Syzygium smithii is an evergreen tree which is also known as Acmena smithii, Lilly Pilly, bush cherry, monkey apple, coast satinash or Eungella gum. This species of bonsai belongs to the Myrtaceae/ Myrtle family. There are over thousands of species belonging to this genus. They grow worldwide and this specie is native to New Zealand and Australia. They grow well in the tropical and sub-tropical regions. Syzygium smithii are common in the rainforests of New Zealand.
Lilly Pilly can grow to the size of a tall tree ranging from 9 to 16 ft. They are grown as hedges in gardens, as bonsai and for their edible berries. These semi-deciduous trees have woody and rough brown bark, glossy green leaves, powder-puff flowers and tiny pink berries. The new growth of Lilly pilly is a pretty pink color which adds to the beauty of your bonsai. The leaves are arranged alternately. They flower in the summer and puts out fruits in the winter.
Syzygium smithii is an easy growing species and can be maintained as a bonsai. It is one of the best bonsai species for beginners. This guide helps you set the right caring routine, placement and pruning of your bonsai.
How long does it take to grow Syzygium smithii Bonsai?
Syzygium smithii bonsai tree is a perennial tree and grows easily. They look great as a bonsai. They put out new growths very quickly. Lilly Pilly can tolerate most conditions, even drought. There are a wide variety of cultivars grown specifically enhancing their desired characteristics like foliage, flower or fruit.
Position and lighting
The Syzygium smithii bonsai can grow well both indoor and outdoor. Lilly Pilly bonsai thrives in bright, cool and direct sunlight. As much as it loves sunlight, you need to bring it indoors when it is very hot outside. Place it near a window where it can get at least 4 to 5 hours of morning sunlight. The indirect afternoon light is also a good option. Do not expose the bonsai to hard frost in the winter, bring them indoors.
They grow well in tropical and subtropical climates. But they don’t like sudden and extreme changes in the temperature or climate. Lilly Pilly bonsai likes humidity and do not do well in dry air. Move the bonsai indoors or to a greenhouse on the coldest days to avoid frost, The average ideal temperature to grow your bonsai is 620F. In Winter the ideal temperature is 390F and can survive up to 100F
A well-drained potting soil rich in nutrients and organic matter is the best soil option to grow a bonsai. Syzygium smithii bonsai is not fuzzy and adjust to all types of soils. It is the best practice to layer different types of soils like clay, sandy and loamy along with some gravel. Put a big drainage hole at the bottom of your bonsai container. You can also improve the soil quality by using compost or manure with the soil. Monitor the pH of the soil and adjust it accordingly. A mixture of Akadama, with volcanic gravel (at a ratio 6:4) can be used. Mistral Bonsai TERRABONSAI mixture can also be used.
Syzygium smithii is a very thirst bonsai. You can water them daily during summer, spring and fall, watering them twice on very hot days are also advised. During winter, you can reduce the watering frequency to once or twice a week. Make sure the top 2 inches of the soil is dry between watering as Lilly pilly bonsai doesn’t like moist rootball. Seaweed solution helps in encouraging new root growth. Do not overwater your bonsai.
Lilly pilly requires constant feeding to put out healthy flowers and fruits. You can feed them once every two weeks from spring to fall. Reduce the frequency to once a month during winter as they do not require much feeding. They like their soil slightly acidic. You can use good quality nitrogen-rich fertilizers. Liquid fertilizer is also a good option, but give twice the amount during the growing season. Completely saturate the soil with fertilizer when feeding. This allows the plant to have maximum uptake.
Formal upright, informal upright, slanting, cascading, semi-cascading, literati, windswept etc are the most common styles of bonsai. For Syzygium smithii bonsai almost all styles are suitable but freely upright and broom shape is the best style.
How to plant and grow Syzygium smithii bonsai
Syzygium bonsai can be grown easily as they are fast growers. They look stunning in glazed oval bonsai pots. The success in growing a bonsai comes from giving it the best care. Syzygium smithii bonsai require regular pruning or they grow uncontrollably.
The first step of growing a bonsai is definitely planting one. Or you just buy a fully grown tree as well. It is very easy to propagate a Lilly pilly tree.
Seed: Unlike other plants, growing a Lilly pilly from seed is the faster and most favorable method of propagation. They grow super fast. Always plant the seed in spring, they also germinate in winter as long as there is sufficient sunlight.
Stem cutting: Take a large cutting and dip it in a rooting hormone. Plant this is the early spring when the growth is maximum. Provide it the right condition and you can see it growing vigorously as soon as the roots are well spread.
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
Syzygium smithii bonsai requires constant pruning throughout the year as it is a very fast growing bonsai. Regular pruning will give you new pink leaf growths. Light pinching of these new growths throughout the seasons will help you maintain the crown of your bonsai tree. To reduce the height and width of your bonsai, you can do hard pruning. Try avoiding hard pruning during winter as the growth rate will be less and your bonsai might look bare. You can prune with the help of a string line for precision. Do not let it grow to its full height. Trim out all offshoot branches. This will give your tree a tidy look. Try to reduce pruning during the blooming season if you wish to have berries on your bonsai. Prune early in the spring and pinch throughout the seasons. Water the plant well before and after pruning.
The branches of Syzygium smithii is flexible but also brittle. Wiring can get difficult around the thin barks and delicate tertiary twigs. Using an aluminium wire is the best option. Wiring can be one throughout the year except when growth is less in the winter. Use a twisting motion to ben the thicker branches. As they are fast growers, the wired branches need constant monitoring to observe any pinching. The sudden thickening of branches will cause the wire to cut into the flesh. Loosen the wire as the branches grow. You will have to wire and style your bonsai regularly to ensure they stay in the desired shape. Do wiring with utmost care. Do not wire a soon as planting or repotting.
Early spring is the best season to repot your Syzygium smithii bonsai as it is the time for new growth. You can also repot in the late fall, just before the winter dormancy. You can repot the younger bonsai once every two to three years and the older bonsai once in five years. The roots of this bonsai grow as fast as the foliage. Trim the extra-fine roots away from rootball before replanting. Be careful not to damage the rootball. Wash out the soil to see the fine roots clearly. This will reduce the chances of any damage. Remove the old soil and plant it in a bigger bonsai container with new and rich potting soil. You can use a root claw or root hook to remove the old soil without disturbing the rootball. Do not fertilize or prune as soon as you repot.
How to care for your Syzygium smithii Bonsai
Some common cultivars of Syzygium smithii are Allyn Magic known for its compact size, Elizabeth Isaacs, firescreen, hedgemaster and redhead. All the cultivars are fast-growing and easy to care for.
Pests and diseases
Some common pests that affect Syzygium smithii Bonsai are Psyllids, aphids, mealy bugs, mites, sooty moulds and ants. The sap-sucking aphids attack new leaves and it forms ugly looking pimple-like growth on the leaves. These aphids cause other secondary problems like attracting ants and sooty moulds. Eco-oils like that of neem is very effective against aphids and mealybugs. Another issue is root rot, yellow leaves which are caused by overwatering and compact soil.