Desert rose makes a popular choice for bonsai, and it’s no surprise. They are a species native to the arid regions of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, known for their encapsulating appearance. Large, trumpet-shaped flowers pop out in spring and summer, complemented by a thick and succulent stem. These trees are pretty easy to grow and maintain, making them a good choice for beginners and anyone with some experience. So, let’s go over desert rose bonsai care.
In this article, I’ll provide you with all the information you’ll need to know to properly care for your desert rose bonsai, from watering and pruning to repotting. This should help you provide a long and prosperous life for your desert rose bonsai, and who knows – maybe you’ll have a specimen tree in your collection one day!
Let’s start off with the basics. Watering is the most important thing to get down correctly – without it, your bonsai tree is going to suffer significantly and won’t be able to produce any energy for itself.
As you may notice, desert rose bonsai has a thick and succulent stem which can store water better than most other trees. Due to this, they’re going to require less water than other trees, but it’s still wise to water them at least once every week in the growing season.
Watering your tree too often will result in root rot, which can be fatal to your tree. An abundance of water will starve the oxygen of roots, so it’s vital that we prevent this. Let the soil dry out a bit before watering – I like to poke my finger an inch deep into the soil to check for moisture.
Though, it’s essential that you never let the soil of your trees completely dry out. Otherwise, this can kill your tree quite quickly! Trust me – I’ve had this happen to me a few times. I don’t recommend sticking to a schedule when watering either, as the water demand of your tree will constantly change. You’ll find that in winter, the water demand of your trees should start to slow down as they move into dormancy, then increase rapidly again in summer when lots of luscious growth is being put on.
Soil is an important factor when watering your bonsai too. It’s good to use well-draining soil in a pot with good drainage holes – this will help to prevent root rot from occurring and ensure adequate oxygen gets to the roots of your trees. Make sure to water the tree thoroughly, don’t give them little drops!
Learn more How Often You Should Water Your Bonsai Tree.
Feeding your trees is very important – I can’t stress it enough. Imagine being in a tight pot all of your life, and no one feeds you! Regular fertilization will promote healthy growth and flowering for your desert rose bonsai.
In the growing season, you should apply a balanced fertilizer every 2-3 weeks, reducing this to about once a month as the tree moves into dormancy. I would recommend using a fertilizer specialized for succulents, as some regular feeds can be too high in nitrogen, causing leaves to drop off or yellow.
Although many beginners are eager to get their hands on the roots of a bonsai they just bought, this is typically a terrible idea. Plants and trees have specific times when they like to be repotted, and this is typically just before they’re about to wake up in spring. This same thing applies to desert rose bonsai.
Desert rose bonsai should be repotted about every 2-3 years, though this will depend on the pot size and how vigorous the growth is. As the tree gets older, it’ll likely need repotting less frequently. Repotting will allow the roots to have new soil to grow into, refreshing it.
When repotting, make sure that you choose a pot that’s slightly bigger than the last one with adequate drainage holes. This gives the tree plenty of space to grow, ensuring that it doesn’t get root-bound again within a matter of months or a year. Carefully remove the plant from its old pot, gently loosening the roots and removing any damaged or dead ones.
After this, you can place the tree in its new pot, filling in any gaps with your desired soil mix and pushing the soil down to ensure no air pockets remain. After repotting, the tree should then be watered thoroughly and placed in a location that gets bright yet indirect light.
Did you know that pruning is good for your tree’s health? I didn’t think this at first either, but it helps to encourage new growth and ensures the light can get to all the spots in your tree, preventing any dead branches from occurring. Regular pruning will stimulate bushy growth and prevent your desert rose bonsai from becoming too leggy, which should help to promote flowering.
How to prune a Desert rose bonsai? The answer is simple!
Desert rose bonsai should be pruned in early spring, just before the growing season starts. It would be best if you were using sterile and sharp prunes to remove damaged, diseased or dead branches. This will also help to make clean cuts, ensuring the health of your desert rose bonsai. Any branches that are growing in the wrong direction, such as downwards, should be removed, as should any that are crossing over other branches.
If you want to encourage bushier growth on your bonsai, then you can cut back the tips of the branches regularly, helping to encourage the production of lateral buds to create a more compact and complete shape.
Pests and Disease
Compared to other species, desert rose bonsai have somewhat of a resistance to pests and diseases, but common pests such as scale insects, mealybugs and spider mites can be a bit of an issue. Regularly inspecting your trees will help you to stop any infestations early and treat your trees for any diseases that may manifest.
With pest infestations, you should quarantine the affected plant and spray it with an insecticide, though I like using an alternative such as neem oil. It works amazingly, it’s cheap, and it won’t harm the environment. Fungal diseases can also be a problem, such as root rot, powdery mildew and leaf spot – commonly caused by poor air circulation or overwatering.
To prevent fungal diseases, you should ensure that your desert rose bonsai is in a well-draining soil mix such as akadama and pumice and has good air circulation. Try not to get water on the foliage too much; otherwise, this could promote conditions ideal for fungal growth. The yellowing or browning of leaves or a white powdery substance on the foliage is an indicator of fungal growth, so consider treating the plant with a fungicide.
Compared to other species, desert rose bonsai are relatively easy and straightforward to care for compared to other trees. As long as you follow the advice above, you can make sure that your desert rose plant has a long and healthy life. The tree should be watered infrequently, fertilized regularly, pruned for bushy growth, repotted around every 2-3 years and checked for pests and diseases.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How much sun does a desert rose bonsai need?
Ideally, desert rose bonsai should be grown in bright, direct light. South-facing positions are usually the best for these, and you should ensure that temperatures aren’t dropping below 4C (40F); otherwise, this could cause problems for the desert rose.
Do desert rose need big pots?
I think this depends on what stage you are at with the development of the tree. I recommend planting it in a big pot if it’s still young. This gives it plenty of room to grow and push out lots of growth, helping it develop faster and thicken that trunk up much quicker. However, if you’ve been developing it for quite a few years now and believe it’s ready to be put into a bonsai pot, then go for it! Be careful with how much you reduce the roots, though – you should first transition it into a training pot before making the full move to a bonsai pot if the root mass is quite large.
How big does a desert rose bonsai get?
The small succulent tree only grows to about 8 inches tall in the wild, forming quite a thick and bulbous trunk. Therefore, this bonsai tree likely isn’t suitable if you want a massive and tall tree – why not opt for another species, such as a maple?
Why did all the leaves fall off my desert rose?
If you find that all of the leaves have fallen off your desert rose bonsai, it might be due to the fact that it wasn’t watered sufficiently. If the soil completely dries out, you might find that the leaves may begin to brown or yellow, indicating that the tree is beginning to suffer and may die soon. Water the tree thoroughly.