Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
If you want to try your hand at creating a succulent bonsai, the jade plant makes an excellent choice for beginners.
A native of South Africa, this tree-like succulent is easy because it basically requires no training. Wiring isnít usually necessary. In order to achieve the desired shape as a bonsai, jade plant will tolerate a lot of pruning. Typically, this is done during the growing season sometime between the spring and fall months. To help the jade reach its proper shape as a bonsai tree, it is usually necessary to remove the foliage from the lower part of the trunk. As the plant puts out new growth, clip the tips of the shoots. When youíre making the cuts, leave two or more sets of leaf pairs on each of the shoots.
Jade bonsai are mostly grown from cuttings. You can also buy a young plant and get the same result if you prefer.
Jade bonsai will usually require repotting every couple years. Most often, this is done during the spring and summer months when the plant is actively growing. However, if necessary this could be done at other times of the year. As you repot, it is okay to prune the roots back a little. However, it is best to not overdo this. Often, succulent bonsai donít require quite as much root pruning as other species. Allow the plant to rest for several weeks before you resume a regular watering schedule.
Jade bonsai can be fertilized around once a month on a regular basis during the growing season. Do not fertilize during the winter at all. An ordinary, soluble, all-purpose indoor fertilizer will work just fine. There are also special ones sold for bonsai that you can use.
When repotting, you can use a regular bonsai potting mix for jade. Or, you can mix your own. If you decide to go that route, use a combination of one part sterilized loam, two parts sharp sand, and two parts peat.
The watering schedule really depends upon the temperature. Plants in warm rooms or ones kept outdoors during the summer will need more watering than others. Typically, indoor jade bonsai can go for several weeks without water. When you water, add enough to thoroughly moisten the soil. Then, allow the top of the soil to become dry before watering again. During the winter, reduce watering. At that time, add just enough to keep the soil from becoming completely dry.
Throughout the year, indoor jade bonsai will need bright light. When placing these outdoors during the growing season, choose a partially shaded spot. During its winter rest, the temperature can fall to 46 or 47 degrees Fahrenheit without harming the plant.
Jade plant can be trained to various bonsai styles. These include leaning, informal upright, and spherical.