Carissa Bonsai

Carissa bonsai trees, also known as Natal Plum, are created from several Carissa varieties. They are all suitable for bonsai. The plant itself is easy to grow and the fruit, fragrant flowers and small leaves are definitely a plus.

When the plant was imported to the warm climates of California and Florida, it quickly became a favorite hedge and landscaping plant. Many dwarf cultivars were soon introduced.

The dwarfs are popular with bonsai enthusiasts because of the tightly positioned, scalloped leaves and odd, twisty growth habit of the stems. (Not all cultivars produce fruit.)

Carissa macrocarpa grandiflora has large thorns. The fruit is commonly used in jams and jellies.  If you have a heavily fruiting Natal plum bonsai, consider covering it with a lightweight net.  Birds are also fond of it, and will steal it whenever possible. 

About Carissa Bonsai
Common Names

This bonsai is often referred to by the common name Natal plum. So named because the plant is native to a province in Africa called KwaZulu-Natal.  (This common name is often mispronounced  'natal,' as in birth.)

Carissa boxwood is another common name, although the plant is not in the Buxus genus. 

Carissa as Bonsai

Created by Frank Okamura

Displayed in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden collection.

The Carissa to the left - grown by Johnson Teh in Miami - is only 8 inches tall and has very small leaves.

When it blooms, the flower, albeit small, almost seems out of scale.  

Not officially identified, it is likely a Carissa 'Dainty Princess."

Natal Plum bonsai in The Chicago Botanic Garden’s collection

Carissa Care

Natal plum is a tropical plant and in its natural environment likes full sun.  Although they are sun lovers, if given enough light, it will do well indoors.

They do not like being soaking wet, and prefer to dry out a little between waterings. Fast draining soil is a must. 

The bonsai cascade shown here to the left, appears to be a Carissa microcarpa grandiflora.

It is now exhibited in the permanent University of Michigan Bonsai and Penjing collection.  You can see from the pictures on this page Natal plum bonsai are suited to many different styles

Natal plum bonsai by Richard JeffereyNatal plum bonsai by Richard Jefferey

This urban yamadori picture is from Florida resident Richard Jefferey. 

Rick wrote:  "I thought I'd share a Carissbonsai from a hedge that survived Hurricane Andrew, the house it bordered did not."

Where to Go From Here

The true Boxwood Bonsai

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