Two Fukien Tea bonsai varieties are commonly used. Both have glossy leaves, are woody, branch easily, and bloom periodically all year. (In the plant world, it is not unusual for a plant to have many common names.)
Fujian Tea, Fukien Tea, Philippine Tea and Bath Tree are all names for the plant once scientifically known as Carmona microphylla and renamed Ehretia buxifolia.
The small leaf variety of Fukien Tea is slow to develop a trunk, however, it bears tiny red fruit prolifically.
The “medium leaf” variety develops a bulky trunk but bears fruit less frequently -- if at all. (The medium leaves are actually small, but larger than those of its sister plant.)
If you are creating your own bonsai, older heavy trunks have very hard wood and often predetermine the style.
A dark blue glazed bonsai container works nicely, especially for a small size "tea."
However, a brown unglazed pot can emphasize a rugged trunk!
This bonsai forest of Fukien Tea in a brown container is very effective.
Young branches bend and shape easily. Wire any time of year. Be cautious not to wire too tightly, as they grow quickly. This plant is an excellent choice for clip-and-grow styling. Some growers trim frequently and do very little wiring.
Because of the small leaf size, leaf pruning is not required. If leaves are removed or fall off for any reason, a healthy tree will quickly regenerate them. Frequent pruning will keep your foliage compact.
This plant can be suited to many different styles. Many Ehretia bonsai grown from cuttings end up as formal or informal upright bonsai.
Some imported old trees have enough curves in them to also be used as cascades, slant or even literati styles. Move the plant around to see how it looks at different angles.
Old trunks have hard wood and are ideal for creating shari and jins!
Fukien Tea bonsai grows best in full to half day to full sun. Too much shade encourages undesirable leggy growth, larger leaves and more frequent pests.
INDOORS - Growers often keep the "tea" outdoors as long as possible and bring them in only after the first frost or freeze warning.
High light and good air circulation are especially important indoors.
Read more about Fukien Tea bonsai care.
The small leaf variety, which fruits so readily, is fast to start from seed. Allow the ripe fruit to dry in the sun to a small hard seed. Plant the seeds in shallow, sandy soil, place in the sun and keep moist. You may also see seedlings sprout on their own under the mother plant.
Cuttings and air layers are also good methods to propagate all Ehretia varieties.
If you live in a tropical or sub-tropical climate, plant your larger leaf tea in the ground to develop a large trunk.
In one year a “medium leaf” plant will more than double trunk diameter. In a sunny area with frequent water and fertilizer, you can develop a huge trunk with excellent nebari in just three to five years. Regular "hedge pruning" will help to create lots of branches.
Selective pruning as they develop, will insure branches in the right places when it's time to take them out of the ground.