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How Do I Care for a Gardenia Bonsai?

By L. Whitaker
Updated May 16, 2024
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Caring for a gardenia bonsai requires regular maintenance. Appropriate care for a bonsai plant necessitates careful wiring of branches in addition to sufficient watering, fertilizing, and repotting of the plant. It is a good idea to use a species of gardenia that will adapt well to becoming a bonsai plant.

When wiring a gardenia bonsai, use a type of wire specially designed for bonsais or any wire that is coated with paper. Wrap the wire from the tree's base upward and onto the current branch to be trained. The wire should not be wrapped very tightly, or scars will result. Wiring is allowed to stay in place up to six months as needed to train specific branches. Avoid wiring a recently repotted gardenia bonsai.

Water the gardenia bonsai about every two days, or whenever the top layer of soil seems dry. Use warm water and make sure the soil is kept moist. One technique is to set the container in a sink containing up to 2 inches (5 cm) of warm water, allowing the water to be absorbed upward through the container's drain holes.

About every other week give the gardenia bonsai a half-strength fertilizer that is made for plants that prefer acidic conditions. Be sure to give fertilizer after watering to avoid washing nutrients away. Do not provide fertilizer while the gardenia is blooming or when the plant has just been repotted. The gardenia should be fertilized about half as often in the wintertime. Chelated iron can also be provided up to three times annually.

The gardenia should be repotted every year or so after it blooms. An ideal pH of the potting soil will be 5.0 to 6.5. Take care not to remove more than 10 percent of the delicate roots.

Some species of gardenia are more appropriate for use as a gardenia bonsai. A dwarf species called gardenia radicans has small leaves and flowers that span approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm). Other types that would work well as a gardenia bonsai include gardenia thunbergia and gardenia jasminoides.

The word bonsai, which means "tray gardening" in Japanese, refers to the practice of maintaining and shaping a container plant to give the illusion that it is a dwarfed and aged aesthetic specimen of a much larger tree. Careful and regular care of a bonsai tree can result in unusually long life as compared to non-bonsai specimens of the same species. In addition to the gardenia bonsai, the most common type of bonsai plants in Japan include azalea, plum, camellia, bamboo, maple, and pine.

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Discussion Comments
By Rundocuri — On Jan 13, 2015

@raynbow- I think you have a good point. I have tried to bonsai flowering plants before, and the effects never seem to last long for me. The branches either break, or the ends of them get long and straggly, yet are too delicate to wrap around wires.

If you really want a good bonsai subject, I suggest you choose a tree instead of a plant like a gardenia.

By Raynbow — On Jan 12, 2015

Does anyone know if gardenias are difficult to turn into bonsai projects? I always assumed that trees were easier to bonsai than plants because the stems and branches are sturdier.

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