Belongs to the family of flowering plants, comprising 50 to 70 species. Carl Linnaeus was the first man to plant the genus Elaeagnus way back in 1754. Initial consensus established the fact that the name originated from the Ancient Greek word elaiagnos.

Spread across the world in regions which have temperate and subtropical weather. They are found in abundance across the Asian continent. Elaeagnus commutata is a North American native. Japan boasts of the most prominent species of Elaeagnus.

Extremely tolerant angustifolia species can withstand temperatures below 34 degrees centigrade. Elaeagnus is also cultivated for its fruit. It has proven to be an excellent nitrogen fixer over the years.

Trees belonging to this family are easy to recognize by their sharp brown scales. Their common name is attributed to the appearance of trees, leaves, and fruits which resemble olives. Some species of Elaeagnus bear spines, they can either be evergreen or deciduous depending on the soil and the entire habitat. Maximum approachable limit of 6 to 7 meters.

Leaves are not compound in nature. Flowers are indistinct and small with an aroma. Deciduous and evergreen species of Elaeagnus flower in spring and fall respectively. Fruit is called as drupe, which has a single seed, cream-colored measuring up to 1 to 2 centimeters in length. Size of fruits vary. For example Elaeagnus angustifolia has longer seeds compared to umbellate. Taste like sweet tart, and they are edible in some species. Used in the production of jams, jellies, and Koreans love them.

Some species of Elaeagnus, like umbellate have the potential to attract wildlife owing to the glittering red fruits, they are also a favorite of songbirds.

Plants require optimal light and nourishment throughout their life. Either over doses of fertilizers, or improper care are the reasons behind their sluggish growth. That holds true for bonsai as well. Consider this a proper guide explaining all the important points for bonsai care and growth.

How long does it take to grow Elaeagnus Bonsai?

From May to the end of June is the best time for proper growth of Elaeagnus bonsai. Often underestimated to be a shrub owing to the leaves which appear to be multicolored. Optimum sunlight and properly watered soil are the most important contributing factors. A step-by-step process for growing your Elaeagnus bonsai is given below.

Seeding and sowing

Hot and cold stratification, followed by storing the seeds in a moist place for a period of two to three months, with interior seeds exposed. Placing seeds according to their full length ensures proper surface contact. Add adequate amount of water to keep the medium healthy. Takes two to three months for proper germination of seeds.


Elaeagnus bonsai likes to be under the sun or in shady conditions. Minus 5 degrees centigrade frost protection is recommended. Avoid areas where water collects after rainfall. Too much shade also hinders growth.


Believed to be extremely robust, Elaeagnus has the fantastic ability to survive on various types of soil. But they prefer acidic to alkaline soils of 6.0 to 7.5 pH, which is the normal pH range of any garden soil. Proper use of organic matter is equally beneficial for the plant. Avoid making the soil muggy and wet for a long time, to ensure zero damage to the roots.


Fertilizers are the best feed. Feeding with organic plant-based products during the end of winter to the onset of spring is also recommended. During the initial growing season they have to be fed every two weeks.

How to plant and grow Elaeagnus bonsai

It is important to properly feed and position for ensuring steady growth, and we have described all that. But it is always good to know about the other Elaeagnus species because their flowers can turn heads to find the source of their fragrance.

  • Elaeagnus angustifolia/ Russian olive – Considered to be an invasive species. Eurasian native, but it has spread to western parts of the US. Can grow up to a height of 10 meters and a diameter of 30 centimeters. Used for manufacturing medicines, perfumes.
  • Elaeagnus commutata/ wolf willow – This tree is a West and North American native, maximum approachable limit of 1 to 2 feet (0.61 m). Bears, silver-colored scaly leaves which grow on gray-red branches. Flowers are indistinct, conical, and they have a sweet aroma.
  • Elaeagnus pungens/ silver thorn – Widespread across Asia, it has a significant presence in China and Japan. Perennial by nature and this tree can grow up to 7 meters tall. Used for ornamental purposes.
  • Elaeagnus umbellata/ autumn Elaeagnus – Endemic to Eastern Asia, ranging from the Himalayas to Japan. This tree has dark green leaves, contains edible fruit called drupe, which is round and 0.65 to 0.85 centimeters wide.
  • Elaeagnus macrophylla/ Broad-leaved Oleaster – Growing at a medium rate, this tree can reach a maximum height of 13 feet (ca. 4 m) with a diameter of 26 feet (ca. 8 m). Hermaphrodite in nature and bees are the main pollinators.
  • Elaeagnus multiflora/ cherry Elaeagnus – Found in two varieties, namely semi-evergreen and deciduous. Grows up to a height of 10 feet (ca. 3 m). Fruits of this tree are rich sources of vitamin A and E.
  • Elaeagnus conferta/ Wild Olive – Found in lower temperate regions. Deciduous in nature. Elliptically shaped 4-centimeter-long fruits, which are edible, and they are available in local markets between the month of February and March.

With this knowledge and information, you should now focus on the most vital step to grow and plant an Elaeagnus bonsai. The best thing is that it can tolerate salt, and that is why it is the first choice of bonsai among people living in coastal areas. Elaeagnus is used to fill an entire landscape, and to create hedges as they grow rapidly. Keeping everything in mind, including soil and water, it is time to proceed.


The best time for sowing seeds is autumn and spring. Cut semi-ripe deciduous species in July, and perform hard cuts in ripened species during the end of November. Removal of lower leaves is essential for proper cutting, to a length of 5 meters. Elaeagnus pungens can be placed in pots containing enough water and sand, a steady temperature of 13-16 degrees centigrade has to be maintained.


Hard pruning in winter, prior to the emergence of new growth. Followed by short trimming during spring and summer.

Pruning is not required for most Elaeagnus species, but doing it well ensures proper structure and growth. Removal of dead or broken twigs should be done throughout the growing season. To rejuvenate a weak plant, you can cut it down to half. No, there is nothing to be scared. New shoots will eventually start emerging.


First step is to check the coiling of roots around the root ball. Vertically make 1-2 inches (ca. 5 cm) deep piercings from the outside, in case of coiled roots. Place the root ball in the middle, cover it with unaltered soil. Adequate watering to a depth of 12 inches (ca. 30 cm) helpings in settling the soil and keeping the roots hydrated.


Twice or thrice a year, preferably in spring, after the appearance of fresh buds.

Image source

How to Care for Your Elaeagnus Bonsai?

Although they can withstand harsh weather and drought, proper care is necessary to ensure the development of a healthy and fibrous root system. Provide 1 inch (ca. 25 mm) of water approximately, every week during the onset of summer. Continue with the process till the soil gets completely soaked by 12 inches (ca. 30 cm). Avoid over watering during winter. Use of root stimulants is recommended to minimize the shock of transplantation, and to grow a healthy bonsai.

Plants in their infant stage do not need watering on a daily basis. Add water only to keep the soil moist when there is no sufficient rainfall. Too much water can result in soggy conditions, which can cause damage to the roots and infect an entire plant with harmful diseases.

Common pests and diseases

  • Leaf spots – Caused by fungal pathogens. Fungal spores appear on leaves. Symptoms include leaves turning yellow and wilting. Pruning is the best method of getting rid of this disease.
  • Cankers – Flourish in humid conditions. Infection can cause the trunk to have a rust-colored appearance. Leaves which are already infected start wilting. In severe cases, cankers girdle an entire trunk or limb. Use of fungicides is suggested but not recommended. To stop the infection from spreading remove dead and infected leaves and branches.

Elaeagnus is an extremely low maintenance bonsai. Excellent choice for many garden enthusiasts owing to the large leaves. It can withstand dry soil too. Additional watering and irrigation is only required during the lengthy summer season. Soaking the leaves thoroughly can prevent sudden wilting in case there is a shortage of water. Periodically monitor the moisture of soil. With proper supply of water and sunlight, this bonsai has the potential of being the center of attraction of your house.