Far and away the most popular flowering bonsai tree is the Japanese cherry blossom (Prunus serrulata). In the springtime, these beloved trees reward their patient caretakers with a brief picturesque display of delicate white and pink blooms. Beyond being simply lovely, cherry blossoms are deeply significant to Japanese culture.
Want to grow a cherry blossom bonsai but not sure where to start? This FAQ and guide will tell you everything you need to know. Let’s get started!
Why Is the Cherry Blossom Special in Japan?
Cherry blossoms, known in Japan as sakura (桜), hold deep ties to the nation’s culture and values. Years ago, Japanese farmers used the blooming of the sakura flowers to know when to plant their rice crops in the spring. Hanami, the tradition of viewing (and celebrating) the trees’ brief showcase, began in the Japanese imperial court around 1,000 years ago, eventually spreading to the general population.
The sakura blossoms symbolize the divine nature of life: beautiful to behold but fleeting. Impermanence—a key tenant of the Japanese philosophy of wabi sabi—is perfectly represented by the cherry blossom tree, lending to its deep significance within the culture.
When Do Cherry Blossom Bonsai Trees Bloom?
In Japan, most hanami festivals occur during a brief blooming period from mid-March to early May. In your home, cherry blossoms usually bloom in March or April, depending on where you live. Enjoy it. This brief display lasts only a few weeks but is a stunning reward for a year of your labor of love.
Cherry Blossom Bonsai Care for Beginners!
Cherry blossom bonsai love to soak up the sun during the growing season. From early spring to late summer, place your bonsai somewhere it can receive full sunlight in the morning and afternoon.
These beautiful trees need a “winter season”—a three-month period of cool conditions. Depending on where you live, you’ll want to place your bonsai in an unheated garage or possibly bury and mulch it (but not if it gets below freezing!).
Watering Your Cherry Blossom Bonsai
Cherry blossom bonsai don’t like to dry out between waterings. That’s because your tree enjoys full sun and will quickly wither when it gets thirsty. Check your soil moisture frequently, and water as soon as the soil looks dry (a soil moisture meter can help!). At bath time, douse until water starts to leach out the bottom of the pot.
In the Pot Soil & Container
Use a specialty bonsai potting soil, and keep your tree in a shallow container that keeps it slightly root bound. Fertilize monthly during the growing season if using conventional liquid or pellet fertilizer. We recommend using a urea-free liquid solution every time you water for a continuous, gentle dose of essential nutrients. Repot once every two to three years once the tree is mature—late winter is a good time, when flowering is done.
Pruning and Wiring
Pruning and wiring help guide the growth of your beautiful blooming tree. These techniques can be less easy with cherry blossom bonsai than other species, but are still accessible for growers of any skill level. As a rule of thumb, do the majority of your pruning and all wiring in the spring. But skip pruning if you want your tree to bloom that year.
Community Cherry Blossom Bonsai FAQS
Can Cherry Blossom Trees Grow Indoors?
Cherry blossom bonsai need lots of sunlight during the growing season, and will struggle indoors during this period. Depending on the conditions in your home, your bonsai may survive, but is unlikely to flower. The only time a cherry blossom bonsai should be indoors is during winter dormancy; and even then, it’s better placed in a garage than, say, your home office.
Where to Buy Cherry Blossom Bonsai?
The best place to buy a cherry blossom bonsai tree is from your local nursery or bonsai grower. While you can “bonsai” a cherry blossom sapling, or grow one from seed and cuttings, it’s much more painstaking and time-consuming. We recommend mastering cherry blossom bonsai care with an established tree before trying your hand at these approaches.
Can You Grow a Cherry Blossom From a Cutting?
Yes! Propagation, or cutting, is using a small piece of a tree to grow another tree. This saves you time because new roots sprout from the branch or twig, as opposed to waiting for a sapling to grow from a seed.
Cherry Blossom From Cutting Best Tips
- Choose a healthy cherry blossom bonsai that is still growing, without any visible health conditions or known deficiencies.
- Trim a healthy stem or small branch that is visually appealing and vigorous.
- Cut the limb on the diagonal with sharp shears to maximize surface area for new roots to sprout.
- Place in water immediately and let soak until the cutting begins to grow noticeable roots.
- When the roots are a few inches long, plant in soil and keep moist (but not waterlogged!).
Can You Grow a Bonsai From Cherry Blossom Seeds?
Another yes! Cherry blossom seeds are a rewarding way to grow a bonsai, but only if you’ve got plenty of time and patience. It can take up to a decade for a cherry blossom seed to grow into a flowering bonsai, so in the meantime, consider honing in your skills with an established nursery tree. Ready for the challenge? Here’s the step-by-step process.
Grow Bonsai From Cherry Blossom Seeds
- Not all seeds will be viable or survive to maturity, so start with a number of more seeds than the amount of bonsai you would like to grow.
- Place the cherry blossom seeds in water to determine if they’re viable: seeds that float will not germinate, so only plant the seeds that sink to the bottom.
- Before germinating, soak in a 10% hydrogen peroxide solution for 10 minutes. This prevents mold from forming on the damp seeds.
- To germinate: place in a shallow pot filled with seed sowing mix. (This is usually peat, but follow the instructions on the seed package.)
- Place on top of the soil with a few centimeters between cherry blossom seeds.
- Keep the soil completely moist and in full sun.
- Alternatively, you can wrap your cherry blossom seeds in a moist paper towel and keep them in a Ziploc bag in the crisper section of your fridge. Check weekly, changing the paper as needed. They should sprout in a few weeks to two months.
- Once the seeds “open up,” they can be transplanted to a small, shallow container. Keep out of extreme temps and in moist soil and your tree will grow healthy and strong…well, eventually!
What’s your favorite part about growing a cherry blossom bonsai? Share the love in the comments below!
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