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Tropical bonsai include all varieties that are in more-or-less constant growth year round and that cannot stand temperatures below 50 degrees.  This includes:  Ficus, Grewia, Serissa, Fukian Tea, Arboricola, Jades and many others.  Since these trees are native to warm tropical regions of the world, they are well suited for growing indoors.


Proper watering is critical! Feel the surface of the soil daily.  If the surface is dry or only slightly moist it is time to water.  Water from above and thoroughly soak the soil.  Watering the foliage as well as the soil is also beneficial for your tree.  Allow excess water to drain away quickly and never let your tree sit in water for extended periods.  During hot dry weather or under windy conditions your tree will need frequent watering.  Very small bonsai in small pots can sometimes dry out in a day or less. Most do not like their soil to become really dry.  Succulents, such as Jade plants, should be allowed to dry out for several days.  Allow the soil to dry down between waterings but never allow the soil to become bone-dry.  Consistent bone-dry conditions are likely to kill your tree.


         Most tropical bonsai need to be grown in very good/high light.  If possible put them outside during the summer.  Light shade, filtered sun or morning sun is best for most varieties when outdoors.  Indoors keep your bonsai in a window or very close to one.  An unobstructed east or filtered west or south window generally works best.  If natural light is not good, supplement it with grow lights.

         Tropical bonsai thrive in hot humid climates and do their best outside in the summer when temperatures are above 75 degrees. Indoors most do best between 65 and 75 degrees.  Keep away from cold drafts in the winter.

       Tropical bonsai do best with frequent feeding.  Organic feeding can be done with Green King pellets.  Miracle-gro or Schultz water soluble fertilizers can be used but should be mixed only half as strong as the directions recommend.  The idea is to keep your tree healthy and maintain very moderate growth.  Fertilize very little in winter.

       Air circulation is very important, so open the window whenever possible.  When you cannot open windows we suggest you use a fan for several hours a day.  Tropical bonsai like humid conditions so keep away from heating/air conditioning vents, which dramatically dry the air.  A humidity tray filled with pebbles and water is an excellent way to increase the humidity directly around your tree.  Make sure your tree is not sitting in the water though.  Daily misting is also beneficial for any trees inside the home but is NOT a substitute for regular waterings.

        Most bonsai need to be repotted and/or root pruned every 2 to 3 years.  It is best done in the spring once your tree has started growing well again.  Normally a quarter to half of the root mass is removed to allow for fresh soil and new roots to grow which will reinvigorate your tree. Occasional trimming and wiring will also be necessary to maintain form.  A good book or bonsai professional might be a good consultant.

Mays Greenhouse 2010