Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
A number of tree-like and shrubby succulents make suitable bonsai specimens. Among these is the elephant bush. When trained properly, this becomes a very picturesque bonsai.
Because this plant is too tender to be kept outdoors during the winter, it would need to be considered an indoor plant in most locations.
Native to South Africa, this species can be trained to assume a range of different bonsai shapes. These include spherical, informal upright, leaning, and windswept. This can be trained to have either single or multiple trunks.
Typically, you will need to buy a small elephant plant. Propagating your own isnít practical in most cases. Sometimes, pre-shaped and trained plants are sold as bonsai as well.
This shrub-like plant can be trained with wire. However, this usually isnít necessary, depending on the style you have chosen. If you do decide to use wire, do examine the plant from time to time. Thatís because the wire can easily damage the bark if it is left in place too long. If that happens, the result will be harm to the plant and unsightly marks on the bark.
Pruning this plant as a bonsai is pretty simple. Just cut each shoot back, leaving several pairs of leaves. Do this on a regular basis as needed when the stems reach several inches in length.
Because this bonsai is a succulent, it will need a very quick draining potting mix. You can start with a regular, well drained bonsai potting soil and add some fine gravel or sand.
Typically, an elephant bush bonsai will only need repotting every couple years or so. Do this only when the plant is pot bound. Repotting is usually done during the spring and summer months.
Regarding fertilizer, this bonsai will need an application of a soluble plant food about twice a month during the growing season. For the winter, add this only if the indoor temperature is high enough to keep the plant actively growing. Otherwise, put this off until the plant emerges from its winter rest. If you do fertilize during the winter, about once a month is often enough.
For the warm months of the year, the elephant bush bonsai will need to be watered often enough to keep the potting soil moist. During the winter, reduce the frequency. At that time, allow the top of the soil to become dry before you water again.
Concerning its need for light, elephant bush bonsai needs bright light throughout the year. It can be placed outdoors for the summer months. However, it will need protected from winds and cold drafts.