Imagine having a miniature apple tree that bears mini apple fruits growing on top of your office table! Place this on your coffee table and you have an interesting piece to show to friends and guests as they come by. An apple bonsai tree is truly a remarkable tree. It looks and grows like a regular apple tree and of course, it grows flowers and bears real miniaturized apples.
An apple tree is perfect as a bonsai because of its dense form, numerous green leaves, and lovely flowers. Enjoy beautiful and fragrant pink and white flowers during the summer time and when these flowers wither, green fruits will grow. This fruit-bearing bonsai tree can be grown indoors and outdoors and this tutorial will show you how.
The Apple bonsai tree, also known as the Pitch Apple or Monkey Apple tree is native to tropical regions in America. It grows into various bonsai styles with dark green leaves and aerial roots, and grows white and pink flowers in the summertime. After the flowers drop off, it grows small, coin-sized miniature apple fruits.
Having your own miniature apple bonsai tree is a fun way to grow tiny little apples right on your desk at work or on your patio at home. Apple bonsais are one of several types of fruit bearing bonsai trees. It makes a great conversation piece or a cute decoration for your home or office.
|Scientific/Botanical Name||Clusia rosea|
|Description||The tree is indigenous to the American tropics. It has a dense form, with plenty of deep-green leaves. Pendent pink and white blooms adorn the tree over the summer months. These give way to green fruits. The aerial roots of the tree are particularly bonsai-friendly|
|Position||Situate the tree in a sunny location indoors. The apple bonsai can be grown outdoors in full sun or semi-shade in USDA zones 11 and 12, but roots must be mulched heavily to protect the tree from cold temperatures.|
|Watering||Water the tree daily to keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged. Water requirements increase when the tree is in fruit.|
|Feeding||Feed the tree twice a month with a bonsai fertilizer, but do not feed when it is in fruit.|
|Leaf and Branch Pruning||Remove leaves as needed to allow light and air to reach all parts of the tree. Prune branches to shape the tree in springtime, before leaves emerge.|
|Re-potting & Growing Medium||When grown in a container, re-potting is usually necessary every three to four years or when roots are pot-bound and watering becomes difficult. Re-pot either in early to mid-spring or early fall, using a bonsai soil mix that contains akadama.|
|Wiring||Carry out shaping in the spring, before the emergence of new leaves and buds. The tree limbs should be slightly dry before wiring because they are more flexible at that point.|
|Notes||Pitch apple bonsai tree is commonly known as autograph tree. It got this name because a leaf will retain the trace of a name or word that is carved out onto its surface. |
What you need to follow this tutorial
- An apple bonsai tree
- You may use an already potted and growing apple bonsai tree which may be available in local nurseries and also from online bonsai retailers. Most growers prefer to use an already live tree because they can’t wait to see the apple tree’s lovely flowers and green fruits.
- Apple bonsai seeds
- You can use apple seeds from the store –bought apples but once these grow, these may not develop into the fruit that you are used to seeing and eating. Yes, growing from seeds is possible and you can purchase seeds from seeds shops or simply use the ones you have from grocery store bought fruit.
- Bonsai Pot
- You can use a variety of bonsai pots to grow apple bonsai trees. You can stay true to Japanese bonsai tradition and use jade pots but otherwise, any kind of pot would do. Just make sure that these have adequate drainage holes to prevent water lock and root rot.
- Balanced fertilizer
- Apple trees need a balanced and organic fertilizer. You may purchase fertilizer that is best suited for apple trees from garden shops or you can order online. Follow the instructions indicated in the packaging to get the best results.
- Sharp scissors
- You need a sharp pair of scissors to prune apple bonsai trees. You also need a pair to prune the roots of your plants if necessary.
- You need a pair of pliers to cut wires and to remove wires once they have served their purpose.
- Wire for wiring
- You can choose from aluminum wires or annealed copper wires to wire bonsai. Apple trees need to be wired early to control its growth and shape. This is done by using aluminum wires.
- Clean water
- You must have a good supply of clean water for your apple bonsai trees. You may use tap water or rain water provided this is clean and won’t be toxic to your bonsai tree.
- Use aggregates like Akadama, decomposed granite, diatomite, pumic, sand with coarse grains and turface. These materials will improve soil drainage and aeration.
- Growing soil for bonsai
- Apple trees need soil that contains Akadama to improve drainage and aeration. You can purchase this soil mix from bonsai nurseries and garden supplies shop locally or from online garden supplies sites.
How Do You Maintain An Apple Bonsai Tree?
The Apple Bonsai needs a sunny area and it can be grown indoors or outdoors. If you grow it outdoors it is resistant to the cold, but you must protect the roots, so it can’t be planted in shallow bonsai type pots or trays. It should be planted into a soil made up of five parts peat, three parts argillaceous rocks, and two parts of granulate clay or sand. It grows best in the USDA growing zones of 11 and 12.
It should be watered every day, especially during the fruit bearing stage so the fruit won’t shrivel up. Be careful of it getting vine mildew, however. While it is in the fruit bearing stage you shouldn’t fertilize it or the fruit won’t grow well. The fruit, abet small, is edible just like a larger apple tree and if you take care of it correctly, it should grow for several years and produce fruit.
The apple bonsai tree needs a general purpose type of fertilizer. You can also fertilize it with a dilute form of manure tea once a week in the spring and fall, except while the fruit it growing. Maintaining your apple bonsai tree will ensure that you get the beautiful, fragrant and stylish creation that you desire.
Proper Care For Apple Bonsai Trees Means Patience
If you desire your apple bonsai tree to grow properly and produce delicious little apples, you do need to have a great deal of patience. They are grown and molded just like growing any other kinds of bonsai trees, which means you can train it to grow into different shapes and directions. You can even twist the trunk and make it look like a wild grown apple tree if you like that style, or grow it upwards, sideways or other directions.
It is, however, considered to be a very sturdy type of bonsai tree as long as you take care of its roots in cold weather and keep it properly pruned and maintained. It is a very impressive and fascinating little tree to own. You can even scratch your name into one of the leaves of an apple bonsai and the impression will stay there!
Step by step instructions
1) Understand fast facts about Apple bonsai trees
To care for apple bonsai trees, you must understand its basic needs. This tree is one of the loveliest when it blooms and also the most interesting when it bears fruit. Study the growth requirements, developmental stages and the care of regular apple trees and you will be acquainted with the care of apple bonsai trees.
An apple tree is indigenous to the American tropics. It has a dense form with numerous deep-green leaves. During the summer months, an apple tree will grow pink and white flowers and these flowers will last throughout the summertime. After the blooms die, green fruits will emerge. And aside from its flowers and fruits, another thing remarkable about an apple tree is its aerial roots. You can style your apple tree bonsai to show off its majestic aerial roots in a display.
A bonsai apple tree should be grown in a sunny location indoors. This could be near a window sill or on a balcony where it can have shade during the hottest time of the day. It can also be grown outdoors in full sun or in semi-shade in USDA zones 11 and 12. When grown in cold temperatures, the roots should be mulched to protect the tree from extreme temperatures.
- An apple bonsai tree needs to be watered daily to keep the soil moist.
- The soil should never be waterlogged
- Increase watering when the tree begins to bear fruits.
- Water only when the soil is dry but not too dry.
- Water using water from the safe and clean source.
- Use appropriately balanced fertilizer ideally for apple trees.
- Feeding should be done at least twice a month
- Do not apply fertilizer when the tree is bearing fruit.
- Always follow the fertilizer manufacturer’s instructions on how to feed your bonsai.
Leaf and branch pruning
- Remove leaves as needed to allow light and air to circulate in and around the tree
- The leaves can grow very thick so pruning has to be done accordingly.
- Best to prune during springtime because this is the time before the leaves emerge.
- Prune using sterile or clean pruning shears to avoid transfer or mold or disease
- Re-potting & growing medium
- Re-pot apple bonsai trees every three to four years.
- Re-pot when watering becomes difficult, this could indicate root bound.
- Re-pot during early to mid-spring or early fall.
- Re-pot in a larger container each time.
- Use potting soil that contains Akadama to improve soil aeration and drainage.
Wiring an apple bonsai tree
- Shape your trees in the spring before new leaves and buds.
- Tree limbs should be slightly dry before applying wires
- Remove wires at the same season these were applied to prevent injuring your tree.
Pitch apple trees are also known as “autograph” trees. This has earned its name from the plant’s ability to retain any mark carved on its leaves’ surface. You can carve your name on the leaves of this tree and it will remain there until the leaves wilt.
2) Distinguishing apple bonsai trees from other bonsais
Apple bonsai trees can be easily distinguished from other bonsai trees because of its unique dark green leaves which grow thick. These leaves are perfect for creating plumes of leaves for a variety of bonsai styles.
The white and pink flowers of this tree also distinguish it from other bonsai trees. And as these bear green fruits, these become more unique than other trees. This is an exciting fruit-bearing tree to grow and cultivate. You will surely love to have one compared to other indoor or outdoor bonsai trees.
3) Purchasing apple bonsai trees
You can purchase apple bonsai trees from online bonsai sites and from bonsai nurseries locally and online. It is not too hard to find one however you must understand some important facts if you wish to purchase an apple bonsai tree:
- Once it arrives, it has to be planted within 24 to 48 hours of getting it.
- Usually, apple bonsai trees arrive or are taken home with paper wrapped around its roots, remove this immediately when the bonsai arrives home.
- After removing the paper, soak the roots in warm water overnight.
- Look for reputable grower or retailer that gives 100% guarantee on the plant’s health
Another way to go about it is to use apple trees from your backyard or neighborhood. If you are blessed with apple trees growing nearby then you can use grafts from these trees to grow your apple bonsai tree.
4) Growing apple bonsai trees from seeds and cuttings
You will be able to grow an apple from seeds but once these trees bear fruit, the appearance and the taste won’t be the same as the apples that are you are used to eating from the store. For instance, if you plant Granny Smith apple seeds you may not end up with a Granny Smith apple tree at all.
Another thing to consider is that apple trees must be planted in pairs to bear fruit. This is because apple trees are not self-pollinating. They need a different kind of apple tree to pollinate with. Therefore you may use seeds of an apple you are eating plus the seeds of another type of apple.
The tree that the apple tree that you will be able to grow from seeds will not have any dwarfing characteristics so this will grow to its full height of about 30 feet. Pruning, cutting, and shaping must be done early to accommodate the fast growth of an apple tree. Your tree won’t grow fruits until these reach 8 to 10 years of age.
Here are steps on how to plant apple trees
- Collect the seeds from the two kinds of apple trees.
- Place the seeds in a dry paper towel and let these dry until there is no moisture on the outside shell of the seeds.
- Wet another paper towel and let it dry till its damp. Cover your seeds with this damp paper towel
- Place these in a sealable plastic bag or inside a Tupperware container. Cover or seal it.
- Place the seeds in the fridge. Apple seeds need to be exposed to cold to stimulate winter time. This is the period when the seeds begin to grow roots and sprout.
- Keep the seeds inside the fridge for 70 to 80 days in a temperature of around 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
- If possible do this when it is actually wintering to align the seed growth with the actual seasons.
- Check the container regularly and make sure that the paper towels are damp.
After the allotted time, the seeds may now be removed from the fridge. But before you do remove this, prepare your pot and soil. Your seeds should be planted outside in a prepared seedbed or in a pot. Use a good potting mix with Akadama. The ideal soil has neutral pH level. Do not place fertilizer yet because this is not needed at this time.
- Place the seeds in the middle of the soil and cover these.
- Pat down the soil to compress it.
- Water this immediately to let the soil settle around the seed. The soil should stay moist.
- Keep the pot at room temperature or in an environment higher than room temperature. An area near the window sill would be a good place.
- Seedlings will grow after several weeks of planting. Keep watering your seeds daily.
Growing apple bonsai trees from cuttings
Another way to grow an apple tree is to grow these using cuttings. You will harvest your cutting from a healthy apple tree and care for it to become young trees. After the cutting has become stronger then you may now grow this in individual pots.
- Select a healthy apple tree to get your cuttings from.
- Use a clean or sterile cutter to harvest the cuttings. Create a diagonal cut to harvest your cutting.
- Place the cutting in the water right after harvest. This will prevent air from entering the stems.
- Allow the cuttings to develop roots as these remain in the water. You may also use a grafting technique to grow good roots.
- When the roots have grown thicker and healthier, you may now transfer this in individual pots.
- Water the cuttings daily and keep the roots moist.
5) Caring for an apple bonsai tree
Apple bonsai trees need extra TLC to keep the tree healthy, strong and ready for pruning. It requires a sunny location indoors so it’s best to grow and care for it near a window sill. Water your bonsai trees regularly but don’t water when the soil in the pot is damp. Fertile with balanced nutrients and feed the tree at least twice a month. It’s important to understand how to care for regular apple trees to be able to provide the best care for your tree.
6) Soil and re-potting an apple bonsai tree
Apple trees can grow fast but it could take a decade before these grow fruits. You must re-pot every three to four years but this is not always the case. When you notice that your trees are not drinking well and is not responding to feeding then suspect root bound. When these happen, re-pot the tree immediately. Re-pot from early to mid-spring or early fall to provide fresh nutrients to the soil.
Use a larger container each time you re-pot. This will help the pot accommodate new roots. And when it comes to the type of soil to use, use only soil with Akadama. This is an aggregate material that can improve the aeration and drainage properties of your potting soil.
7) Watering an apple bonsai tree
You must water your trees daily to keep the soil moist. The soil should never be waterlogged therefore you must water again when the soil is dry. During the fruit-bearing season, increase your watering. Always use clean water to water your plants. If you are in doubt about the quality of your tap water or rainwater then have these tested.
8) Pruning and shaping an apple bonsai tree
Apple trees could grow thick tufts of leaves, therefore, it’s important to regularly prune it. Remove leaves as needed to let light and air to circulate in the tree. Improving air circulation can help improve the overall shape of the tree as well. The best time to prune is during springtime when the leaves emerge. This way you can see clearly the details of each tree. You must prune the leaves and stems using a clean or sterile pruning shears or scissors to prevent the transfer of diseases or molds.
The type of wire to use for wiring
There are two kinds of wires to wire bonsai trees. There are anodized aluminum and annealed copper wires. Anodized aluminum is the ideal wire for deciduous trees that have harder and stronger trunks and therefore will work great on young trees. Annealed copper wires are for trees with harder trunks like conifers and pine trees. Wires are available in a variety of thicknesses like 1 mm to 4 mm wires.
Anodized aluminum wires are for people who are growing bonsai for the first time because these are easier to handle and may be purchased from any local hardware store. Wires may cause injury to bonsai branches so you must always be careful.
The most common material used to protect branches is raffia is usually used to avoid injuries in trees when wiring. Raffia is material made from palm fiber that you can get from garden stores. Raffia should be soaked in water and wrapped around the tips of the branch or bark where the wires would go. Raffia will protect branches from damage due to wiring.
How to wire a bonsai
- Choose the kind and thickness of the wire for your apple bonsai tree.
- Measure the length of wire appropriate for a branch and cut it using a pair of pliers.
- Take one end of the wire and wrap this around the branch. Wrap the wire in a45 degree angle.
- Wrap the extent of the branch with wire and do this neatly.
- After wiring the branch, cut the excess with the use of pliers.
- Position the branches and gently bend these accordingly.
- Bring down branches that are too high by using a guy wire. Wrap moist raffia around the branch and place a hook at the end. Tie a wire on the hook and secure it to a strong root. This will lower the high branch eventually.
- If you want to lift a branch that is too low use a guy wire to raise it. Take the end of this branch and wrap raffia around it, place the hook and a guy wire on the hook. Attach the end of the wire to anything above the bonsai plant.
- Remove the wire after it has served its purpose.
When to start wiring
Start wiring an apple bonsai tree as soon it has developed a definite trunk and branches. Attach the wires to the branches carefully because it can injure mature barks and trunks. Place wires on apple trees during the growing season or as the branches become thicker. Wire when the plant is moderately-hydrated. Remember to remove the wire when it is due. If you don’t do this then you will risk injuring your bonsai apple tree.
Check your trees post-wiring. See that it is growing new leaves and stems. Your bonsai should be drinking well and responding to fertilizer feedings. Remove the wires by cutting it piece by piece to make removal easier and to prevent injury to your tree.
Bonsai shapes for apple trees
Wiring and pruning will shape and style apple bonsai trees. There are a number of bonsai styles that you can use to shape an apple bonsai tree.
Shakan Bonsai Style
The Shakan bonsai style is a style that can be used on apple trees. This is a slanted bonsai tree style that depicts a slanted tree in its natural environment. The trunk emerges from the soil in a slanted manner as the rest of the tree is grows in an outward way. The trunk is in a 60-80 degree angle for that slanted appearance. You can create a slanted bonsai tree design by wiring, applying lighting and tilting the pot.
Shari Bonsai Style
In the shari bonsai style, the bark is shaved to prevent new growth from appearing. Known as the stair effect, the branches may be long or short. The overall design is achieved with wiring and pruning. The crown leaves at the top of the tree gives the tree a balanced appearance. A barkless area along the trunk is also present and this is mostly due to harsh weather conditions.
Seki-joju or Rocky Terrain
The Seki-joju or Rocky Terrain style shows off the tree’s aerial roots. It is all about growing bonsai roots through natural obstacles like a jagged or smooth rock. The Seki-joju happens in nature when the roots of trees grow underneath and near the sides of rocks. Tree roots are very versatile. These will crawl around, along with the sides and even underneath rocks. The rest of the tree will grow in a straight manner no matter what obstacles are placed along its path. The Rocky Terrain bonsai style is for bonsai that have healthy and well-presented roots.
The Literati design has a skinny trunk and curved leaves that would be a good design for thick apple tree leaves. Bonsai growers say that this style is all about the struggle for even the smallest and simplest life form to exist in nature. In the literati style, a few bald spots along the trunk are seen and these represent dead branches common in regular trees. This bonsai style is common when trees grow in densely populated areas like forests and woodland areas.
The Dramatic Fukinagashi style is also called a windswept style because it is like a head of hair in a storm. An apple bonsai tree can be shaped into this style when it undergoes shaping and training. In the Fukinagashi style, the branches and the trunk will grow to one side. You need wires to position the trunk and minimal but regular pruning to develop that windswept design.
The Han-kengai bonsai style is similar to a cascading effect. The section of the trunk grows in a straight manner as a branch grows outward and downward. A small part of the trunk grows along the section where the thick branches are located. The branches will grow in different directions and create low-lying leaves. This bonsai style should be planted in a deep pot to preserve this design.
9) How to prevent pests and diseases
Once it starts to grow, you need to protect your apple bonsai tree from any possible diseases or pests like web worm, mites, aphids, tent caterpillar, blight, or a scab infection. Most of the time you can keep these dangers away from your tree by either taking the bugs or other pests off by hand or if you prefer, you can treat the tree with insecticides.
You can use either a systemic insecticide that you pore next to the roots and the tree takes it in through its roots, or you can spray the tree so that if the bugs or pests try to chew on it they ingest the poison and die. You can use green or natural bug killers so as not to endanger other animals or plants if desired.
The major insects and pests that can affect apple bonsai trees are apple maggot flies, plum curculio, and codling moths. Apple maggot flies usually lay eggs in developing apple fruits during June or July. Once these eggs hatch, the larvae then will burrow into apples. You can hang sticky traps in the tree near the fruit to catch flies.
Plum curculio is a ¼ – inch long beetle that burrows through apples and this will leave a crescent-shaped scar. You can kill these beetles by spraying with phosmet right after the petals fall and then spray again 10 days after. You must also rake away dropped fruit to reduce infestation.
Codling moths are insects that hatch within days and the larvae burrow into the apples to eat the apples and grow into mature moths. You can remove codling moths by spraying with Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki during the evening 15 days after the petals drop. Repeat the spray five days later.
To completely protect apple bonsai trees you can use an organic insecticidal spray to remove pests out of sight. If you grow your tree outdoors, you must remove any falling leaves and detritus from around the base of the tree.
Prune apple trees every winter before new growth emerges. Cut any crossing branches, water sprouts, and any thick areas. Reduce thick leaves to open the tree to sunlight and air to provide adequate aeration. This will also reduce fungal diseases and will eradicate habitat of insects.
Where To Buy Apple Bonsai Trees
It’s not hard to find a place to buy an apple bonsai tree. You can usually find it in either a mail in catalogue or online at several Internet sites. If you get your apple bonsai tree in the mail, it is sometimes shipped with bare roots, so please be aware of this fact.
If it comes this way, it must be planted within 24 to 48 hours of getting it. When it arrives, you need to take any paper off the roots, and then soak the roots in warm water overnight. Be sure you order your tree from a company that gives a 100 percent guarantee that it is healthy and ready for planting.
Occasionally, depending on where you live, you may be able to find an apple bonsai tree for sale at a plant nursery or garden center. Be sure you look it over and make sure it is healthy, not cracked or broken, or dried up. When you take it home, you may need to prune off any problem limbs or roots before you plant it.
Be sure you plant it in the right kind of pot. As mentioned before, it needs to be a deep pot so as to protect the roots. Be sure the pot you choose is made of something like a rot resistant wood or some sort of non-porous material. If you choose a clay pot, it is very porous and can attract bacteria or fungi to your apple bonsai tree. The pot should be no smaller than 15 gallons in size.
You may also be able to grow an apple bonsai tree from seed, but it is a much harder venture and it is most likely better to just buy one that is already at least a few inches or a foot or so in size so it has a better chance to grow and thrive.
Apple bonsai trees could be a source of joy and happiness especially when your bonsai trees have already begun to bloom lovely flowers and bear fruits. To care for apple bonsai trees, you need to have special growing skills, good attention to details and patience. Apple bonsai trees also need shaping, pruning, and good maintenance care. You will be able to have a lovely fruit-bearing tree in no time when you follow these growing techniques.
The bottom line is that an apple bonsai tree is a very popular, miniature version of a regular apple tree complete to the tiny little apples that grow on it. If you are looking for a cute, decorative bonsai tree that can become a showplace piece in your home, then look no further than choosing an apple bonsai tree.