Are you a beginner bonsai enthusiast looking for the perfect plant to start your bonsai journey? Look no further than the magnificent Jade plant. With its availability at nurseries and garden stores and its ease of propagation from cuttings, the Jade plant is the ideal choice for beginners. In this comprehensive guide, we will take you step by step through the process of creating a breathtaking Jade bonsai tree.
Preparation is Key
To embark on this bonsai adventure, you will need a few essential items. Of course, you’ll need a Jade plant, which can be purchased or grown from a cutting. Additionally, you’ll require a bonsai pot, well-draining soil suitable for Jade bonsai (akadama is ideal, but you can find pre-mixed soil online), scissors or pruning shears, a chopstick, aluminum bonsai wire, and potting mesh or screen.
Ensure that your Jade plant is healthy and well-watered in the weeks leading up to the transformation. Create a suitable workspace, such as your kitchen table, and protect it with towels or some other means to catch the soil.
Pruning and Wiring for Artistic Expression
Shaping your Jade plant into a bonsai masterpiece involves both pruning and wiring. Pruning allows you to control the shape of the tree but takes time to achieve the desired result. On the other hand, wiring provides more precise control but carries the risk of scarring the branches if not done properly or left on for too long.
Consider the existing features of your Jade plant. If it already possesses interesting characteristics, such as multiple trunks growing as a clump, you may choose to focus on pruning to enhance its natural beauty. Remember, achieving perfection is not necessary at this stage, as you can always refine the design over time.
Now it’s time to prepare your Jade plant for its new pot. Start by gently removing it from its current pot. If the plant doesn’t slide out easily, use the chopstick to clear soil from the pot’s edges.
Expose any nebari (flaring root base) that may be present by gently scraping away soil from the top of the rootball with the chopstick. Gradually reduce the height of the rootball from the bottom up until it fits snugly into the new pot. Similarly, reduce the sides of the rootball by scraping away soil with the chopstick.
You may encounter a situation where most of the soil falls away, especially if the plant was recently up-potted without rooting well in the new soil. Don’t fret, as this means the Jade plant will fit nicely into its new pot without any damage to its roots.
A Perfect Pot for a Perfect Tree
Place your Jade plant carefully into the pot, making sure not to disturb any styled branches. Before potting, tie the potting mesh over the drainage holes to prevent soil from escaping. Plan your tie-down strategy wisely, as it is crucial to secure the tree in the pot to prevent it from falling out and to facilitate root growth.
Since young Jade plants usually have a small and fragile rootball, securing them in a bonsai pot may require some skill. Consider crossing wires over the rootball on two or three sides to achieve the desired stability. Insert wires into the pot accordingly, providing extra tie-down points for flexibility.
Cover the bottom of the pot with a thin layer of soil and create a small mound in the center. This will ensure a stable and well-supported placement for your Jade bonsai tree.
Potting the Tree with Care
Gently settle your Jade plant into the pot by placing it onto the soil mound and gently wiggling it from side to side. Ensure the tree is positioned exactly as you desire, and lightly apply the tie-down wires without fully tightening them. Fill the pot with soil, double-check the tree’s position, and then fully tighten the tie-down wires for maximum security.
Now, your Jade bonsai tree should be securely nestled in its pot. Use the chopstick to gently introduce soil into any air pockets by stabbing it into the soil. This will ensure optimal stability and support for the tree.
Adding the Finishing Touches
While not essential, applying a moss top dressing to your bonsai tree can have several benefits. It helps distribute water evenly within the pot, encourages the growth of healthy bacteria and fungi, slows down soil breakdown, and adds an aesthetically pleasing touch to the overall presentation.
Create a top dressing by mixing ground-up sphagnum moss with ground-up green moss collected from your garden at a 1:1 ratio. Sprinkle a light layer of the top dressing over the soil and mist it with water using a spray bottle to prevent it from blowing away.
Water your newly transformed Jade bonsai tree thoroughly to wash out any fine dust particles from the pot. Use a watering can or a hose with a fine shower head for this task. Once the tree has been watered, find a perfect spot for it to shine in its new home.
Caring for Your Jade Bonsai
Congratulations! You now possess a stunning Jade bonsai tree that demands your care and attention to thrive. As succulent plants, Jade bonsai trees store ample water in their leaves and vascular systems, making them less reliant on frequent watering compared to other bonsai varieties. Overwatering is a common concern, so allow the soil to dry out between watering sessions. Check the moisture level by observing the color of the soil and inserting your finger into the pot.
Jade bonsai trees can be grown both indoors and outdoors in warm climates, with similar care requirements for both environments. If you choose to cultivate your Jade bonsai indoors, make note of the moss top dressing. Since the relative humidity indoors is generally lower, mist the soil every few hours to keep the moss damp. When assessing the soil’s moisture level, gently move aside a small area of the top dressing to inspect the soil.
In addition to watering, regular pruning every few months will help maintain the desired shape and style of your Jade bonsai tree.
Now that you have mastered the art of creating a Jade plant bonsai, let your creativity flourish, and enjoy the beauty of your lovingly crafted tree. For more information on bonsai trees and supplies, visit the Ames Farm Center. Happy bonsai gardening!