The bonsai tree is undoubtedly a worthy tree to pour out one’s heart and time to, as every spring it sprouts fresh flowers that could liven up any given room. In that sense, the Gardenia bonsai is probably the best choice for all green lovers out there. Deemed as one of the most loved and challenging plants in the bonsai family, the Gardenia requires the gardener to really attend to its every needs, though those efforts will be returned in the form of a wonderful and flowery fragrance of its showy and creamy blossoms.
This type of flower belongs to the family of coffee plants, otherwise known as Rubiaceae. There are more than a hundred species and sub-species of the Gardenia, and most of them are natives of tropical and subtropical regions of southern Asia, Africa, Oceania and Australasia. This plant is mostly known as evergreen shrubs as well as small trees that can grow up to 15 meters. Their leaves can be identified as broad, dark green and often glossy with a leathery texture. They blossom from mid-spring to mid-summer, and many of the species are strongly scented.
In Japan and China, the Gardenia, specifically the jasminoides species is called kuchinashi and zhizi respectively, and was use as the main ingredient for yellow dye in both food and fabric. The fruits were used in Chinese medicine mainly for their calming, cooling and clearing properties. In France however, its use is restricted as an accessory, particularly as a boutonniere, in events that involved an evening dress. This flower also happens to be the national flower of Pakistan.
As mentioned before, the Gardenia bonsai can be quite challenging at times, and some of its requirements for growth can be quite a hassle depending on your conditions. For instance, this bonsai tree must be placed in different places according to the season. There are times when it needs the sun, while on different occasions it needs some shade. This in turn affects other necessities of the tree, including watering and feeding. Read on and judge for yourself if this bonsai plant suits your style.
It is important for the plant’s growth that it be watered regularly. The soil of your Gardenia bonsai should never be let dry, especially since this bonsai tree would need to be exposed to the sun for at least half a day. If you often leave home, then you should get someone to water it for you everyday. In fact, the plant needs more water than most of the other bonsai varieties. This tropical bonsai needs to live in a moist yet well-drained soil in order to simulate its native environment.
This however, does not mean that the flower can survive in a swampy soil. It is important that you never over-water your Gardenia plant. Both dry soil and over-watering can lead to the same negative effect; dropping of the buds which will eventually lead to the tree’s death. Its leaves should be misted either, as this can later lead to fungal growth. Similarly, the roots of the tree should not be submerged in water, as this can lead to root rot. Most owners resort to using pebbles to elevate their bonsai pot.
The Gardenia bonsai requires some specific conditions in order to thrive and continue blossoming. These conditions mainly vary according to the seasons, so it is vital that you place the plant in different places as the season changes. Since the plant needs some high light, during spring and summer it would need to be placed outside, where it can absorb more direct sunlight. It can be placed indoors too during this time, as long as it still receives ample sunlight.
If you live some place where the nights are cold, you would need to be sure to bring the tree inside every day when the sun sets, as extreme cold can stunt the tree’s growth. Generally this tropical bonsai needs a temperature between 68 to 74 degrees during the day, and must be brought inside when it drops to 60 degrees or below. Even when inside, the plant needs a strategic location to truly thrive. The best indoor location would be on a southward window sill, while those facing east or west are deemed as the second best option. If you have neither, and only have a window sill facing north, then you can still ensure that your bonsai grows, though in most cases it would require an additional ‘grow lights’ for sufficient growth. Your Gardenia bonsai should be exposed to the sun for at least four to six hours in a day.
The aim of feeding your bonsai plant with fertilizer is to ensure that the soil it lives in always contains the necessary nutrients in order for the plant to grow. General-purpose liquid fertilizer would be fine for most bonsai trees, though the Gardenia bonsai would need a quality acid fertilizer as it is an acid-loving plant. You can start feeding your bonsai with fertilizer in spring, once its leaves have begun to become firm. The schedule should be limited to only once every four to six weeks, and you can continue with this routine until fall as well as early winter.
While pruning or training can be seen as unnecessary with certain other bonsai plants, with the Gardenia bonsai it is crucial as it keeps the plant in its proper shape and size. Without training, your tree can grow uncontrollably into a rather large tree, losing its miniature quality of a bonsai. With this plant, it is advisable to only begin its training once the flowering season has ended. You can begin by often removing the plant’s dead leaves and flowers, as it ensures its new growth.
You should not begin its training with wiring, and should hold it off until late winter or spring. You can only bend the branches and trunk so many times, so make sure to decide on a shape or position before you begin bending them. When bending, gently apply a small amount of pressure using your thumbs; the aim is to bend gradually and repetitively in several chosen locations. The plant’s brittle nature imposes a risk if you apply too much pressure in one spot at one time.
This step needs to be repeated every few days, all the while noting the tree’s increase or decrease in resistance. You need to be sensitive to how the tree reacts to this training, and must only wire with patience. Pay attention to the tightness of the wiring, as it can leave marks on the bark and even break branches if not done carefully. There are a number of styles that you can choose from with your Gardenia bonsai, and most people go for the classic umbrella look or the graceful semi cascade style.
Your bonsai plant should have its pot changed every two years, and this should only be done either in late winter or during the spring season. When doing this, always remember to prune the roots carefully, as too much root pruning can be detrimental to the plant. Many owners would agree that only 10 percent of the whole roots system should be pruned at a time. One other thing to pay attention to when changing the plant’s pot is to make sure that the soil used during the whole process has a high content of organic matter.
The Gardenia bonsai is quite susceptible to insect attacks, and unfortunately, this particular plant is a favorite of various pests. Should you discover a bonsai plant to be under insect attack, the first thing you would need to do is remove and isolate the plant immediately, in order to prevent spreading.
The first thing that you would need to keep an eye out for is the aphid; a small, tear-shaped insect. These pesky bugs usually cluster below the leaves, especially beneath the new growth of the Gardenia. It sucks the fluid of the plant, and prefers the lush and moist properties of the new leaves. Be wary as these suckers can also spread diseases. To avoid this, mix diluted soap and water. Spray the leaves until the solution runs off. Then wipe the leaves gently with a soft sponge, to rinse them as well as ensure aphid removal. Afterwards, rinse one more time with pure water and be alert for the next few days in case of further attacks.
Next is the mealy bug. This here is also a common pest of the this species of bonsai. They are white in color, and can often be found along the leaves of the Gardenia in masses. You may have to look closely as they like to hide themselves using the protected areas of the plant. To combat them, wipe them off using your fingers and then spray your bonsai with Neem Oil.
Other than insects, another cause to be worried of your Gardenia bonsai is the sooty mold. This here is a foliage disease that infects the leaves. Though it does not kill the plant, it does block it from receiving more sunlight through its leaves, which result in less photosynthesis that promotes growth. Sooty mold can often be found in the traces of honey dew created by bugs like the aphid, so if you take care of the bug, then you also protect your plant from sooty mold.
Apart from all those steps, this plant is quite manageable, and once you have gotten used to these delicate steps, then you are ready for trickier plants with trickier caring methods. One advantage of this flower is that it is easy to propagate. If you wish to do this, all you need to is cut off a small piece of about six inches in size from the healthy mother plant and place it in a small jar filled with water. Soon enough you will see new roots appearing from the cut area. Once there are enough new roots, transfer it into a pot with organic and acidic soil in order to keep it moist and continue growing. You can do this once you are used to taking care of one Gardenia bonsai for a few seasons. Good luck!