"Upon finding that I work as a professional bonsai artist, many people will remark that they once had a bonsai, but it died and with some regret, they gave up".
Based on the Bonsai Basics section of the hugely successful Bonsai4me.com website and an e-book of the same name, 'Bonsai Basics: The Foundations of Bonsai', written and developed over the past 15 years is out now!
All copies are signed by the author.
foetida derives its name from the fetid smell of its bark and
roots when they are crushed or cut. Foetida is literally 'foul-smelling'
in Latin. (It should be noted that S.foetida is sometimes referred
to by its old Latin name Serissa Japonica).
is a genus of only one species (foetida), a small evergreen shrub
up to only 50cm in height, from moist, open woodland in S.E. Asia.
Its leaves are borne in opposite pairs and branches are produced
in dense numbers from both old and new wood giving the tree good
potential for bonsai cultivation. Serissa produce numerous small
funnel shaped flowers during the summer (and at other times of
the year in alien environments) hence its common name 'Tree of
a thousand stars'.
are now quite a variety of forms of S. foetida in cultivation
that carry variegated leaves with single or double flowers.
very commonly found for sale at bonsai establishments throughout
Britain and Europe, the Serissa is notorious for being hard to
keep for both experienced hobbyists and beginners alike. The Serissa
has a tendency to yellowing and dropping leaves if correct growing
conditions are not kept.
a subtropical species Serissa have to be protected from temperatures
below 7°C which means indoor cultivation is required in most areas
of Europe and America for a good proportion of the year. However,
here lies the heart of
the problem with this species; it is difficult to keep up the
humidity levels required by Serissa in an indoor environment and
this often causes the tree to suffer.
when day and night temperatures stay reliably above 7°C; in Britain
this means from late May to mid-September. It is important for
the health of the tree to spend at least a few weeks each year
outside, however, ensure that the tree is not moved around too
much once outside.
cultivation; when temperatures threaten to dip below 7°C (day
or night). Find a bright but not too sunny permanent position
out of cold draughts, for instance on a East or West facing windowsill.
Good humidity levels must be maintained and can be provided by
the use of a humidity tray. Never place the tree on a windowsill
above a radiator, (radiators/central heating are the primary reason
that indoor cultivation is so difficult as they dry the air considerably)
do not place the tree on a windowsill where the curtains are closed
at night as this environment can experience very cold temperatures
at night during the winter.
Moving the tree to a new position will stress the tree until it acclimatizes, on occasions causing yellowing and dropping leaves- this should be followed within a few days by fresh growth.
strongly dislike continually wet roots though bone dry compost
will also kill them. Water thoroughly (ensure your compost medium
is well drained) and do not water again until the compost has
NEARLY dried out. Daily watering as a routine should not be carried
out unless necessary though daily check the soil daily. Ensure
the gravel tray is kept continually wet but never allow the pot
to be stood in water.
leaves can often indicate overwatering (though this can also be
due to other factors), brown and crispy leaves indicate lack of
water or lack of humidity.
once a month during the winter (September to March) and every
two weeks between March and September when growth is stronger.
Only feed when the compost is already moist or the root-tips can
be burnt. Do not feed when the tree has lost leaves or if it is
not showing new growth.
dislike rootpruning and can be left for 2-3 years at a time. Repot
in Spring as growth starts -this helps the rootsystem recover
quickly. Use a standard soil mix.
suckers unless required for multiple trunk styles. Prune back
to one or two leaves to shape unless otherwise required.
cuttings in Spring or Early Summer. Semi-ripe cuttings in late
Summer. Rooting is aided with bottom heat.
and diseases Scale
insects. Yellowing leaves and leaf-drop caused by incorrect placement,
poor humidity levels or incorrect watering.
Styles All forms except formal upright in extra-small to medium sizes.