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Jaboticaba Bonsai Trees

Jaboticaba bonsai trees make a graceful, fruiting bonsai. By their nature, they are small but technically not miniature fruit trees, they certainly give that appearance.

By their nature they are upright trees and are rarely styled otherwise.  The straight trunks also have a graceful, gentle movement.

The tree branches profusely and makes a beautiful single tree.

Two or three together make nice groupings.

The leaves are soft and almost pink when new, they develop into a somewhat glossy dark green as they age.

Jaboticaba bonsai treesMike Lebanik's Jaboticaba at
The Artisan's Cup
Close-up of Myrciaria cauliflora bark

The jaboticaba bark is thin, reddish and flaky.  Occasionally patches peel off, leaving an attractive variation in color, as shown here.  (Similar to the guava, a long distance relative.)

You can see why it is sometimes called Brazilian grape.

Both flowers and fruit grow directly on the trunk.

From flower to fruit takes only 21-25 days.

One of the most exciting things about jaboticaba bonsai trees is the creamy white (almost fluffy looking) flowers.

Shortly thereafter, the dark purple (almost black) grape-sized fruit develop directly on the trunk.

Scientific Name: Myrciaria cauliflora (Eugenia cauliflora syn.)

Cauliflorous is an adjective referring to the production of flowers and fruit forming on the trunks and often on older branches of trees.

Common Names: Jaboticaba, Brazilian Grape, Jabotica, Jabuticaba and others

Two Tops?

Many trees in nature have one apex. 

The shape of this small tree in the ground is almost always comprised of at least two dominant tops, if not more.

With careful and continued pruning, you can maintain a beautiful mature tree-like crown.  If you decide to have a single trunk line, the tree will still attempt to generate several tops, rather than the one you have chosen.

In the jaboticaba bonsai trees shown above, you can see how both Jim Smith (left) and bonsai friend Jean Smith (right) used the multiple tops to their advantage.

Myrciaria cauliflora Propagation

Nelson Hernandez, PR

Myrciaria c. are most often propagated from seed. 

However, it takes a couple of years just to develop a small seedling.  Seedlings are slow to mature and rarely endure the transplanting and trimming of bonsai hobbyists. (Older plants, however, are very tolerant of pruning roots and branches.)

Because it is slow growing, and takes 8-15 years to bear fruit from seed, hobbyists generally begin this bonsai with established nursery stock or pre-bonsai.

Jaboticaba may also be grown from cuttings and air layers. They are still slow to develop trunks.

Jaboticaba Bonsai Care

In the landscape, Myrciaria cauliflora tolerates both full sun and full shade. However as bonsai, to keep them at their best, I agree with the late Jim Smith:

I have found that by growing jaboticaba under 30% shade, the tips of the leaves do not burn as they do when growing in full sun. I do not give them any other special care.

You may have heard the myth that these trees do not fruit in a bonsai pot.  Jim also told me: “My oldest jaboticaba bonsai, created by John Naka in 1973, produces fruit every year.

Another thing that causes “burned tips” is lack of micro-nutrients.  Myrciaria caulifloras is an acid loving plant. Use an organic fertilizer or look for a fertilizer stating that it is an “acid type”.

Jaboticaba bonsai trees are "hungry," don’t skip the feedings.

Pruning and Repotting

Trimming leaves and small branches can be done year round. Check the roots annually, but it is unlikely your tree will need yearly root pruning. The best seasons for potting and repotting are spring and summer.

When you repot, do not trim roots as drastically as you would a Ficus and don’t expect Myrciaria c. to respond like a Ficus.

This tree is a slow responder (especially if you hard prune roots). Be patient, it will come back.

A Tropical First

In 1957, the late Miami,FL bonsai pioneer Jim Wilkins created the first known jaboticaba bonsai in the U.S.

The following year, Jim introduced Joe Samuels to bonsai and his jaboticaba.  Now over 50 years later, the same tree is still being cared for by Jim and Barbara's son Gary Wilkins.

Jaboticaba Bonsai Trees Indoors

This tree is a proven winner as an indoor bonsai.  Early on, it was featured in the book 'Indoor Bonsai' by Paul Lesniewicz.

I've seen a number of jaboticaba doing quite well under lights and in greenhouses outside of Florida. (I cannot promise it will flower and/or fruit.)

As with other tropicals, the Myrciaria c. performs best in warm temperatures and bright light indoors. It will tolerate somewhat low temperatures for a short period, but not frosts or freezes. Keep evenly moist but not soaking wet.

Problems, Pests and Diseases

When you purchase your jaboticaba, make sure it is well rooted. If not, secure the tree tightly in the container. Water cautiously. Root rot from overwatering sparse rootage, can become a problem.

Aphids are the most likely nuisance indoors and out. They love the delicate new leaves. Overall, this tree is susceptible to very few pests and/or diseases.

One of the biggest problems is finding a good jaboticaba bonsai tree with a substantial trunk. Because they are slow to develop, larger trees can be expensive.

Find the right one and it's worth the price!

Where to Go From Here

Leave Jaboticaba Bonsai Trees and explore other Types of Bonsai Trees

There is also more about Indoor Bonsai.

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There are many pesticides to use – organic and chemical. One good choice is the Safer Brand Insect Killing Soap, Ready to Use Spray