In the Garden

Michael Miyashiro

Jade plants make excellent bonsai specimen.

Succulent bonsai

Succulents have long been an easily grown plant for the beginner. They're low maintenance, require minimal water, and adapt well to most environments. Now couple that with keeping and culturing these plants in bonsai fashion.

Most succulents lend themselves well to cultivation in poor soils and dry climates. Imagine if you were to spruce their containers into fancy small bonsai pots. There you have it, "Instant Bonsai!" With minimal pruning and shaping you'll soon end up with a fine specimen.

Some key points when growing the bonsai succulent:

>> Keep the plants stressed by not watering as often, and almost never fertilizing them.

>> Use containers which have a small shallow growing area to keep soil at a minimum.

>> Use soils high in inorganic materials (such as coarse sand, cinders, or gravel) and sparingly use anything with compost or potting mixes.

>> Allow your plant to grow in as much light as you can afford. The lack of light will help keep them stunted and prevent stretching.

The easiest plant to begin your bonsai succulent with is the jade plant (Crassula sp.) or the lesser small leaf jade (Portulaca afra). These may be purchased from your local plant sale or nursery and some unusual forms may also be found. These include the variegated forms, some unusual leafed forms and some with more color than green.

The jade is also a popular plant as Feng Shui subjects and lend its character to impart as a prosperity plant for the home or office. They can also be brought indoors for table decorations for that special dinner table decor.

Growing in miniature also has its advantages. A large collection of plants may be kept out on the lanai on a small coffee table or edging a walk way or deck. Small bonsai pots may be purchased with minimal investment and trimmings from older plants may be used to start new ones that can eventually be given as gifts.

Be on the look out at plant sales for succulents that are stunted or have miniaturized themselves in their pots due to lack of fertilizers or space. These instant bonsai plants may appear like a stunted dwarf, but transform into show plants once transplanted into a bonsai pot!

Aside from the jade plant, many leafy succulents and plants that form a swollen base also make interesting bonsai subjects. Euphorbias, Haworthias, Ficus -- to name a few -- and even Adeniums, the Desert Rose, make charming bonsai subjects that require minimal maintenance.

Now you can keep an exquisite collection of succulent bonsai and still keep your free time for golfing, eating out and going to the movies!

Rainforest at the Ward Warehouse will host a demonstration on how to create succulent bonsais at 9 a.m.Oct. 18.

Michael Miyashiro, owner of Rainforest at Ward Warehouse, is a plant connoisseur and graduate of the University of Hawaii horticulture program. Contact him at 591-9999 or e-mail

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