Plumeria Bonsai

mkalisDecember 31, 2013

Hello - I'm new to Plumerias but was able to get three trees to grow from seed earlier this year and am looking forward to a good growing year in 2014. I would like to train two of the plants into bonsai. They are currently about six inches tall.

Does anyone have any suggestions or experience with training plumeria into bonsai? I have seen pictures online but I'm not sure at what point to cut the main trunk to encourage lower branches.

Thanks for any assistance you can provide!

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Bonsai culture is certainly interesting. I had some downtime/delays on a recent trip and found a store nearby with a small Bonsai section. The lady gave me a very rudimentary lesson in broken English which I probably understood 10% and simply nodded and the remaining 90%. So with that in mind...

I would expect the difficulty in a Plumeria Bonsai is going to be in the unknown growth habits of the seedling you are using. Those seedlings may be lanky or petite or somewhere in between. I know its possible to stunt the growth as I kept 3 seedlings (used to be 5 but two have since died) in the same 1 gallon pot half full of soil for 3 years now and they aren't more than 8 or 10 inches tall where normally they would be 3-4 feet tall by now.

For what it's worth you will want to cut above a leaf node scar on the trunk and hope that it branches out from the leaf scar. You could snip the very tip and remove the top two leaves (leaving any leaves below those top two). That way the plant MAY start growing branches from those leaf nodes. I think it will be hit or miss for you on a seedling that small. Good luck with it.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 11:33AM
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polynesian sunset is a good one for bonsai, the seedlings branch out early and they are a relatively slow grower. Keep them even more potbound than usual with bonsai to help slow down the growth even more. Some of the dwarf species work for bonsai but with the seedlings you just never know what kind of growth you will get. One of these days I will get a Polynesian Sunset into the ground before he gets to it.

My BF will turn anything into a bonsai if you let him, it`s a battle, will I get it in the ground or will he get it in a bonsai pot?

Good luck!
Tally HO!

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 2:27PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Mkalis - in order to be attractive, a bonsai has to be something you can look at and immediately envision in nature. It should evoke something in the viewer's imagination. For instance, you might look at one bonsai and see a stately old tree with a straight trunk growing alone in a meadow or field. Another tree's tortured looking trunk and branches might speak to you of the hardships it's had trying to maintain life hanging off a mountainside while it battled ice and snow that killed several branches (jin) or even parts of the trunk (shari) still in evidence on the tree. Because of the way plumerias branch and how their leaves grow, making one into a believable bonsai would be difficult. I would encourage you to pursue bonsai because of how richly rewarding it can be, but I wouldn't put plumeria high on a list of trees that readily lend themselves to being transformed into bonsai specimens - and that would be especially true of someone with little or no experience as a bonsai practitioner.


    Bookmark   January 26, 2014 at 3:06PM
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This is the best ever description/explanation of Bonsai I have ever read. I could not help but post what my Maui seedling looks like all crooked and some what crested at only 1 1/2 inches high. It would make an interesting Bonsai to say the least IF it would only stay small. mahalo, roxanne

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 9:40PM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

I agree Rox ..

That explanation was awesome.

Cute seedling !!



    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 10:50PM
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tdogdad(Zone 9)

I totally agree with Al. I think if this were easy, you could buy a zillion of them from Thailand now. One of the worst things about plumerias is that you buy 50-100 and have a beautiful garden and a decade later they are ten feet tall and ten feet wide each and you need several acres to grow them easily. When you hack them, they rarely look as nice as the natural splitting and growth. This is why there is such a push to create dwarfs. I feel the direction will be to cross dwarfs with name varieties and create great looking dwarfs. This has started. I do not see any bonsai being developed or sold so far.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2014 at 1:54PM
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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

love those trees Bill! How is Pyscho doing? Still blooming strong I bet.


    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 9:33PM
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so, after re-thinking this whole it not a type of Bonsai we are not trying to grow in pots totally out of their natural climate? roxanne

    Bookmark   February 2, 2014 at 10:27PM
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tdogdad(Zone 9)

Mike- those are Bud Guillot's Calif Sally, Jeannie Moragne and Saigon Moon. They are in the 40-60 year category. My Psycho is totally leafed out but only has a few blooms left. More leaves but less flowers this year. My Golden Rainbow is also totally leafed out but has no flowers. Many of my plants still have some leaves but almost no flowers. Time to start cutting and shaping plants. With our good weather I would rather go surfing. Bill

    Bookmark   February 3, 2014 at 9:49PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

"Bonsai" has more than one meaning. You practice the art of bonsai to create a bonsai tree, so it's both a plant and a process that come together. In the most liberal of interpretations, anything you think is a bonsai can be called a bonsai. In the bonsai community, there are people like me that would never correct a person who has a seedling in a bonsai pot and wants to call it a bonsai. Why discourage someone or take away their joy - crush their enthusiasm? There are also the bonsai snobs that would quickly inform anyone that the little junipers and ficus you might buy at the big box store or in the houseplant section of a plant store aren't really bonsai. Who cares?

Bonsai is a form of container gardening, but to appreciate what bonsai entails, you need to think of container gardening like you do high diving. Dives are computed based not only on form, but on their difficulty factor as well. Bonsai is container gardening, but container gardening with a significant difficulty factor added. The plants are much more difficult to maintain and keep healthy/attractive than conventional container plantings, which means there has to be a commitment to learn enough about how plants work and how to keep them happy & healthy in the tiny pots we grow them in. They're much like pets - each one of them.

One thing that sets bonsai quite apart from conventional container gardening is the bonsai practitioner's attention to root maintenance. The growers here that learn to properly maintain the roots of their plants will always have plants that can grow to their genetic potential within the influence of other factors that can limit the plant. Growers that only pot up their plants, ensure their plants can never reach their genetic potential, because they will always be limited by the congestion in the center of the root mass. Roots that cross and wrap around other roots choke off the supply of water and nutrients to the top of the plant, and slow or stop the flow of food to the roots. Obviously, this isn't an ideal situation. Proper root maintenance is the main reason bonsai trees can be passed on through generation after generation and maintained in perfect health, while the average container gardener has difficulty keeping trees happy even in large pots for a very limited time in comparison.

Bonsai also uses techniques to naturally dwarf the plant. We graft roots & branches, and can actually move a branch from one side of a tree to the opposite side if it was thought necessary. The number of specialized techniques that can be learned and utilized is staggering, and new techniques are constantly being developed or existing techniques improved upon. Bonsai gives back commensurately with what you invest. It's a big commitment if you have more than a few trees, but the rewards are great.

Almost all the plants you might buy are genetically programmed to be beautiful. How good the grower is at recognizing the things that limit a plant and eliminating them is what defines our ability as growers. It won't do to get all but 1 factor perfect, because it's that half perfect factor that will be the one that limits your plant. Growing in containers is a much more holistic venture than most growers realize. To be good, you need to know what things have the most potential to limit your plants and how to eliminate those factors to the greatest degree possible. Sounds easy - eliminate the limiting factors for perfect plants. Guaranteed to work every time. ;-)

Anyway - bonsai is a lot of fun, but if it was easy, everybody would do it. Thanks for letting me muse on your dime.


    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 10:43PM
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Al, I give you an A plus, plus, plus for your wonderful descriptions. I have often looked at Bonsai trees for sale at nurseries and swap meets. The ladder of course being highly suspicious. We spent a small time in Japan and learned there that this was way over my head and not enough time. I think all people who turn to their garden for hobby/relaxation/therapy....find the perfect plant (s) that work for them eventually. Like I like to say with my garden..."it is Order and Chaos with a Tropical Flair"....mahalos, roxanne

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 9:47AM
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sagolover(10a SoCal)

Love it Roxanne: "order and chaos with a tropical flair"!!!!


    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 2:18PM
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mahalo, Mima

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 3:41PM
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