Ask a Question forum: How to bonsai a Crassula Tetragona and Portulacaria?

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Name: Sabi
Nothern California (Zone 9a)
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sabigrows
May 21, 2018 4:40 PM CST
Yesterday I took home this lovely little Portulacaria Afra aka Elephant Bush and I was curious on how I could begin making it into a bonsai. There's 4 guys in this small pot.

Thumb of 2018-05-21/sabigrows/053521

Also, I got a Crassula Tetragona, which I'd like to bonsai 1 or 2 of those as well. Again there's 4 in this pot.


Thumb of 2018-05-21/sabigrows/e854ca
(sorry for the bad lighting ^)


Besides the basic bonsai soil mix and accessories, I'm more focused on making sure I don't over/under water them or prune them too much/the wrong way. Any additional advice is appreciated!


- Sabi
[Last edited by sabigrows - May 21, 2018 4:41 PM (+)]
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Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
May 21, 2018 6:45 PM CST
Hi Sabi,

They are succulents so should be planted in cactus and succulent soil.
Bonsai is a pruning style and can be done with any plant. To be successfull, you need patience and your plants need time. I'm not sure what 'bonsai accessories' are.

What you want to do right now is provide light and care to grow sturdy, chubby stems with closely spaced leaves. Leave them in the pots they are currently in and wait for a year or so until they gain some size.

In the mean time, start reading and looking at photos so you can decide your plants' future.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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Name: Sabi
Nothern California (Zone 9a)
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sabigrows
May 22, 2018 10:38 AM CST
DaisyI said:Hi Sabi,

They are succulents so should be planted in cactus and succulent soil.
Bonsai is a pruning style and can be done with any plant. To be successfull, you need patience and your plants need time. I'm not sure what 'bonsai accessories' are.

What you want to do right now is provide light and care to grow sturdy, chubby stems with closely spaced leaves. Leave them in the pots they are currently in and wait for a year or so until they gain some size.

In the mean time, start reading and looking at photos so you can decide your plants' future.



Thanks Daisy!

What I meant by bonsai accessories is the bonsai soil, shallow pot, rocks, wire, etc. I thought there had to be specific bonsai soil in order for it to gain those nutrients or whatever is required for a bonsai.

I don't know much Rolling on the floor laughing
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Hummingbirder
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Baja_Costero
May 22, 2018 10:47 AM CST
Bonsai soil and cactus soil should be pretty close, I think. Some observations about the plants in question....

The Portulacaria is often grown to size in a large container and then cut and rooted for display in a much smaller one. So temper your ambition when you see pictures of gnarly fat old plants and imagine yours one day looking the same, without a few extra steps and a much bigger pot along the way. The best thing you can do at this point is provide the strongest light possible and watch how the plant grows, so you know what features you might want to preserve and amplify.

The Crassula is an interesting plant for miniature gardens and very highly branched plants can be nice as bonsai. It tends to grow strictly vertical (going sideways as it branches maybe but always shooting up at the end). So not the best subject for a sweeping sideways look. I would recommend waiting until your plants are twice their current size or more, and then you can consider taking cuttings to start new plants (removing the top third or half of each stem) and observe how the plant responds by branching. It is one of the easiest succulents there are for starting from cuttings, and it will reliably branch afterwards. As a bonus it does very well when planted with multiple stems in one pot as a sort of miniature forest.
Name: Sabi
Nothern California (Zone 9a)
Image
sabigrows
May 22, 2018 12:57 PM CST
Baja_Costero said:Bonsai soil and cactus soil should be pretty close, I think. Some observations about the plants in question....

The Portulacaria is often grown to size in a large container and then cut and rooted for display in a much smaller one. So temper your ambition when you see pictures of gnarly fat old plants and imagine yours one day looking the same, without a few extra steps and a much bigger pot along the way. The best thing you can do at this point is provide the strongest light possible and watch how the plant grows, so you know what features you might want to preserve and amplify.

The Crassula is an interesting plant for miniature gardens and very highly branched plants can be nice as bonsai. It tends to grow strictly vertical (going sideways as it branches maybe but always shooting up at the end). So not the best subject for a sweeping sideways look. I would recommend waiting until your plants are twice their current size or more, and then you can consider taking cuttings to start new plants (removing the top third or half of each stem) and observe how the plant responds by branching. It is one of the easiest succulents there are for starting from cuttings, and it will reliably branch afterwards. As a bonus it does very well when planted with multiple stems in one pot as a sort of miniature forest.



Would it be recommended that I put both the Crassula and Elephant Bush into direct outdoor light? I'd like to grow this as a houseplant, but if it grows better outdoors I'm all for it.

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