Pistacia chinensis is commonly known as Chinese pistache. It is native to Taiwan and China as the name suggests. It is also found in the Mediterranean regions. This tree belongs to the cashew family Anacardiaceae and is dioecious (male and female trees). This evergreen tree grows into a large bush or tree. It makes a beautiful bonsai with vibrant red leaves in the fall. It is an attractive ornamental tree with great structural and aesthetic properties.
Chinese pistache trees are very hardy and can grow in arid and semi-arid conditions. They grow asymmetrically and requires structural pruning to get an aesthetically pleasing bonsai canopy. The foliage is dense and oval. The trunk of Pistacia chinensis is thick and robust making it resistant to breakage. It is greyish-brown with bright red inner bark. They have pinnately compound leaves arranged alternately. These dark green leaves have a subtle fragrance and turn bright reddish-orange in the fall. This deciduous tree blooms in the spring. The flower is bright red and produces clusters of small fruits. These bright pink or purple berries protect the nuts inside. This fruit is inedible to humans.
This beautiful bonsai brightens up any garden space. It is a low maintenance tree with moderate growth. You can keep your pistache bonsai healthy and evergreen by following our simple guide.
How long does it take to grow Chinese Pistache Bonsai tree?
Pistacia chinensis is a moderate grower. It is grown worldwide given its beautiful foliage. It grows well in temperate areas and is a hardy species. A regular tree grows up to 60 ft. They have a long life. It is not a fussy bonsai and can adapt to most conditions. Younger bonsai need some care as they adjust to the container and develops a root system. This deciduous tree sheds its leaves annually in the fall. They grow well in spring and summer.
Position and lighting
Chinese Pistache requires a lot of bright direct sunlight. It can also grow in light shade. They do not grow well in complete shade. You need to give your bonsai at least 6 hours of sunlight daily. They grow well outside. You can place them indoors as long as there is bright natural sunlight. A greenhouse or a sunroom is an ideal indoor spot. While placing them outdoors, be careful to protect them from frost. Position it in such a way that the branches and roots can spread evenly without any hindrance.
As mentioned above, Chinese pistache is a hardy plant that tolerates a wide range of temperatures. This deciduous tree can survive a temperature as low as -130F. It is one of the most frost-tolerant species in this family. Though this is the case, it thrives in warm climates.
Pistacia chinensis have long roots that grow deep. They grow well in all types of soil ranging from clay to sandy. The most important thing you need to keep in mind with this or any bonsai is to provide well-draining soil. The best potting soil is a mix of sandy, loamy and chalk soil. Sand ensures good drainage. Also, use soil rich in organic matter. Most bonsai loves moist rootballs, but avoid soil getting soggy. Use a deep bonsai container to allow the roots to spread well. The base has to be at least twice as wide as the rootball. Maintain the right pH of the soil. Avoid extremely acidic or extremely alkaline soil. Generally, a range of 5.5 to 7 pH is considered the best. Spreading some mulch around the base can keep your soil moist.
The Chinese pistache is not a fussy bonsai. Its watering needs are simple and straightforward. They are drought tolerant once the root system is fully established. You have to water a newly planted pistache at least 2 times a week for one month. It grows best with this watering schedule. Water thoroughly and deeply. Let the soil dry on the surface between watering, this avoids the risk of soggy soil. You can do the finger test to check if the soil is dry between watering. Water only if the surface is dry. This is a foolproof method to avoid overwatering. During hotter seasons, especially summer, water the bonsai once a week. In winter, you can reduce it to once a month.
Nutrients are important for all bonsai as they have limited soil in those small pots. You have to feed the younger trees with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer during their growing season, spring. You can also feed them based on their deficiencies. A soil test can help determine the right type of fertilizer you need to use. This tree is not very picky and can survive in less nutrient-rich soil as well, therefore underfeeding won’t kill your bonsai.
Some common styles of bonsai are informal upright, formal upright, slanting, cascading, semi-cascading, windswept, literati, etc. Pistacia chinensis bonsai tree looks best in the formal upright, broom, single or multiple trunk styles.
How to plant and grow Chinese Pistache Bonsai tree
It is easy to grow a Pistacia chinensis bonsai tree with the right tips and tricks. The right time to plant one is during the spring. This section guides you step by step on how to propagate, prune and repot your lovely bonsai.
Some common propagation methods are planting stem cutting, air layering and via seeds. The easiest way of propagation is planting a sapling. It takes lesser time to grow than any other method.
Seed: Pistacia chinensis is normally propagated by planting purple-red seeds. Remove the drupe by washing and scrubbing well. Rinse and soak the nut overnight. Wrap the soaked seed in moss and plant it in a mixture of peat and soil.
Stem cutting: During late spring Pistacia chinensis can propagate from stem cuttings. Dip a clean cutting in rooting hormone and plant it in moist bonsai potting soil and water regularly. You can also divide a sucker from the bottom trunk and plant it. Propagating by stem cutting is really difficult and therefore, seeds are preferred.
Ground/Air layering: Air layering is a method of propagation where the new plant is grown while attached to the parent plant. Remove a small piece of bark from the lower trunk and wrap this part with sphagnum moss. Roots will slowly start developing on this stem. Cut it out once it’s grown more than an inch and plant them in moist soil.
Pruning and wiring
Pruning gives a strong trunk and foundation to your Pistacia chinensis bonsai tree. The pruning and wiring of pistache are tedious compared to other bonsai, as they have very dense foliage and pinnately compound leaves. You need to be delicate when pruning this evergreen bonsai. Identify the nodes and follow the 123 rule. Prune every fourth node so that only 3 new nodes of the latest growth remains. The branches are hard and brittle, so using a heavy grade wire is the best. This prevents unnecessary breakage. Wait till the branches are brown in colour before you start wiring your bonsai.
Winter: Young pistache is ideally pruned during the months of January and February.
Summer: The foliage grows thick in the summer. You should remove most of the leaves to maintain the desired shape. Trim new shoots also. Do not let the leaves shade the inner branches.
Spring: Prune in the early spring right after the final frost for new growth to kick in.
You can regularly trim new leaves or branch growths to maintain the desired shape. Clearing out dead or damaged branches regularly will ensure airflow through your bonsai.
The best time to repot a Chinese pistache bonsai is during the late spring after the flowers fade. Always repot them to a pot size larger than the current pot. This gives them space to spread their roots. You can repot the younger bonsai once every 2 to 3 years. The older bonsai growth will be less, so you can reduce the frequency of repotting. Use new nutrient-rich soil with adjusted pH while repotting. Do not disturb the main rootball. Trim along the edges only.
How to care for your Chinese Pistache Bonsai tree
Pistacia chinensis is a popular ornamental tree and is often found in Chinese garden settings. They are hardy and require less attention which makes them attractive to bonsai enthusiasts. The most care it needs is during the growing stage. With good care, you can enjoy the beautiful bright foliage in the fall.
Pests and diseases
The Chinese pistache bonsai tree is fairly disease-resistant and pest-resistant. The biggest enemy of Pistacia chinensis bonsai tree is overwatering. This can cause soggy soil and results in root rot. Also be careful not to place mulch very close to the base trunk, as this will attract pests and termites. Keeping the soil clear of unwanted fallen leaves can help prevent fungal infections. They are susceptible to verticillium wilt, so avoid areas that could have had the infection previously.