Caring for Flowering Bonsai Trees

Throw the air fresheners away, and perfume the air with a gardenia bonsai plant.

Throw the air fresheners away, and perfume the air with a gardenia bonsai plant.

Although bonsai, a type of plant cultivation, originated in China, the Japanese fell in love with it, and bonsai has proliferated in that country for over 1,000 years. A flowering bonsai tree should be pruned so that it resembles a full-grown tree as much as possible -- allowing the gardener to express her artistic side as well. Flowering bonsai trees make ideal gifts for the plant lovers in your life and are not as difficult to care for as you may think.

Gardenia Bonsai

This miniature evergreen shrub with glossy green foliage is attractive either in or out of flower. It’s the waxy, white, highly fragrant flowers, though, that steal the show. Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides “Radicans”) bonsai should be grown indoors where you can control humidity levels. Place the plant near a southeast or west-facing window and keep the soil moist at all times, especially when the air in the home is particularly warm and dry. Wait until after it finishes blooming to prune it into the shape you desire. Apply a flowering houseplant fertilizer formula, at half strength, once a month from March through August, and your gardenia bonsai will bloom from March through June.

Camellia Bonsai

Many flowers have special meanings, and the camellia is no exception: it symbolizes devotion and, when given as a gift, it relays your affection for the recipient. Camellia bonsai is an easy-care plant that blooms in winter. Place the camellia out of direct sun to avoid scorching the foliage. Keep the soil on the moist side, and fertilize the plant as soon as the buds appear. Use a commercial fertilizer labeled for use on camellias, and apply it at half the rate suggested on the label, every six weeks through August.

Azalea Bonsai

The ideal azalea for bonsai culture is the Satsuki (Rhododendron indicum Satsuki). Cultivated in Japan for over 500 years, it is slow growing and remains compact. Flowering azalea bonsai plants should be grown outdoors in regions where temperatures remain above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Give the plant morning sun and shade in the afternoon. Although the azalea grown in the garden requires little fertilizer once established, the bonsai azalea loses soil nutrients each time you water it. Provide it with a half-strength azalea or rhododendron fertilizer every other month during the growing season.

Pyracantha Bonsai

Two species of the evergreen pyracantha provide excellent bonsai specimens: augustifolia and coccinea, with the latter more popular for its bright red berries. Pyracantha produces small clusters of white flowers in the spring and berries over the winter, making it an ideal centerpiece for the holiday table. Grow the pyracantha bonsai outdoors in a full-sun location. Although it is tolerant of shade, berry production and color is affected if it doesn’t get a lot of sun. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings.

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