for signs of wire cutting into the bark, and must be removed immediately if this happens. If necessary, the tree can be re-wired after removing the old wire.

Propagation: No information available.

Repotting: Repot young trees (up to 10 years) every other year. Repot older trees every 3-4 years. Repotting is best done in spring. Junipers can also be repotted in autumn if necessary, since they enter a period of renewed root growth at that time. Extensive root pruning in autumn is probably not a good idea, however.

For junipers, Simon and Schuster's recommends 60% soil, 10% peat, and 30% coarse sand. Rémy Samson recommends 1 part loam, 1 part leaf mold, and 1 part coarse sand. Peter Chan recommends 1 part loam, 1 part peat, and 3 parts coarse sand.

The tree should be protected from wind and direct sun for a month or two after repotting.

Pests and diseases: Junipers are a favorite victim of red spider mites. If the tree appears weak, with yellowing foliage, it may have spider mites. To check for spider mites, hold a sheet of white paper under a branch and gently shake the foliage. If the paper comes away with many small dots that move, it has spider mites. To combat spider mites, spray with insecticidal soap or a nicotine solution (which can be made by soaking tobacco in water overnight).

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Bougainvillea - Bougainvillea glabra

General Information: Bougainvillea, named for a French navigator, is a native of South America and is grown extensively in the warmer climates of the United States. It is a member of the Nyctaginaceae family with close relatives being the four o'clock and the sand verbena. Bougainvillea is an evergreen vine which is just as happy spreading horizontally or hanging downwards as it is climbing upwards, it makes itself at home in almost any situation. Its trunk tends to be gnarled. Bougainvillea is ideal for bonsai. Red, violet, orange, yellow or white bracts appear on the ends of new growth.

Bougainvillea are available in nurseries and from bonsai specialty growers. A good source is from old gardens being redesigned and from trash piles where a frustrated homeowner has thrown the thorny plant.

They flower most heavily in winter and early spring, but some plants put forth scattered clusters all year. The colorful, papery "blooms" are not flowers; they are bracts. The true flower is white, trumpet shaped and almost unnoticeable within the bracts.

Lighting: Full sun.

Temperature: Being a warm weather plant, they must be provided winter protection. They can usually tolerate die back from a freeze, but will withhold blooms for awhile.

Watering: Moderate to light watering and good drainage allow the bougainvillea to dry out between waterings.

Feeding: Fertilizing with a high nitrogen feed will help with flower bract production. Feed once per month with liquid food or every 60 days with a time released fertilizer.

Pruning and wiring: The bougainvillea takes well to pruning; a useful attribute in styling bonsai. Because bougainvillea generally blooms on new growth, each branch, as blooms begin to fade, should be cut back to a point somewhat shorter than the desired length. Seal all cuts to prevent rot. If rot is detected on a collected specimen, cut it out completely.

Repotting: Repot in Spring. Do not prune the roots too severely.

Pests and Diseases: Caterpillars, aphids, scale, greenfly and mineral deficiencies (chlorosis). Care must be taken that fungus does not invade the tree; reduced humidity and a preventive spraying of fungicide will help greatly.

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Chinese Elm - Ulmus parvifolia

General Information: Chinese elm is fast growing, deciduous or evergreen depending on its location, forms a graceful upright rounded canopy with shiny, dark green leathery leaves. Elm is moderately salt tolerant.

Family: Ulmaceae.

Lighting: Will grow in full sun or partial shade.

Temperature: Zones 5B - 10A. More restricted zones may apply to some of the dwarf varieties.

Watering: Needs a lot of water. Water daily during the growing season.

Fertilizing: Fertilize using a slow release organic feed. High nitrogen feeding leads to undesirable large leaves as well as the extension of internodes.

Pruning and wiring: Most shaping can be done by pruning. The bark is thin and may be damaged easily.

Repotting: They transplant well. Any type of soil with good drainage seems to grow them well. They have heavy root growth so must have root room.

Pests and diseases: Boreres and chewing insects seem to be the only pests bothering the plant. Cankers may develop on young trunks where soil is excessively wet.

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Dwarf Jade - Portulacaria afra

General Information: A Fleshy, softly woody shrub or small tree up to 3m to 4m, often sprawling; occurring on dry rocky hillsides and in succulent scrub. Portulacaria afra, also called "Elephant Plant" or "Small leaf Jade" is relatively new in bonsai but one that almost anyone can grow. It can withstand long periods without water making them excellent plants for beginners. Advanced students of bonsai find them excellent material because they adapt to any style and develop relatively fast.

The bark is green when young, becoming red-brown to slate grey, and smooth with conspicuous leaf scars.

Flowers are small, star shaped; sepals 2; petals 5, pale pink to purplish; stamens 5 to 7.

Lighting: It can be grown outdoors in full sun or indoors with sufficient light.

Temperature: Portulacaria will tolerate a variety of growing conditions. Since it is tropical it must be protected from cold temperatures (below 50).

Watering: Always allow the soil to approach dryness before watering. Although it is a succulent, Portulacaria is not as particular about overwatering as most other succulents.

Feeding: Use a good liquid bonsai fertilizer like Bonsai Pro every two weeks during the winter. During the growing season, apply a time released fertilizer for maximum growth.

Pruning and wiring: This is a plant that adapts to almost any style bonsai. As a succulent, water is contained in the trunk and branches, they tend to droop from their weight. This characteristic makes them excellent for long cascades.

When styling this plant do not hesitate to do drastic pruning. When removing branches or twigs, make all cuts flush rather than concave. It is not necessary to seal any of the cuts. It is important to allow the soil to dry before you remove heavy branches or root. Then water sparingly until it begins to reestablish itself.

Pinching is the secret to the refinement of any bonsai. Since Portulacaria is fast growing, it must be pinched frequently during the growing season. Usually once a week is sufficient for a large bonsai. When working with mame it may be necessary to pinch as often as twice a week.

Repotting: Spring is the best time to repot. In the tropics it can be done at any time if given proper after care. Always allow the soil to become dry before repotting and do not water it until new growth appears. Keep it in a semi-shaded location until new growth begins, then place it in its normal location. Special soil mixes are not required for Portulacaria. Regular bonsai mix will probably be satisfactory. As always, good drainage is important.

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Fig - Ficus sp.

General information: This is a huge tree growing to 60 feet tall and 60 to 70 feet wide. The thick, shiny, two to five-inch-long, evergreen leaves generously clothe the long branches, and the tiny figs eventually turn a deep red. Branches will weep toward the ground forming a canopy so dense that nothing grows beneath it.

There are over 600 species of Ficus, most of them tropical and evergreen. Ficus produces a unique "fruit" which is actually an inverted flower. Not all Ficus produce edible fruit.

Ficus is one of the most loved bonsai for many reasons. It is an excellent tree for beginners, as most species of Ficus are fast growers, tolerant of most any soil and light conditions, make fine indoor bonsai, and perhaps most importantly, are remarkably forgiving of those just learning bonsai watering techniques. Most Ficus grow "banyan"/ areal roots naturally; this feature is often showcased by styling Ficus in dramatic air-root and root-over-rock styles.

Family: Moraceae

Lighting: Most Ficus will grow decently in low light, but thrive in high light conditions.

Temperature: Hardy in zones 10B through 11. Ficus are tropical, and require temperatures above 55F. An excellent choice for an indoor bonsai. Indoor Ficus appreciate being brought outdoors during summer. Does not like draughts.

Watering: Thoroughly water your bonsai every two to three days while indoors. Daily watering will likely be necessary during the summer months. Many Ficus are very tolerant of being over or under watered, which makes them ideal for beginners. Ficus likes a daily misting to maintain humidity.

Feeding: Every two weeks during growth, every four weeks in the winter, using a half-strength plant food or a bonsai fertilizer. You may also use an organic time-released fertilizer during the summer. Replace every four to six weeks with new food.

Pruning and wiring: Ficus are suitable for most styles of bonsai, but are especially suitable for styles which make use of their property of extensive rooting, such as air-root and root-over-rock styles. Ficus can be used for all sizes of bonsai, although, obviously, the small-leaved species make the best miniature bonsai. Leaf pruning can be used to reduce leaf size. Ficus can be wired, but become quite stiff when lignified, and thus are best wired while the shoots are a bit green. Watch carefully to see that the wire doesn't bite in, as Ficus is a very fast grower. Prune back to 2-4 leaves after 6-10 leaves have grown. Ficus will bleed a milky latex profusely. Many books recommend use of cut paste or other sealant for this reason.

Repotting: Every 2-3 years, although some will grow rapidly enough that yearly repotting may be necessary. Ficus is the single most forgiving bonsai in terms of repotting season. The best time is before a new growth spurt, especially in spring, but Ficus can literally be repotted any time of year if reasonable after-care is given. Roots can easily be pruned by half. Basic bonsai soil is recommended, although Ficus tolerates many soil conditions.

Pests: Scale, eelworm, black fly, thrips.

Diseases: Anthracnose fungus and various forms of rot. Some ficus will lose leaves if overwatered or given too little light.

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Fukien tea - Carmona microphylla

General Information: A very small genus of tropical tree which was once referred to (and still often listed as) Carmona. The most widely known Carmona species is the Fukien tea, a tropical shrub originating in Southern China and other parts of Southeast Asia. It is very popular for bonsai in China, but not a traditional favorite in Japan. It can be grown outdoors in warm climates, but is quite popular as an indoor bonsai. Carmona anacua, a recent addition to bonsai, is more resistant to heat and draught.

Lighting: Likes a bright position (1000 Lux)., although success has been reported growing it in a sunny outdoor position all day. While growing indoors, two to three hours of direct sunlight is recommended.

Temperature: Carmona prefers temperatures between 60-72F in winter, although occasional dips into the forties produce no ill effects. In the summer, most books recommend protection from extreme heat, although the plant has been successfully grown in sweltering Texas weather. Carmona does not like draughts.

Watering: Keep well watered, reducing watering only slightly in winter. Never allow Carmona to stand in water, or allow the soil to dry out completely. Frequent misting will discourage spider mites, but will apparently encourage mealy bugs. Choose your poison!

Feeding: Every two weeks during growth, every four weeks in winter. Use bonsai food. Do NOT use Miracid. Fukien tea does not like to be overfed; water well before feeding to avoid root burn. Feeding weekly has been reported with success.

Pruning and wiring: Prune new shoots after six to eight leaves have appeared. The leaves are tiny enough that leaf pruning should not be necessary. Can be wired any time during the growing season, but it is generally styled through pruning alone. Wire should not be left on over three months. Its small leaves and fine branch ramification make it ideal for miniature bonsai.

Repotting: Every 2-3 years, in early spring. Reduce water after root pruning. Bottom heat helps stimulate new root growth. Use basic soil mix.

Pests and diseases: Aphids, scale, chlorosis, mealy-bugs, snails. Red spider mites find this plant a special treat, and will attack it over any other plants in the area. Unfortunately, Fukien tea is very sensitive to insecticides, and Diazinon will kill the tree. Use the weakest insecticide possible that will address a particular problem, or if possible, employ predator insects. Will drop leaves if underwatered. Overwatering results in yellow, sickly leaves. It is quite sensitive to sudden changes in temperature and lighting. Carmona anacua is more resistant to pests, with leaf miners being the only reported problem.

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Gardenia - Gardenia sp.

General information: Shrub with fragrant white flowers, glossy, dark green leaves.

Family: Rubiaceae

Lighting: Partial shade to full sun.

Temperature: Zone 7 to 9.

Watering: Do not allow to dry out and remain dry. Gardenias prefer slightly moist soil.

Feeding: Every 2-3 weeks, spring-autumn. Use an organic based fertilizer. Do not fertilize while the plant is in bloom. The plant may also benefit from administering chelated iron 2-3 times a year.

Pruning and wiring: Wire from late spring to autumn, taking care to protect the delicate bark and branches. Do not wire while the plant is setting buds, and wire only lignified (mature) shoots. Young plants should be pruned after the shoots have developed 4-6 leaves, trimming back to 2-3 to establish branching. Pruning of established bonsai is best done following flowering, pruning only once and then allowing new shoots to set buds.

Repotting: Repotting should be done every 2 years in late winter or spring. Well drained soil high in organic matter. Soil pH between 5.0 and 6.5.The roots are superficial and fine, so drastic root pruning is not recommended, and it is best if only 10% of the roots are removed.

Pests and diseases: Stem canker distinguished by rough cracked areas that form cankerous growths near the soil line - destroy the plant. Sooty mold, aphids, scales, mealybugs and whiteflies, cotony cushion, spider mites, nematodes.

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Ginkgo, maidenhair tree - Ginkgo biloba

General Information: The Ginkgo is the last member of a family of trees common in prehistoric times, and was, in fact, thought to be extinct in the wild until rediscovered in the 17th century in eastern China. It is deciduous, once thought to be a conifer, but now classed by itself. It is immediately recognizable by its columnar shape and graceful fan-shaped leaves which turn a lovely yellow in autumn. Ginkgo tolerates most soil, including compacted, and alkaline, and grows slowly to 75 feet or more tall.

Family: Ginkgoaceae

Lighting: Full sun to part shade. Maximum light is necessary for good autumn color. Very young trees may need some shelter in midsummer.

Temperature: Hardy in Zones 3 through 8A. However, its roots have a high moisture content, and are easily destroyed by frost when exposed to the elements in a shallow bonsai container. Winter protection of the roots is thus a necessity.

Watering: Water thoroughly during the growing season.

Feeding: Use and organic time release fertilizer every 30-45 days.

Pruning and wiring: Young trees have an open branch structure, but older trees form dense columns. It is best to style Ginkgo according to its natural shape. Ginkgo has large leaves which do not easily reduce, so use it for medium to large size bonsai. Pruning scars will not heal, so avoid cutting large branches. Shoots grow in clusters of leaves - reduce the cluster to 2-3 leaves with topmost leaf on the outside. New branches should be pruned back to 2-3 buds while young. Ginkgo is usually shaped by pruning, but may be lightly wired spring-autumn.

Repotting: Specimens every 2-3 years. Repot in spring, preferably early spring, in basic soil mix.

Pests and diseases: The Ginkgo is virtually pest-free and tolerates pollution well.

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Hinoki (or False) Cypress - Chamaecyparis sp.

General Information: This broad, sweeping, conical-shaped evergreen has graceful, flattened, fern-like branchlets which gently droop at branch tips. Hinoki Falsecypress reaches 50 to 75 feet in height with a spread of 10 to 20 feet, has dark green foliage, and attractive, shredding, reddish-brown bark which peels off in long narrow strips.

The easiest false cypress to grow is the Hinoki cypress, C. obtusa. Many report great success in growing it, but unfortunately, it seems to be one of the most difficult to keep in proper bonsai form due to the whorling fan pattern of the foliage.

Family: Cupressaceae

Lighting: Full sun, in all but the hottest climates, is ESSENTIAL. Without proper lighting, lower and inner branches brown and die, which is a serious problem because Chamaecyparis will not bud back on old wood. Many books recommend putting these trees in the shade, but this seems to be a strategy to avoid having the soil dry out completely (see watering, below).

Temperature: Zone 5 - 8A. Most Chamaecyparis species are hardy to -10F, but are in danger of die-back from cold, drying winds. Some degree of frost/wind protection is advised.

Watering: False-cypresses tend to drink a lot of water, especially when in an active growth phase. And Chamaecyparis can never be allowed to dry out completely. The best strategy is to use very fast-draining soil, water generously and allow it to dry somewhat between waterings.

Feeding: False-cypresses should be fed every five or six weeks from early spring to autumn. Use an organic time release fertilizer supplemented with a miracid feed once per month. Always dilute 20% nitrogen fertilizer by one-half the recommended ratio.

Pruning and wiring: Hinoki cypress need periodic pinching of the new growth if the Hinoki’s are allowed to grow freely, the lower branches and inner foliage will die and never grow back. They also need yearly twig thinning to promote airflow and allow sunlight to the inner parts of the tree.

The major styling challenge for false cypress is the fatal combination of rapid growth, die-back from lack of light, and refusal to bud on old wood. If Chamaecyparis isn't pruned constantly, inside and lower branches will die and never grow back, making bonsai maintenance a headache. The tree is best shaped through constant pinching of new foliage - never use scissors to prune as foliage browns where cut. Hinoki cypress also tends to form awkward whorls of foliage if not properly pruned. There is an excellent article by Kamajiro Yamada in International Bonsai 1995/No. 3 which gives detailed instructions accompanied with photographs of how to do this. Most false cypresses are easy to wire, but branches may take a while to set and may need to be re-wired several times to avoid cutting in to the tree. Can be wired at any time of year, but as wiring seems to sap the vigor of the plant, it is best to wait three months after repotting to wire.

Repotting: Every two to three years in early to mid spring for young trees, every three to five years for older ones. Your soil mix should be fast-draining to allow good airflow through the root system.

Pests: Juniper scale can be controlled by applying an oil spray or chemical pesticide. The bagworm webs dead foliage and other debris together to make a nest. The covering makes the insect difficult to control. The nests can be picked off by hand.

Diseases: Blight can be a problem on young plants in nurseries or old plants in landscape situations. In young plants, branch tips turn brown and die back until the whole branch or young tree is killed. Trees over five years old are less susceptible. When older trees in landscapes are affected by tip blight, entire trees are seldom killed. Tip blight can infect trees during wet weather. The disease causes sooty pustules on the leaves, bark and cones. Scorch may look like a disease but is caused by excessive direct sun, freezing stress, drought or mites.

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Hornbeam - Carpinus sp.

General Information: A handsome tree in many locations, the tree slowly reaches a height and spread of 20 to 30 feet. It will grow with an attractive open habit in total shade, but be dense in full sun. The muscle-like bark is smooth, gray and fluted. The fall color is faintly orange to yellow and stands out in the landscape or woods in the fall. Brown leaves occasionally hang on the tree into the winter.

Family: Betulaceae

Lighting: Partial shade in summer, otherwise full sun.

Temperature: Fairly cold hardy - zones 3 through 9A.

Watering: Moderate, increasing in summer. Never let the soil dry completely.

Feeding: We recommend feeding Every 30-45 days, stopping for a month-long break in midsummer. Tomlinson is far more aggressive, recommending a weekly feeding for the first month after bud-burst, switching to every two weeks until late summer. Ordinary plant food at half strength is fine, as is bonsai fertilizer. Of course, the whole controversy can be avoided with time-released pellets. Do not feed for two months after repotting.

Pruning and wiring: Elliptical, heavily veined leaves with pointed tip. Can be wired from spring to autumn - some bark protection may be needed, but the hornbeam is fairly sturdy for a deciduous tree. Accepts repeated pruning, quickly healing scars. Prune back to the first pair of leaves on new shoots. The best times for minor pruning are early spring and after flowering. Major developmental pruning should be done in late winter, before bud burst. Strong apical growth of upper part of tree, so it may be necessary to cut back radically at the apex, but to prune the lower portions of the tree conservatively, especially with the Japanese species, to check its rapid apical growth. Defoliation to reduce leaf size is possible, but will inhibit flowering and fruiting. As it ages branches die, complicating management as a bonsai. The pinching of new growth will help keep the apex under control during the spring growth spurt.

Repotting: Repot every 2-3 years in early spring. We recommend using basic bonsai soil and a deep pot.

Pests and diseases: Relatively few insects attack hornbeam. Maple phenacoccus forms white cottony masses on the undersides of the leaves.

Diseases: None are normally very serious. Several fungi cause leaf spots on Carpinus. Leaf spots are not serious so control measures are usually not needed. Canker, caused by several fungi, causes infected branches to die back and entire trees die if the trunk is infected and girdled. Severely infected trees cannot be saved and infected branches are pruned out. This could limit usefulness in parts of the Deep South.

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Jaboticaba - Myrciaria cauliflora

General Information: Jaboticaba, pronounced in five syllables just as it is spelled, is a member of the Myrtaceae (Myrtle) family and is known botanically as Eugenia cauliflora. ("Cauliflora" means that it flowers and bears fruit on the trunk, mature branches and exposed roots.) It is a relative of the guava and true myrtle. Its native range is from southern Brazil to southern California, southern Florida and Hawaii,(Tropical) Takes long time to begin flowering after potting as a bonsai.

The bark of the Jaboticaba is very smooth, creamy tan with a pinkish tint and patches of soft gray. Its habit of peeling off in curls as the trunk and branches expand is similar to the guava and crape myrtle. It is evergreen but sheds half its leaves each spring before new growth begins. It blooms several times a year during warm months. The flower has delicate white petals with stamens and comes in clusters on the trunk, large branches and exposed roots. The tree begins to bear fruit when it is ten to fifteen years old. Its edible purple berries are globular shaped, 3/4" to 1 1/2" in diameter, have a tough skin and a juicy pulp. The fruit grows directly from the hard wood of the tree and develops very quickly; from open flower to ripe fruit in about three weeks. It is good to eat fresh, in preserves or in ice cream.

Lighting: It thrives in partial shade but will tolerate full sun if kept well watered.

Temperature: Because it is native to a warm climate, it must be protected from freezing temperatures.

Watering: Water adequately and frequently. It will not tolerate salt. Feeding: Organic fertilizer is best but Jaboticaba likes lots of food and will be thankful for just about anything you give it. We recommend feeding every two weeks during the winter with a liquid bonsai fertilizer like Bonsai Pro.

Pruning and wiring: Early care must be given to avoid heavy branches on the upper portion of the tree as it sets heavy wood very quickly, especially toward its top. If nursery stock is obtained with heavy upper branches, remove them and train the new growth which will appear. Wounds tend to heal quickly. Any wiring should be done loosely and early in the growing season.

Repotting: Repot only in warm weather. If the plant is healthy it is safe to remove up to two thirds of its roots. Jaboticaba prefers fertile, well drained but moisture retentive soil; azalea soil works well.

Pests and diseases: About the only pests bothering it are aphids on the new tender pink leaves and an occasional red spider mite attack.

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Japanese Dwarf Garden Juniper - Juniperus procumbens nana

General Information: This juniper has a low, spreading habit that makes it ideal for cascade and semi-cascade styles. Specimens grown in a nursery or specifically for bonsai can be used for many styles, but probably not for formal upright. In nature it grows as a small ground-cover shrub. The foliage is bright green.

Lighting: Full sun.

Temperature: Tolerates a wide range of temperatures, including freezing, however, roots must be protected from excessive heat or cold.

Watering: Spray the foliage with water daily during the growing season. Water when the soil is moderately dry (to a depth of 1/2 to 1 inch) but do not let the soil dry out completely.

Feeding: Simon and Schuster's recommends feeding junipers from early spring to autumn ever 20-30 days using a slow-acting organic fertilizer. If you prefer to use chemical fertilizers, apply a half-strength solution every other week of a reasonably balanced fertilizer, such as Peter's 20-20-20. You may wish to alternate with an acidic fertilizer such as Miracid.

Pruning and wiring: To develop the foliage, pinch out the tender new shoots using your fingers. Pinching must be done monthly during the growing season. Use scissors to remove terminal shoots from strong branch tips. Prune undesirable branches (especially those growing straight down from their parent branch) when repotting or during the growing season.

Wiring is best done in autumn, so that the branches can become accustomed to their new position while the tree is dormant. Wiring done at other times must be watched carefully for signs of wire cutting into the bark, and must be removed immediately if this happens. Propagation: Cuttings rooted under mist, layering.

Repotting: Reduce the roots gradually, removing no more than one third of the roots at each repotting. Repot young trees (up to 10 years) every other year. Repot older trees every 3-4 years. Repotting is best done in spring. Junipers can also be repotted in autumn if necessary, since they enter a period of renewed root growth at that time. Extensive root pruning in autumn is probably not a good idea, however.

Simon and Schuster's recommends 60% soil, 10% peat, and 30% coarse sand. Rémy Samson recommends 1 part loam, 1 part leaf mold, and 1 part coarse sand. Peter Chan recommends 1 part loam, 1 part peat, and 3 parts coarse sand.

The tree should be protected from wind and direct sun for a month or two after repotting.

Pests and diseases: Junipers are a favorite victim of red spider mites. If the tree appears weak, with yellowing foliage, it may have spider mites. To check for spider mites, hold a sheet of white paper under a branch and gently shake the foliage. If the paper comes away with many small dots that move, it has spider mites. To combat spider mites, spray with insecticidal soap or a nicotine solution (which can be made by soaking tobacco in water overnight).

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Japanese Maple - Acer palmatum

General Information: This maple is native to China and Japan. Its botanical name comes from its leaves, which have 5 or more deep lobes and vaguely resemble a human hand. It is a popular bonsai subject in Japan. The bark on young branches and trunks is usually green (may be red on some varieties) and turns brown or light gray with age. There are many different varieties of A. palmatum. The red varieties seem to be more popular as bonsai in the United States.

Lighting: Place the tree where it will receive morning or evening sun but will not be in direct sunlight at the height of summer, and do not water in direct sun. The delicate foliage can "burn" if exposed to direct summer sun. Water well in early morning or late afternoon to prevent the soil from drying out.

Temperature: Protect from frost damage during cold periods.

Watering: Daily watering but with good drainage to prevent root rotting.

Feeding: We recommend feeding every 30-45 days with a slow-acting organic fertilizer from spring to autumn. Do not feed for one month after repotting. Stop feeding for a month or two during the hottest part of the summer.

Pruning and wiring: Branch pruning should be done mainly in fall or winter, to avoid excess loss of sap and so that the shape of the tree can be better seen. Seal pruning wounds with a wound dressing.

To develop fine branches and avoid long internodes, pinch back new growth during the growing season. Pinch back new shoots by pruning them to two sets of leaves (internodes). If a branch has already been allowed to grow out with long internodes, the only way to shorten them is to cut back the branch to the first internode and re-grow it, with appropriate pinching to keep the internodes short.

Leaf pruning (removal of leaves during the growing season) can be done every other year in early summer to encourage smaller leaves. All of the leaves are removed from the tree, leaving the leaf stems on the branches. This "false autumn" results in a second set of leaves that is smaller than the first set along with new twigs. Do not leaf prune the same year that a tree is repotted.

Maples are usually shaped by pinching and pruning.

Repotting: Repot every two or three years for older trees, at least every other year for young trees. Repot in spring, shortening the roots by up to half their length. The roots may be washed in water to make repotting easier. Any dead or damaged roots should be removed to avoid root rot.

Pests and diseases: Aphids, mildew, root rot.

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Japanese White Pine - Pinus parviflora

General information: Japanese White Pine develops into a 25 to 50-foot-tall, graceful, irregularly-shaped tree, with an equal or greater spread, and a broad, flattened canopy. The 1 to 2.5-inch-long needles are stiff and twisted, forming blue/green tufts of foliage at branch tips, and creating an overall fine texture to the tree's silhouette. The brownish-red cones are one to four inches long and persist on the tree for six to seven years. The needles grow in groups of five, so this tree is also known as "five-needle pine", especially the cultivar P. pentaphylla.

Family: Pinaceae

Lighting: Full sun.

Temperature: Zone 4B to 7B. Northern climates, will not grow in southern USA.

Watering: As with other pines, good drainage is essential. Make sure to continue watering thoroughly in the spring, summer and fall.

Feeding: Feed once a month from early to late spring and from end of summer to late autumn with a slow-acting organic fertilizer, and applying chelated iron 2-3 times per year.

Pruning and wiring: The root system should be pruned gradually in the coarse of repotting, so as to always leave a strong root system. Branch pruning and wiring should be done in late autumn, and the wire left on the tree for 6-8 months at most. Pinch new shoots in spring to 1/3 of their length.

Repotting: Repot every 2 or 3 years for young trees (up to 10 years) or every 3 to 5 years for older trees. Repotting can be done in spring before the candles open or in late summer or early autumn, after the heat of summer has passed.

Pines and other conifers grow in association with a symbiotic fungus which grows in the root ball of the tree. If this fungus is not present, the tree may die. For this reason, pines and other conifers should never be bare-rooted, unless steps are taken to re-introduce the fungus to the repotted plant.

Pests and diseases: Aphids, mealy bug & red spider mites, to name a few.

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Mugo Pine (Swiss Mountain Pine) - Pinus mugo

General Information: Mugo Pine is a shrub or small, round or broad pyramidal plant 4 to 10 feet tall which grows best in sun or partial shade in moist loam. It comes from Alpine Europe. The dark green, 1 - 1 1/2 inches long, stiff needles of this two-needle Pine are held on the tree for more than four years making this one of the more dense Pines.

Family: Pinaceae

Lighting: Full sun. Turn the tree from time to time so that all parts of the foliage receive adequate light.

Temperature: Zones 2 through 7. Will tolerate freezing but roots need to be protected.

Watering: May dry out between waterings. Fast draining soil to avoid root rot. Spray the foliage with water daily during the summer. Water approximately every seven days during the winter.

Feeding: Feed once a month in spring and autumn using a slow-acting organic fertilizer. Suspend feeding for two months during the hot part of summer (July and August in the northern hemisphere). Do not feed if the tree is ailing or has been repotted recently (2-4 weeks).

Pruning and wiring: Initial pruning should be carried out at the same time as repotting. When repotting, be sure to leave a good root system. Subsequent pruning can be carried out when wiring in the fall. Pinch by shortening new shoots (candles) by two thirds in the spring, before the needles open. Pinch the candles in two stages, pinching the most vigorous candles first and a week later pinching the weaker candles. In the fall, reduce the number of buds on each branch to two to encourage ramification. Also in the fall, thin the needles by removing any needles that are too long or that are growing downward. Thin more at the apex of the tree and less as you work down the tree. This will allow light to reach the lower branches and will slow the growth of the apex.

Wiring should be done in late fall or early winter, and the wire removed 6-8 months later at most.

With healthy trees, it is possible to remove all the new candles every other year, before they harden. The following fall, buds will appear where the candles were removed. This serves to shorten the internodes and encourage more dense foliage.

Repotting In early spring, every 2-3 years for young specimens and every 3-5 years for older ones. Pines need deep, well drained soil, so plant in a fairly deep container. Simon and Schuster's recommends 50% soil and 50% coarse sand. Rémy Samson recommends 1 part leaf mould, 1 part loam, and 1 part coarse sand. Peter Chan recommends 1 part loam, 1 part peat, and 3 parts coarse sand.

Pines and other conifers grow in association with a symbiotic fungus which grows in the root ball of the tree. If this fungus is not present, the tree may die. For this reason, pines and other conifers should never be bare-rooted, unless steps are taken to re-introduce the fungus to the repotted plant, such as crumbling portions of the old soil mix and adding it to the new soil mix.

Pests and diseases: Mugo Pine is a favored host for Pine sawfly and Pine needle scale. Some adelgids will appear as white cottony growths on the bark. All types produce honeydew which may support sooty mold. European Pine shoot moth causes young shoots to fall over. Infested shoots may exude resin. The insects can be found in the shoots during May. Pesticides are only effective when caterpillars are moving from over-wintering sites to new shoots. This occurs in mid to late April or when needle growth is about half developed.

Bark beetles bore into trunks making small holes scattered up and down the trunk. Stressed trees are more susceptible to attack. The holes look like shot-holes. Keep trees healthy.

Sawfly larvae caterpillars are variously colored but generally feed in groups on the needles. Some sawfly larvae will flex or rear back in unison when disturbed. Sawflies can cause rapid defoliation of branches if left unchecked.

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Podocarpus - Buddhist pine, Chinese yew

General Information: This upright, dense evergreen has pointed, leathery, dark green leaves arranged on stiff, symmetrical branches and works very well as a screen, hedge, strong accent plant, or framing tree. The crown forms a somewhat pyramidal to oval outline. Compact branching habit and very dark green foliage make this a dense tree in full sun, more open but surprisingly dense in shade.

Old Podocarpus bonsai are impressive with their stately elegance. Although trunk and bark formation always takes quite a few years, Podocarpus growth varies with climate - slow-growing indoors and towards the cooler end of their range, fast-growing in sunny areas. Their evergreen leaves are similar in formation and shape to yews, although Podocarpus leaves are larger - just under 2 inches to a maximum of 4 inches.

Family: Podocarpaceae

Lighting: Likes direct sunlight. Too little light will result in large, elongated needles. Can survive, however, on as little as 800 Lux. In very sun-intense areas, Podocarpus may suffer leaf-burn if not given shade during the hottest part of the day.

Temperature: Zones 9 through 11. Will survive light frost, but for best results, keep above 55F. Can be grown successfully indoors in a well-lit spot. Prefers winter temperatures between 61-68F.

Watering: Likes slightly moist soil, but be sure to provide adequate drainage. Gray needles are a sign of over-watering. Daily misting is appreciated by indoor plants.

Feeding: Fish emulsion and fertilizer cakes are recommended. For indoor growers who can't take the fishy smell, liquid bonsai fertilizer can be used. Podocarpus likes slightly acid soil, so a dose of Miracid several times a year is helpful. These plants need additional iron and magnesium; iron is partially supplied by the Miracid.

Repotting: Every 3-4 years in spring. Roots should only be pruned by 10-15%.

Pests and diseases: Pests: Scale, mealy bugs and sooty mold.

Diseases: It is susceptible to root rot on soils with poor drainage.

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Sargent's Juniper - Juniperus chinensis sargentii

General information: In Japan, this tree is called "shimpaku" and thus it is often referred to in western countries as "shimpaku juniper". The shimpaku is native to Japan, the Kurile Islands and the Sahalin peninsula. Its natural habit is prostrate and it prefers rocky, well-drained soils. In its natural range, it is most often found growing near the sea. The foliage is needle-like on young trees and scale-like on older trees. The fruit is a small, hard, bluish berry.

Lighting: Full sun.

Temperature: Will tolerate a wide range of temperatures including freezing. Junipers should be watered thoroughly before a hard freeze i.e. 10 degrees or colder.

Watering: Water daily during the growing season. Occasional misting is recommended during high temperatures.

Feeding: We recommend feeding from early spring to autumn ever 20-30 days using a slow-acting organic fertilizer.

If you prefer to use chemical fertilizers, apply a half-strength solution every other week of a reasonably balanced fertilizer, such as Peter's 20-20-20. You may wish to alternate with an acidic fertilizer such as Miracid.

Pruning and wiring: Reduce the roots gradually, removing no more than one third of the roots at each repotting. To develop the foliage, pinch out the tender new shoots using your fingers. Pinching must be done monthly during the growing season. Use scissors to remove terminal shoots from the branch tips.

Wiring is best done in autumn, so that the branches can become accustomed to their new position while the tree is dormant. Wiring done at other times must be watched carefully for signs of wire cutting into the bark, and must be removed immediately if this happens.

Repotting: Repot young trees (up to 10 years) every other year. Repot older trees every 3-4 years. Repotting is best done in spring. Junipers can also be repotted in autumn if necessary, since they enter a period of renewed root growth at that time. Extensive root pruning in autumn is probably not a good idea, however.

The tree should be protected from wind and direct sun for a month or two after repotting.

Pests and diseases: Junipers are a favorite victim of red spider mites. If the tree appears weak, with yellowing foliage, it may have spider mites. To check for spider mites, hold a sheet of white paper under a branch and gently shake the foliage. If the paper comes away with many small dots that move, it has spider mites. To combat spider mites, spray with insecticidal soap or a nicotine solution (which can be made by soaking tobacco in water overnight).

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Satsuki Azalea - Rhododendron indicum

General Information: The azalea is a member of the genus Rhododendron. It is an evergreen which in the wild grows as a small shrub (up to six feet). There are hundreds of azalea cultivars. The azalea used to be considered a separate genus from the rhododendron, but has recently been reclassified.

The cultivar that is most commonly used for bonsai is probably the Satsuki azalea. The most interesting feature of the Satsuki azalea is that it produces flowers in multiple colors on the same plant. The flowers can be white, pink or red, and can grow singly or in pairs. Satsuki azalea originated in Japan and are more dwarf than other hybrid groups. Satsuki means "fifth month" and these hybrids are late bloomers.

Lighting: Filtered, partial sun. Avoid prolonged direct exposure to spring and summer sun.

Temperature: Protect the tree in the winter, but do not bring indoors. Watering: Keep the soil damp, as the roots can dry out easily and this is fatal to the tree. Water using tap water that is high in lime, repot the tree every year to keep the soil acidity high.

Feeding: Feed every 30-45 days with a slow-acting organic fertilizer, from early spring to late autumn, and apply chelated iron a couple times a year. We recommend HB101 as a source of micro nutrients should be applied routinely. An occasional application of miracid at half strength will help keep the soil acidic.

If you prefer to use chemical fertilizers, feed every two weeks using a half-strength solution of a fertilizer for acid-loving plants, such as Miracid.

If the tree is repotted in spring, do not feed until six to eight weeks later. Do not feed during the hottest month of the summer.

Pruning and wiring: Prune branches and new shoots in late summer, using a sealing compound to seal wounds. Azalea can and will grow shoots from old wood. New shoots at the ends of branches grow in groups of five. These shoots should be reduced to two and the remaining shoots shortened to two sets of leaves. Wiring may be done from spring through summer. Use care when bending branches, as older branches are brittle. Skipping watering the day before wiring will make the branches more flexible. You may need to protect the bark by wrapping the wire with raffia or paper masking tape.

Repotting: Repot in mulch before flowering removing half of the flower pods before repotting. Repotting after flowering can be fatal in the United States because our late spring is too warm to employ this technique. Azaleas grow extremely dense, hairy root masses. Experienced growers of azalea bonsai recommend using a soil mix that contains no small particles at all, because of the dense growth of azalea roots. If soil with fine particles is used, the roots can form mats that shed water, making successful feeding and watering difficult. When repotting, trim the root ball and cut out pie-shaped wedges around the outside of the root ball so that the roots can grow into the gaps.

Pests and diseases: Aphids, lacebugs, white fly, leafminers, spider mites, scale, stem boreres. Diseases include petal blight, leaf gall, mushroom root rot.

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Schefflera - Schefflera arboricola

General Information: This dwarf schefflera is an evergreen shrub with dark green, glossy, palmate leaves densely covering flexible, green stems which gently fan out into a rounded crown. Moderate salt tolerance.

Family: Araliaceae

Lighting: Part shade, part sun

Temperature: Zone 9b.

Watering: Adequate water to keep from drying out and remaining dry. Feeding: General purpose fertilizer.

Pruning and wiring: Branching can be encouraged by pinching the stems. It can be pruned into a small tree over a period of years. Style as a broad crowned bonsai with the silhouette of a banyan tree.

Propagation: May be propagated by cuttings, seed and air layer.

Repotting: The tree needs annual repotting and may be severely root pruned. Not particular about the type of soil, however it should be well drained and slightly alkaline.

Pests and diseases: Scale and spider mites when grown indoors. No diseases of major concern.

Bibliography: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Fact Sheet ST-586.

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Trident maple - Acer buergerianum

General information: This deciduous, 30 to 45-foot-high by 25-foot-wide tree in the wild, has beautiful 3-inch-wide, tri-lobed leaves, glossy green above and paler underneath, which turn various shades of red, orange, and yellow in autumn. Flowers are bright yellow and showy in the spring. Trident Maple naturally exhibits low spreading growth and multiple stems but can be trained to a single trunk and pruned to make it branch higher, allowing passage below its broad, oval to rounded canopy. With its moderate growth rate, attractive orange-brown peeling bark, and easy maintenance, Trident Maple is popular as a patio or street tree and is also highly valued as a bonsai subject. Crown form is often variable and selection of a uniformly-shaped, vigorous cultivar is needed. The trident maple is a very popular species for bonsai, due to its small, three-lobed leaves, a readily-thickening trunk, and thick, gnarly roots which adapt well to root-over-rock style.

Family: Aceraceae

Lighting: USDA states that this tree will grow in full sun, part sun or part shade. Leaf size will remain smaller if the Trident is exposed to more sun.

Temperature: Although hardy in zones 6 through 9, the trident maple's roots have a high moisture content, and are susceptible to frost damage. Winter protection is recommended.

Watering: Water daily during late spring, summer and fall. Water less frequently in the winter – approximately every 10 to 14 days.

Feeding: Feed every 35 to 45 days using an organic time released fertilizer. Supplementing with a liquid feed will lead to more vigorous growth.

Pruning and wiring: Pinch back new growth to the first two leaves. The tree may be wired at any time during growth, but the branches are somewhat brittle and it is also wise to provide some protection for the bark. The tree, given ample pot space, will grow rapidly, so it is essential to continually check the wire to avoid scarring. Leaf pruning can be carried out in midsummer to miniaturize foliage. Make certain that the tree is healthy and vigorous before leaf pruning. Total leaf pruning should not be carried out annually, as the tree needs a year to restore its stores of energy. I've been told that it's safer to leaf prune gradually, removing only 1/3 to 1/2 of the tree's largest leaves at a time. The trident's leaves reduce readily, but it is more difficult to get short internodes and finely ramified branches.

For smaller pieces, in one gallon training pots, I let them grow wild for 2 or 3 years until the roots completely fill the pot and there is a noticeable decline in vigor. The internodes shorten and the leaves get smaller. It is at this point that I do major pruning shortening them to under a foot. The depleted state of the roots due to the rootbound conditions prevents them from forming the typical coarse growth that usually results following such a pruning. Performing this operation in summer will have an even more dramatic effect, since in essence it is a radical (very radical) defoliation. Root pruning and repotting can take place at the same time. As Michael [Persiano] would say, these are not procedures for beginners. Once they are potted up and the final branches are selected, several defoliations a season will result in the short internodes and small leaves so desired.

Repotting: In spring, before buds open. Roots grow very quickly, so annual repotting may be necessary for young trees; older trees tend to need repotting every 2-3 years. Trident Maples can tolerate heavy root pruning during the dormant period of winter. Be sure to use a well-draining bonsai soil mix.

Pests and diseases: Generally pest and disease free, but are vulnerable to caterpillar attack.

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