Bonsai Fukien Tea Care

Bonsai Fukien Tea care is relatively easy.  It grows best in half day to full sun, which means high light if you're growing indoors. Too much shade or low light encourages undesirable leggy growth and larger leaves. 

They are tropical plants, bring them indoors or a greenhouse at the first frost or freeze warning.  

Good air circulation is important both outdoors and indoors.


Fukien Tea (Ehretia) likes to be evenly moist, not soaking wet. 

Many hobbyists have found it prefers some organic matter in the soil mix.  If you do include organics, be sure your soil drains freely. 

A 'too wet' root environment can cause rot, fungus, leaf yellowing and/or defoliation. Remember, Watering bonsai varies from plant to plant.

Fertilizing Fukien Tea

Occasionally, this plant becomes chlorotic.  The yellow leaves may be an indicator of a fertilizer deficiency.  Use organic fertilizer as directed or an all purpose liquid weekly, spring through fall.  During cooler months once a month will be adequate.

If fertilizer is not the problem, consider the soil may be too wet, “sour” or as mentioned above, the plant may also be root bound.  

Trimming Branches

When this plant is happy in its growing conditions, it sends out new branches very often.  This new foliage can be trimmed at any time of year.  It does not hurt the plant and in fact can make it prettier in the long run.  New branches are easy to wire.

When you purchase a bonsai, take a picture to remember the shape.  If you like, you can change the shape as it grows.

Root Pruning

Ehretia roots are fairly fast growing in proper soil.

IMPORTANT:  Root bound Fukien Tea can deteriorate quickly. Once established, check roots at least annually as they do not like “tight feet.”  Trimming the roots is an important care aspect of growing bonsai Fukien tea.

In the tropics, Fukien Tea can be repotted and/or root pruned any time of year.  Stronger, faster results can be anticipated during spring and early summer.

In other climates, spring and summer are best (when nights are warm).  Once established, check roots annually.

Botanical Notes

In the plant world it is not unusual for a plant to have many names. Fujian Tea, Fukien Tea, Philippine Tea and Bath Tree are all common names for the plant once scientifically known as Carmona microphylla and renamed Ehretia buxifolia. Although some are deciduous, the species commonly used for bonsai is a tropical evergreen shrub.

Interestingly, it is registered as an herbal medicine by the Philippine Bureau of Food & Drug. Fukien Tea is frequently used as landscape material in China, Malaysia, the Philippines and in South Florida as well.
Imported Fukien Tea

Indoor Care

Growers often keep them 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 growing bonsai indoors.

Bonsai Fukien Tea Pests

Ehretia (the scientific name) is relatively pest free in an open outdoor location. 

Depending upon your mini-environment, you may still need to watch for aphids on new growth and occasional mite infestations in hot, dry seasons.

Unfortunately, indoors, bonsai Fukien Tea is prone to pests. 

In addition to mites and aphids, scale can be another dilemma.  It is important to address these problems as soon as they are discovered.  Check frequently.  

Read more about bonsai pests in general.

Rock Plantings

The small leaf variety is especially good for planting on rocks.  Because of its leaf size and woody trunks (even while young plants,) they look like small trees.  If you like this bonsai fukien tea style, see the penjing rock planting page.

'Import' Notes

This newly imported, well shaped tea is the exception, not the rule.

In recent years, imported bonsai from China have made Fukien Tea a very popular tropical plant. They are often used as beginner bonsai trees because of their "ready made" shapes.

Commercial production in China is done in 100% clay fields.  After years of pruning and maintenance (primarily using clip-and-grow methods), specimens are dug out of the ground and shipped around the world. Large wounds often rot in the field and account for many wonderful gnarly and hollow trunk specimens.

Not all imported bonsai are of superior styling quality.  The appearance of these less than spectacular plants has led some to negate Fukien Tea bonsai as a viable subject. That being said, with “good bones” and some restyling many hobbyists are finding imported Ehretia can create the look of very old bonsai trees. 

Where to Go From Here

 introduction to Bonsai Fukien Tea

Home Page

Bonsai Mary no longer publishes her Bonsai Banter blog, please enjoy these

 Back Issues

   Do you have a     phony bonsai?

   Free eBook     Click below: