Serissa Bonsai

Serissa is a genus in the family Rubiaceae, which contains the Serissa japonica species, and is a popular specimen for bonsai trees. It can be found in Southeast Asia, anywhere from India and China all the way to Japan. It is commonly referred to as “tree of a thousand stars” and was formerly called Serissa foetida. The word foetida means foul-smelling. The bark and roots may have a foul smell when cut.

Serissa bonsai come in many varieties. The most common varieties are Chinese Snow Rose, Cherry Blossom, Mt. Fuji, Kyoto, and Thousand Stars. The Serissa style is informal, cascading, windswept, slanting, group plantings, and multi-trunked. It can be trained in most styles with the exception of formal upright and broom.

Caring for the Serissa Bonsai Tree

An abundance of sunlight is necessary to properly nourish the plant. Proper care of the tree requires a lot of time and patience. Proper watering is one of the most effective ways to grow the tree. The tree must be watered on a regular basis to avoid drying out. The tree does not respond well to wet roots, it causes leaves to turn yellow and fall off the tree. Letting the tree dry in between watering is important to proper nourishment of the tree. The tree can grow to a height of 19 inches in 15 years.


The best pruning methods for Serissa Bonsai are severe top and root pruning. Doing this may cause the tree to grow suckers, which commonly grow at the base of the tree. Suckers are sprouts that grow from a bud at the base of the tree. Remove suckers unless they are required for multiple trunk styles. Serissa also responds well to direction pruning. Prune back to the second node and let them grow out in the summer to reduce heat stress. Prune back in early fall.


It is important for the tree to spend a 3-4 weeks out of the year outside. Once the tree is outside, it is important to make sure that it is placed in a secure area and avoid any chance of the tree moving around too much. When cultivating from inside, proper humidity levels must be adhered. Using a humidity tray will keep the humidity at a level that will benefit the tree. Humidity trays can be made at home from scratch. Avoid placing the tree near a radiator because it will dry the air considerably.


Fertilizing is an important aspect in keeping your Serissa healthy and beautiful. The Serissa is grown in a small amount of soil. Because of this, it is necessary to replenish the soil’s nutrients on a periodic basis. Fertilizers are recommended to be used at half of their recommended strength and should be applied at least once a month with the exception of winter time. Any general purpose liquid fertilizer that can be purchased from a garden center will suffice. This species needs to be watered before fertilizing.

Pink Serissa

The Pink Serissa is a very popular bonsai tree. It blooms beautiful pink and double pink rose-shaped miniature flowers and small foliage. The Pink Serissa flowers year round, with the strongest blooming occurring from early spring to early fall. The Pink Serissa will thrive indoors in high light and appreciates being kept outdoors during spring and summer. Watering of the tree must never be neglected. Apply water before the soil appears dry — never allow the soil to become completely dry.

Variegated Serissa

The variegated serissa is an upright evergreen shrub with tiny green leaves creating a mound. Its foliage includes a pink flower bud that blooms white flowers. It needs a regular water schedule to ensure the growth of a mature root system. After the mature root system is established, watering is needed occasionally. If there happens to be a drought, watering must be a regular occurrence. Annual shearing must occur to maintain desired shape. In late winter, prune flowers to encourage new bloom.

Additional Tips for Caring for Your Serissa Bonsai

– Regular misting with distilled warm water will be deeply appreciated by these beautiful works for art and you will be rewarded in a wonderful display of nature.

– Trim the Serissa after flowering. Regularly pinch back leggy growth.

– A potting soil mixture made of mostly drainage material like gravel or sand allows free passage of water. Adding organic matter such as composted bark to prevent the water from draining too rapidly. As organics decompose, it fertilizes the plant.

– Unless it is too cold for the tree, keep it outdoors to thrive on sunlight and fresh air.

Common Mistakes

Not giving your tree the proper amount of water is detrimental to its growth and nourishment into the beautiful creation that it is. If you want a healthy bonsai then you must adhere to the healthy watering requirements it desires. The main reason for an unsuccessful Serissa Bonsai is that the tree is not given enough water. The amount of water from time of year, location, and the indoor or outdoor conditions that the tree is being placed under. Being sure to research and understand the specific needs of the Serissa Bonsai is important to keeping a healthy and aesthetically pleasing tree.

Using the wrong type of soil is a common mistake. The tree is dependent on the small amount of soil in its pot to provide the essential moisture and nutrients it needs to survive and flourish. Garden soil or normal compost are not normally suitable to sustain the proper life of a Serissa Bonsai. There must be enough air spaces to allow the roots to breath and excess water must be able to escape to prevent the roots from rotting. Gravel, sand and granite are important components of soil for this tree.

Not keeping your Serissa Bonsai in the right location is another common mistake. Many people think of the tree as just a houseplant and keep it indoors. Some of the trees are suitable for indoor growth, but it should be known that trees are designed for the outdoors. That is their natural habitat.