Last Saturday I attended the Four Seasons Bonsai Club of Michigan’s annual show. I greatly admire bonsai and have a couple small ones. They sure don’t look ANYTHING like the ones I saw on Saturday, but I am determined to try harder from here on! Look at these beautiful trees. Of course, there were many hardy bonsai (for Michigan) on display, but you will only find the non-hardy (houseplants) ones here. These truly are works of art and I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I did.
This plant was my favorite. It is a willow leaf fig (Ficus nerifolia). I love how the roots are so gnarly above the soil line. This tree is named for its resemblance to the weeping willow. This tree, like most Ficus varieties, needs high light to do its best. They also like to be kept evenly moist. The Flower Market from Dundee, MI was there selling bonsai plants and I might have purchased a small one of these. I’ll keep you updated on the progress of that tree.
There were other fig (Ficus) varieties on display, as well. They are probably the houseplants most used for bonsai. Check out the banyan fig! The roots are amazing!
I really enjoyed the bonsai entries that included more than one plant. They had different levels and miniature people and houses, bridges and boats. They looked like mountain villages.
The variegated ming aralia (Polyscias fruticosa ‘Variegata’) is used often for bonsai. The dwarf schefflera (Schefflera arbicola) is a plant you’ll find at the big box stores quite often as bonsai. They are easy to grow in the house, so would be a good beginner bonsai plant. I think the Bougainvillea would definitely not be the easiest plant to grow in the house, but it might work in a very bright window or under lights. I didn’t ask anyone there, but it may be that it is grown outside all summer and then allowed to go dormant for the winter. It would still have to be brought into the house, but could be kept in a very cool place after it dropped all its leaves. Then, in the spring it would be brought into the warmth and watered to bring it back out of its dormant state. I’ve not had great luck with them in the house after bringing them from outside. They dropped all their leaves and pouted all winter. No time for that!
Some of the other houseplant bonsai included fukien tea (Ehrelia microphylla), a tree native to China. It has little white flowers, as you can see, if given enough light. It doesn’t like to dry out, so keep it evenly moist. The natal plum (Carissa macrocarpa) is a great plant with shiny leaves that resembles a boxwood with larger leaves. It is from South Africa and all parts are poisonous. The powderpuff plant is one I’ve seen at conservatories and is usually quite a large shrub. What a great bonsai!
Succulents may not be your first thought when you think of bonsai, but they make great ones, as they grow slowly. The dish garden may not be technically considered a bonsai, but it is in a small pot and could be kept small like a bonsai. The other two are called Elephant bush (Portulacaria afra). It is a succulent shrub from Africa which not only elephants eat, but other animals as well. Succulents are good plants to use for bonsai because they are drought tolerant. The group members I talked to on Saturday said they think of their bonsai like they do their pets. They have to be cared for every day, and if they go away, they have to find someone to take care of them, like they would their pets. On the other hand, if you use a succulent, the care will certainly not be daily or probably even weekly, so you would be able to go out of town more frequently and without worry.
I know I didn’t discuss the training and pruning of these plants,but did write about going to The Flower Market here and how the owner gave us a lesson on shaping a plant into a bonsai. I am looking forward to keeping my bonsai trees watered, trimmed, and well….., alive. What more can I ask for? Do you have a houseplant bonsai? Please tell me about it in the comments below. I would really like to hear about it!