Zanthoxylum is a genus of plants that covers a vast range of about 250 species. These species consist of evergreen and deciduous trees, climbers, and even shrubs. They are found in warmer regions across the world.
Zanthoxylum species are highly differentiating and are characterized by different things. For example, many species have yellow heartwood which is also how the generic name came to be. Leaves in this genus are mostly found in alternative patterns and are often pinnate or trifoliate.
When it comes to growing Zanthoxylum trees into bonsai, they are becoming increasingly popular. Because of their diverse and lovely species, many bonsai growers are increasingly cultivating these trees.
This guide was created to assist bonsai enthusiasts in learning more about the Zanthoxylum Bonsai Tree’s maintenance.
How long does it take to grow Zanthoxylum Bonsai?
Zanthoxylum bonsai are fast growers, with an estimate of approximately 5-10 years for full growth. This is the amount of time it will take until the seed is mature enough to be cut. However, the exact amount of time it will take to grow depends on the species of Zanthoxylum tree you are growing as a bonsai.
That being said, let’s get into some specifics about how to plant, care for, and grow your Zanthoxylum bonsai. Here are some fundamentals to help you care for your tree.
Position and lighting
In warmer regions, Zanthoxylum bonsai can be kept outside all year round. This is because they grow well in direct sunlight and should be always be kept in full-sun or semi-shade conditions. That being said, make sure to place your bonsai somewhere that it is protected from direct wind.
On the other hand, in colder regions, keeping your bonsai indoors during the winters is very important. Especially at temperatures under 10 degrees Celsius, the Zanthoxylum bonsai can begin drying up and face severe damage. Thus, you can switch to an artificial light or heating system.
Zanthoxylum bonsai are quite hardy in hotter temperatures and climates. They will grow most effectively between 16° C and 23° C / 60° F and 75° F. That being said, anything colder temperatures can harm the tree. Specifically, anything under 10° C / 50° F is too cold for this bonsai
It is suggested to use soil that is either neutral or slightly acidic, having a PH level that is between 6 and 7. Apart from this, the most important thing to keep in mind about soil is to make sure it is permeable and allows water flow. This will help in avoiding problems such as water logging and root rot which tightly packed soil can have.
The Zanthoxylum bonsai requires a lot of water to stay healthy and keep growing. In the summer months, you can water your bonsai nearly once a day to keep the soil moist. During winter, this can be reduced to around once every few days depending on the environment. A good way to find out if you need to water your bonsai is by looking at the soil. If it is dry, you should add water while if it is moist, you can wait.
Feeding is very important to make sure your bonsai gets the nutrients it needs to grow. For Zanthoxylum bonsai, you can use a liquid fertilizer that is diluted to half-power once every two weeks throughout the year. It is only during winter that you might fare better y reducing fertilizer use to once a month.
Zanthoxylum bonsai are grown in a variety of styles such as the freely upright shape, semi cascades, etc. Apart from these, styles like the broom don’t work well with this tree.
How to Plant and Grow Zanthoxylum Bonsai
You’re curious and want to learn how to plant and grow the Zanthoxylum bonsai. Cool! However, you must first learn about the Zanthoxylum species that are found in the wild and which ones are grown as bonsai.
- Zanthoxylum acanthopodium – This is a flowering species that is commonly found in Western China, Northern India, and nearby areas. Its seeds are used as spices in cooking and have lemon-like notes.
- Zanthoxylum harrisii – These trees are currently facing habitat loss which has brought them quite close to extinction. In the wild, they are found in Jamaica.
- Zanthoxylum integrifoliolum – This species is native to regions in the Philippines and Taiwan.
- Zanthoxylum simulans – This species is a spreading shrub and is native to eastern China and Taiwan. It can grow up to 7m in height and has leaves that range between 7 and 12 cm in length. An identifying characteristic of this species is their stems which have multiple small spines on them as well as large knobs.
Each species of Zanthoxylum bonsai is unique and has its own advantages and disadvantages for growing as bonsai. So, let’s learn about how to grow your Zanthoxylum bonsai.
Propagation for Zanthoxylum bonsai species can be done by using seeds, cuttings, or even air layerings.
Pruning and wiring
As the Zanthoxylum bonsai are known to grow quickly during the spring and summer months, pruning is important for maintaining their look and size. We would suggest that you trim your bonsai at least 2 times a year to maintain a beautiful and compact appeal. The best way to do this is to cut about 5-10 centimeters off from around the tree taking extra care to get all stray branches.
One thing you should keep in mind when pruning the Zanthoxylum bonsai is that you will need strong pliers. This is because the bark of most species is quite strong and cannot be done with basic tools. Trying this might lead to unnecessary damage to main branches and can harm your tree in the long-run.
Wiring the Zanthoxylum bonsai is also quite difficult due to the fast growth rate of the tree. If you do plan on wiring your bonsai, make sure you don’t bend them too much or keep it in for too long. Strong bends can lead to breakage in older branches and leaving the wires on for too long will cause cuts and marks to form on your bonsai’s bark. It is ideal to remove any wires within a few weeks of placing them.
Repotting is an important part of growing a bonsai and will make sure your tree is acclimated to the smaller size. It will also help in removing overgrown roots which may be branching out too far. For the Zanthoxylum bonsai, you should repot your bonsai once every 2-3 years depending on its age. This is because younger bonsai grow faster and should be repotted more frequently as compared to older ones.
That being said, for the Zanthoxylum bonsai, repotting should be done in spring when the tree can grow back easily. As for the process, you should initially take your bonsai out of its pot along with all the soil. After this, prune all the excess roots and put it back, or in a new pot. Fill all the excess space with fresh soil and you are done.
Once you have repotted your bonsai, it is important to take care of it for the next few weeks. So, provide it with regular watering and fertilizer to promote its growth and health.
How to Care for Your Zanthoxylum Bonsai
Zanthoxylum bonsai should be protected from colder weather during their early years. Having said that, they work well in warmer climates and can be left outside all spring and summer. Also, neutral or slightly acidic soil with a PH of 6-7 is the best option.
For the best growth, Zanthoxylum bonsai should be kept in semi-shade or full sun. To keep the leaves in pristine condition, keep them away from direct daytime sunlight and strong winds. They should be watered on a regular basis during the summer to keep the soil moist, but not so much that it becomes waterlogged. When it comes to repotting, Zanthoxylum bonsai should be repotted every 2-3 years, gradually shifting to smaller pots for acclimation.
Pests & Diseases
Pests and diseases are an issue with most trees and the Zanthoxylum bonsai is no different. While it is quite resilient against most ailments, there are always some chances that your bonsai can be infected. Some pests and diseases you should keep in mind when growing a Zanthoxylum bonsai are –
- Spider Mites – Spider mites are probably the most common critters that can infect your bonsai tree. They are small insects that live on the bottom of your tree’s leaves. Here, they spin webs and can lead to damage in the internal cells of your tree. A good way to get rid of them is by using an alcohol and water mixture to spray the mites which should kill them.
- Aphids – These are small insects that suck the sap out of your bonsai, They are very small and can often be hard to see. That being said, you can use a water spray or even remove them by hand
- Canker – This disease is characterized by pale foliage, poor growth, and swollen bark. It is quite dangerous for all kinds of trees and can be caused by unhealed wounds during pruning or increased amounts of nitrogen.
While these are some you should keep in mind, a good thing is that the Zanthoxylum bonsai are resistant to many insects such as Scale