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Bonsai with Tropical Plants for Indoors
June 15, 2018

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Tropical Plants as Bonsai

In last month's issue of Bonsai Banter I said "Speaking of tropicals, I have an ongoing feud, of sorts, with a writer who claims you can not (as in never) grow good bonsai indoors."

Your response was immediate! The feud has been resolved!

I usually show emails at the bottom of this page, this issue, they are the newsletter!

Roger S. - Fort Worth, Texas

"Tell your writer friend ... that he is full of *$#@*.

You can grow indoor bonsai very successfully. Attached is a picture of a Fukien Tea which I have had indoors for the last year.

I'm getting it ready to show at our upcoming Fort Worth Bonsai Society show. I also have 2 other Fukien’s and a couple of Ficus as well. It does take a little care though but if you do it right you can have beautiful Bonsai indoors.

I am also getting ready to put them outdoors for the summer along with my other trees. As long as the nights do not get below 50 degrees you can put them outdoors.

This is not necessary though, so if you do not have a good location outdoors, you can keep them indoors all year... Later in the year when the night time temperature drops, I will take them in for the remainder of the colder months. I hope this helps with your feud.

Roger's right on. Many, but not all respondents admitted they take their tropical bonsai outdoors when weather permits. It definitely gives them a boost.

Mike K. - Florida

"Subject: For the Person Who Swears That You Cannot Grow Good Tropical Bonsai Indoors"

The individual should then explain why Suthin who grew tropicals in a greenhouse in the Boston area for 6 or 7 months a year, had some of the world’s best shohin and medium size tropical bonsai.

Suthin Sukosolvisit's Bougainvillea Bonsai

Also, he should check out Jerry Mieslik who lives on a ski slope in Northern Montana and is considered one of the leading experts in Ficus bonsai and grows them indoors."

Mike, thanks for mentioning these two wonderful artists! They are perfect examples of what can be accomplished.

Although Jerry just may have the ultimate indoor bonsai arrangement, smaller versions of this are quite possible. It's important to remember bigger trees need more light!

Photo by Eric Branson

Jerry recently donated one of his famous fig bonsai to the University of Michigan bonsai collection in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Curious, I contacted Jerry and asked how many years the tree had been 'indoors.'

His response ... "The donated Ficus was one that I found in Taiwan in 1999 and imported. It has been grown indoors under metal halide lights for this whole time".

Another 'Growing Indoors' Artist

No mention of growing bonsai under indoor light is complete without mentioning Jack Wikle.

Jack has even managed the near impossible - growing small junipers indoors under 4 ft long 40 watt, two tube, cool white fluorescent fixtures, 16 hrs a day.

Not recommended for the faint of heart!

More Mail from Last Month

John L. - Grahamstown, South Africa

Like others say: thanks for the site and newsletters.

I found BonsaiBanter Issue #94, which I had not read yet, and once again am amused by the different local naming of things.

Somewhere in that issue is reference to the
Portulacaria Afra (Dwarf Jade). Not a "dwarf" here, its one of two or three Portulaca and is unrelated to the Crassula which may be called "jade" in some places.

I suspect the similarity caused P. afra to be called a "dwarf" smaller leaved version of the Crassula. As I am sure you are aware
P. afra is indigenous to where I live (South Africa) but here we call it SPEKBOOM. Not known as jade plant, which I guess other countries use because of the leaf colour.

SPEK (pronounced Speck as in 'of dust') in Afrikaans (a Dutch derivative language) means fat as in bacon or on my hips. BOOM (pronunciation is a bit more difficult to describe its two OOs resemble OER as in Scottish "oer the horizon" the B is a plosive B as in b-ank then the OEr but ending in M not R). The temptation is to use OO as in BOOM! Pretty easy really.

. . . Incidentally, though many people use these as bonsai, just as many here don't see these trees as bonsai. I doubt it's a controversy, just a viewpoint.
Since these are semi-arid plants they are often just miniaturised in the course of a drought ridden environmental life.

The Portulacria afra has recently enjoyed greater popularity as bonsai. It was great to hear from where it originates. Thanks John!

John shared his knowledge, answered the pronunciation question of Spekboom and sent lots of pictures of Spekboom growing wild and in flower. Two are here, more will show up on the "Dwarf Jade" page. (Oh those common names! I know ... it's not a jade nor a dwarf!)

David T. - Lake Havasu City, Az

Mary... another great monthly issue ... the photo of the bald cypress was amazing... The article on "getting your hands dirty" was great ... and 'eating a little dirt is good for you' ...

David, it's always nice to know folks read the entire page!
Charlie B., Belfast, United Kingdom

Great myth busters, thanks this will save me money!

So true Charlie!

Collin - Greenacres, WA

I enjoy your comments on bonsai myths and sometimes wonder if the bonsai community is decades behind on best known horticultural practices.

Linda Chalker-Scott, Ph.D., Extension Horticulturist at Washington State University Extension has a great page listing lots of horticultural myths, some of which apply to bonsai as well. Any discussion about these sorts of things always leads to passionate disagreement ... so be careful if you reprint anything!"

Collin, thanks for this source and the warning :)

More About the 'Extension Service'

In 2014, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and our land-grant university partners celebrated 100 years of Cooperative Extension in the United States.

The 'Extension Service' emphasizes taking knowledge gained through research and education and bringing it directly to the people to create positive changes.

Horticulture is just one of many subjects with amazing informative articles. Most, if not all states, have their version of these sites. If you haven't checked out this source in your state, do it soon.

Until Next Month

It's hard for me to believe, but next month will be the 100th issue of Bonsai Banter. Where does the time go?

If you've missed any Bonsai Banter newsletters, you can see Back Issues for Bonsai Banter here, just click.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this 99th issue!

Sincerely, Mary Miller

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