The brush cherry (Eugenia myrtifolia) is a cocktail of pleasing bonsai qualities. Their naturally tiny, glossy-green leafage; charming white powder-puff blooms; plump, purplish-red edible cherries; thick, rough bark, and snappy back-budding, make the brush cherry a terrific candidate for bonsai cultivation.
The brush cherry group is quite large, most of which are native to Australia. Through several reclassifications, the E. myrtifolia is also recognized as Syzgium paniculatum by some bodies. So whether Syzgium or Eugenia, don’t let yourself be confused as they will most likely be a variety of the group in some form or other.
Although the brush cherry is a rainforest canopy tree, there are numerous natural dwarf varieties. Common among dwarf brush cherry are Compact and Teenie Genie. Both are popular choices for bonsai training.
Brush cherries can be propagated by seed. It’s a simple step of removing the pulp and onwards to sowing. Easy-peasy!
Cuttings are the preference among growers. During the growing season in summer, soft wood cuttings are taken. Mist the cuttings to preserve moisture. You may add a dash of rooting hormone too.
It’s best to filter the soil to keep it fine. Aside from that, brush cherries aren’t really finicky with soil composition. The regular bonsai soil mix will be adequate enough. They do like slightly acid soil so a helping of acidic plantfood now and then won’t hurt.
A moisture meter would be handy. Otherwise, stick your fingers in the soil to feel for moisture. Leave it be if the ground’s still wet but it’s crucial to never allow the soil to be totally dry. This applies for almost all bonsai but especially to brush cherries, who love themselves some water. Salt, however, is a no-no, along with rich minerals. Use distilled water, instead if your tap water is hard.
During hydration, let the soil absorb water completely before pouring some more. You’ll know when the brush have had its fill when water starts to drain from the pot. Another old but no-less effective trick is soaking the pot for 5 minutes and then lift and drain. Voila!
Bonsai brush cherry are not on friendly terms with hot, dry air. Stay away from air vents and drafty places. Maintain the humidity around your plant by placing it on top of a stone and water tray. The tray will also take care of excess water from the drainage.
Brush cherries love the sun! They’re tropical trees, after all. But direct or indirect sunlight light—either will do. A good middle ground are shady areas outdoors that get direct sunshine for a time in the mornings.
It’s best to keep the brush indoors during winter. If you choose to keep them outside (you can), temperatures lower than 40° Fahrenheit will not be tolerable.
Plants, especially bonsai, need their vitamins too. In fact, they may need them more. It isn’t easy being a tree in a small pot, y’know.
The growing season is spring and autumn. During this time, feed your cherry every two weeks; in summer, once every four; and in winter, just once.
Feeding comes after watering. Use general-purpose organic fertilizers. Liquids may be best. Halve the strength of chemical fertilizers if you do use them. Don’t fertilize freshly-repotted plants as it might burn their roots. Ouch.
On to the task of keeping your miniature tree miniature. Brush cherries are a hardy lot. Most can be pruned aggressively and they’ll spring right back and bud. But be careful as a slight number are not as tough when it comes to root pruning during repotting.
Another attraction of brush cherry bonsai trees is that they grow new shoots in fiery red. It’s quite a lovely contrast to the glossy-green of the leaves. When these shoots reach 2 or 3 inches, it’s time for trimming. Leave at least 3 shoots for every 7 you clip away. Make the cut smooth and quick for faster healing. Prune the stems and not the leaves, as they are already tiny anyway. Cutback on the frequency if you wish to develop thicker trunk and braches.
Wiring is a procedure usually best left to more experienced trainers. You can give a few basics a go. Be sure that you’ve done your assignment in researching all you can about the subject before giving it a go.
Wiring a bonsai brush cherry is usually practiced in summer but any time of the year is just as good. Use the thinnest wire that can hold the desired shape. Be extremely careful as brush cherries are prone to scarring. Just wrap tight enough to secure the shape. Start at the base and onwards to the desired shape. Rinse and repeat. You can cut the wires off in 6 weeks or so. The branch should be able to hold the shape after that time.
Every two years for younger plants and every three or four for older ones. Bonsai is periodically repotted to refresh the soil and therefore, its nutrients. Spring is the best season for repotting most bonsai and brush cherries are no exception. You’ll know it when roots start growing too thick, reaching the sides of the pot.
Some members of this tree group may object to root pruning too far back (Have mercy!). Exercise caution and, unlike branch clipping, do root pruning moderately. Don’t cut too close to the quick.
After the deed, give the newly repotted plant lots of water and keep it in full shade for at least 3 weeks. This will be enough time to give the plant a rest and its roots a chance to grow. Remember, absolutely no fertilizer for about a month.
Insects love brush cherries. Diseases, not so much. The most common insects that gravitate towards these trees are scale bugs, aphids, red spider and mites—nothing that a few sprays of fungicides and insecticides can’t take care of.