A Polyscias fruticosa bonsai symbolizes harmony, peace, and balance. This plant is an air purifier and is often grown indoors for its aesthetic look. The eye-catching Polyscias fruticosa plant can make the indoor environment cleaner and greener at the same time!
Polyscias fruticosa also known as Ming aralia, is a perennial plant that belongs to the family Araliaceae, genus Polyscias. Polyscias means many-shaded. It gets the name from the plant’s foliage. Polyscias fruticosa has compound leaves growing on the stalks. The leaves have a feathery, deeply lobed, serrated appearance.
This slow-growing, evergreen shrub grows widely in several Southeast Asian countries and Pacific Islands. This plant is actively cultivated outdoors in its native climate but bonsai enthusiasts also grow Polyscias fruticosa bonsai indoors as a houseplant. In colder countries, this plant thrives well indoors when provided with enough warmth.
The versatile Polyscias fruticosa or Ming Aralia grows small, compact branches, with dense, feathery fern-like leaves. It grows in an upright direction rather than spreading sideways. A Polyscias fruticosa plant is perfect for all kinds of homes, big or small. Pruning this plant is easy as it has soft stems. Occasional pruning can keep this plant in the desired shape and height to fit it into any space.
How long does it take to grow a Polyscias fruticosa bonsai?
The showy Polyscias fruticosa or Ming aralia is a slow grower. This exotic tropical plant requires a bit more care than average indoor plants but its ornamental, bushy, bright green foliage makes it worth the effort. A Polyscias fruticosa bonsai requires a balance of full sunlight to a partly shady place. If growing it indoors, high interior lighting is required.
It thrives well in rich, loamy, and well-drained soil. This plant can grow up to six feet or more in height and two feet in width with the proper care. Since Ming aralia has a slow growth, little pruning is required to maintain the desired form of a Polyscias fruticosa bonsai. Unlike many other plants, the branches of a Polyscias fruticosa grow vertically.
The plant reaches a maximum height of about eight feet and has a spread of two or three feet.
How to plant a Polyscias fruticosa Bonsai
This tropical plant prefers a nutrient rich and well-drained soil as its roots are prone to rotting quickly. Drainage is a concern and priority when growing Ming aralia/Polyscias fruticosa. Terracotta/clay pots are the best choice for growing Polyscias fruticosa bonsai. The porous, breathable surface helps in the evaporation of excess moisture from the soil, saving it against root rot.
To keep a Polyscias fruticosa smaller in height, re-pot it less often but remove and refresh the topsoil annually to keep the plant healthy.
Here are the best-suited conditions and the prerequisite for growing a Polyscias fruticosa.
Factors affecting the growth of a Polyscias fruticosa plant
Polyscias fruticosa likes bright, indirect, soft, and warm light but not the scorching afternoon sun. These plants are native to warmer regions and will grow in full sun when outdoors. This plant can also be placed in light shade. The morning sun is good for this ornamental plant as the mellow sunlight doesn’t burn its fragile, green leaves.
Six to eight hours of partial sun or filtered light from an east-facing window is ideal for an indoor Polyscias fruticosa. In the absence of long hours of indirect sunlight, a plant lamp can do the job. Getting its share of bright light makes Polyscias fruticosa/Ming aralias more attractive, bushy, and compact. In prolonged dim light, a Polyscias fruticosa can become ‘leggy or rickety’ with pale green leaves.
Temperature and Humidity
The overall success of growing a healthy Polyscias fruticosa depends a lot on the temperature and humidity provided to the plant. Polyscias fruticosa plants grow in warmer climates and the ideal temperature is 65℉ – 85℉ or 18.5℃ – 29.5℃. Temperatures below 60℉ (15.5℃) may be harmful to the plant and it may shed its foliage. A Polyscias fruticosa plant should never be exposed to extreme cold weather or snow.
Ming aralia plants require a consistent flow of moisture but the plant cannot stand overwatering. Never saturate the soil with water. Water a Ming aralia plant deeply once and allow the soil to almost dry out before re-watering again. Watering the plant once a week should suffice. Autumn and wintering watering cycles should be longer or the plant may shed its leaves.
A good way to supply ample moisture to a Ming aralia bonsai indoors is to place the pot on a deep tray with a wet pebble arrangement. This will increase the humidity level around the plant. The foliage can also be misted at intervals to mimic its native wet and humid conditions. Always mist it with distilled or purified water to avoid sedimentation of white calcium deposits on the leaves. Use water at room temperature.
Like all plants, nourishment is a requirement for a Polyscias fruticosa plant. Feed the plant with well-balanced liquid fertilizer once a month during its growing period. Start from spring and feed it through fall. If the plant starts shedding its leaves or the foliage turns yellow, it is a good indication that there is a lack of nutrition in the soil.
How to Plant and Grow Polyscias fruticosa (Ming aralia) Bonsai
Now that you have a fair idea about the basic requirements of a Polyscias fruticosa plant, you can try to train it into a bonsai. Here are the steps that you will need to follow.
Prepare the soil
As Polyscias fruticosa prefers a nutrient-rich soil, that’s well aerated, a high-quality growing medium should be selected for this plant. That will provide nutrients and moisture to help the plant grow. This evergreen plant cannot tolerate water saturation in the soil so make sure to mix a part of sand or a similar medium to keep the soil loose. A moisture-retentive potting soil will keep the plant from toppling as it may become top-heavy as it grows.
Choose the right container
Polyscias fruticosa is a tropical shrub that can grow to a height of eight feet. When Turning it into a bonsai the ideal height is close to one foot. Also, the tree turns bushy and has dense foliage. Additionally, the plant prefers well-drained yet moist soil. Keep all this in mind when selecting a bonsai pot for this plant with luxurious leaves. An ideal pot would be a deep, rectangular, or round pot preferably with a breathable terracotta finish.
The best time for growing new Ming aralia or Polyscias fruticosa plants is in spring. The process is fairly easy. New plants can be grown from cuttings.
Cut a few green stems and place them in damp soil. If desired, some rooting hormone can be added for faster propagation. When growing new plants, Polyscias fruticosa should be provided with enough warmth and moisture. The stem cuttings should never be overwatered or completely dry. With a congenial growing environment, the stems should take root in a couple of weeks.
The ideal soil for growing Polyscias fruticosa is a mixture of peat moss and loam in a 2:2 ratio to one part of sand or perlite. Adding sand or perlite to the soil is important as it improves aeration and modifies the soil structure. The potting mix then remains loose and well-draining.
After a new Polyscias fruticosa takes root or is repotted, it requires a congenial environment to grow into a healthy bonsai.
The best time to repot a Polyscias fruticosa is during the warm growing season. When placing the Polyscias fruticosa plant in bonsai soil for the first time, carefully remove the fine soil from the root system. This will allow a consistent growing medium for the root system. In some cases, the plant reacts to the repotting by dropping its leaves.
In that case, keep removing the wilting, yellow leaves to allow sunlight to reach the healthy foliage and to encourage new leaf growth. Overwatering at this stage can damage the plant immensely.
Pruning and wiring
Polyscias fruticosa have soft stems and are usually shaped by pruning. Regular pruning of growing tips encourages denser foliage and new branches. When a shoot grows four to five leaves, cut it back to hold one or two leaves. Remove the inner branches to give the plant an effective tree-like bonsai look. For fuller trunk growth, remove suckers from the trunk. Regular trimming can keep a Polyscias fruticosa bonsai at a height of one foot or less.
If you want to wire a Polyscias fruticosa bonsai, that can be done. This perennial evergreen plant has a vertical habit. Style it by selecting alternate branches and wire them laterally. The wired branches can be left for several months at a stretch but keep a check for wires that may be cutting into the branches. The height of the plant can be shortened by pruning the top growth and wiring a new branch to give it the position of the apex. If the plant is placed near a window, rotate it periodically to expose all sides of the plant to equal sunlight.
How to care for your Polyscias fruticosa bonsai
To provide the best care to your Polyscias fruticosa bonsai, meet the ideal requirements of the plant. The perfect well-drained soil rich in nutrients, the ideal warmth and humidity will keep the plant healthy and green. If your bonsai does not grow too fast do not worry, this plant species is a slow grower. Allow your bonsai enough sun exposure for the green foliage to remain healthy and pest-free.
Treating pests and insects
The most common pests that attack Polyscias fruticosa plants are aphids, spider mites, mealybugs, and scale. Praying insecticides, soap solution, neem oil solution can keep these pests under check. It is best to remove the bonsai outdoors while treating it.
Polyscias fruticosa plants flower in their native tropical settings but blooms in indoor atmospheres are rare. Only a tropical outdoor setting may increase the chance of flowers blooming. The green buds grow into white flowers that are about six inches long. The flowers bloom in inflorescences and develop into a drupe.