Malpighia covers a variety of around 45 species of trees and shrubs from the Malpighiaceae family. The tree is found in various parts of the world depending on individual species and their adaptations. As far as size is concerned, Malpighia is quite small with various species growing to be only 1-6m tall and resembling shrubs. That being said, most species grow in dense formations and have thorny crowns.
Malpighia is known for its beautiful flowers and edible fruits. The flowers are either solitary or grow in groups of two or more together. Flowers range from 1-2 cm in diameter and can be in various colors such as white, purple, pink, etc. The fruits of these trees also range in colours such as red and purple depending on the species. These fruits are very sweet in taste and also have a high Vitamin C content. Due to this, they are cultivated in many regions across the globe.
When it comes to growing Malpighia trees into bonsai, they are a very popular genus that is great to grow. Many bonsai cultivators are growing species such as the emarginata as small and beautiful trees.
This guide is designed to help bonsai lovers understand how to care for the Malpighia Bonsai Tree.
How long does it take to grow Malpighia Bonsai?
Malpighia bonsai are quite varying in terms of their growth and full growth can take up to 10 years. This is dependent on the species you are growing. For example, dwarf species such as the emarginata will take much less time to grow to their full height of about 2 feet (0.61 m).
Let’s go into some specifics about how to plant, care for, and cultivate your Malpighia bonsai. Here are some fundamentals to assist you to care for your tree.
Position and lighting
It is ideal to keep them in semi-shade or full sun conditions as these bonsai love the sun. They benefit greatly from sunlight and if possible, keeping them in light for 10+ hours a day is optimal for growth. If sunlight isn’t available, you can also grow Malpighia bonsai under fluorescent light for a few hours a day.
While they do benefit from direct sunlight, be sure to keep them inside during the winter months. As these bonsai don’t do well in the cold, it is best to keep them indoors on a windowsill or area where light can get through.
Malpighia bonsai are sub-tropical trees and thus aren’t very hardy against colder climates. Due to this, they should be protected from temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit (ca. 7 °C) as this can lead to extensive damage to the bonsai. Suitable temperatures are around 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit
Malpighia bonsai grow best in slightly acidic soil with pH levels between 5.5 and 6.5. Along with this, it is ideal to have moist and porous soil to allow for optimal growth,
These bonsai love watering and thus, you can water them once a day during the growing season in hotter months. A good way to find out when to water them is to look at the soil. If it ever seems dry from the surface, it’s time to water the bonsai. However, make sure to avoid over watering or water logging as it can lead to yellowing leaves and other problems.
Unlike many other bonsai trees, the Malpighia bonsai is a heavy feeder. Especially during hotter months, you should utilize weekly or monthly general-purpose fertilizers in a diluted form. Ideally, they should be diluted to half strength to avoid any heavy chemicals affecting the tree.
Malpighia bonsai are very versatile and easy to style. Thanks to this, any style of bonsai can be used on them without too much difficulty.
How to Plant and Grow Malpighia Bonsai
You want to learn how Malpighia bonsai is planted and grown. Amazing! Starting off, however, you should understand the Malpighia species commonly available and also recommended for growing as bonsai.
- Malpighia coccigera – This species of Malpighia bonsai is known for its pink flower petals that have an impressive five fringed design. They have been known to have a woody and greyish bark that is quite sturdy and stiff. Also, these species are great for growing as bonsai in various styles.
- Malpighia emarginata – The emarginata is also known as the Dwarf Barbados Cherry and is characterized by its small size. It flowers throughout the year and has bright red colored fruit. Also, this species can withstand colder temperatures better than most others.
- Malpighia glabra – This species is common in the wild and is native to some parts of South and Central America such as Texas and Mexico. It resembles the shape of a shrub and grows to around 15 feet (4.57 m) tall, which is less than most other species. That being said, it does have unique leaves that are oval-shaped with a dark green tint as well as Vitamin C rich fruits. As bonsai, it is best grown in an upright style.
That said, each species has its own distinct qualities, and none of them can be regarded to be superior to the others. Let’s go into the specifics of how to plant your own Malpighia bonsai.
Cuttings and layering are the most efficient methods of propagation for the Malpighia bonsai species. The best time for this is around April in tropical environments.
Pruning and wiring
Pruning is very important for Malpighia bonsai as they are prone to various outgrowths. These take place across the branches and happen continuously. So, be sure to clip back new growth that appears with regular pinching. This will help your bonsai grow shorter while also improving the thickness of the trunk.
As for wiring, it can be performed on the Malpighi bonsai but it should be done carefully. This is because this bonsai has brittle branches which can easily break under pressure.
Malpighia bonsai should be repotted periodically for the best growth. This allows for the root system to remain tightly closed and keep the tree short. The best time to do this is when you can see the roots coming out of your pot from either the sides or the bottom. This is commonly around every 2-5 years depending on if the species of Malpighia you are growing.
Repotting can be done during summer as this is the time when the tree is the most healthy. Start by removing the bonsai along with all the soil from the pot. Following this, you can clip off all unnecessary root overgrowth and then place it into the pot again. After repotting, the bonsai should be given ample amounts of water
How to Care for Your Malpighia Bonsai
During the first few years, it is advisable to keep Malpighia bonsai protected from colder weather as they are quite fragile in this regard. On the other hand, warmer conditions will work perfectly, and they can be kept outside in temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (ca. 21 °C) without issue. As for soil, slightly acidic soil with a PH level between 5.5-6.5 is suitable.
Malpighia bonsai should be kept in semi-shade or full sun conditions for the best growth. They highly enjoy the sunlight and keeping them in direct sunlight for as long as possible is suggested. These bonsai also require regular watering and especially during summer months, watering should be done on a daily basis. As for reporting, Malpighia bonsai should be repotted every few years depending on root growth.
The Malpighia bonsai is not prone to any kind of pests but can often find itself infested with aphids or other such small critters. To help you out, here is a list of some of the most common pests that can infest the Malpighia bonsai: –
- Scale – These common pests are known to leave black or brown pimples on the bark and branches of bonsai trees. These bumps serve as a protective shell for the insects, and they emit toxins that can injure and discolor the bonsai.
- Aphids – Aphids are little, pear-shaped insects that cling to bonsai buds, leaves, and stems. They feed on the plant juices and, as a result, bonsai’s overall growth and health are typically stunted. They are quite devastating due to their attack on younger flower buds which can lead to damage quickly.
- Mites – Mites, which are easily distinguished by their red or brown color, are known to create serious infestations if left untreated. These infections can cause discoloration of leaves throughout the bonsai if they blanket the branches.
While aphids are by far the most common pest, keeping them at bay is very simple. To combat this, spray your bonsai with aphid-killing mild pesticides or fungicides on a monthly basis. If you already have an aphid infestation, make careful to spray the aphids directly so that they can absorb the poison. This should keep your bonsai safe from aphids and other critters.