Sunday, December 18, 2011

Succulent Bonsai Garden

My boyfriend gave me a bonsai for Christmas a few years ago. It was a good choice for a beginner bonsai keeper like myself, because it's a tough succulent that has a tenacious grip on life. It's called Crassula Sarcocaulis, though it's commonly known as Bonsai Crassula. If you're considering starting bonsai keeping, I'd recommend starting with Crassula.

Above: Crassula Sarcocaulis. Like all succulents, Crassula grows from cuttings. Each of those little branches could potentially be a future bonsai. 

I kept the succulent bonsai in its original dish for a year or so and then decided to give it a new home as part of a miniature garden. I began by taking the bonsai dish and placing it in a large planter dish (the bowl that catches the water below a pot plant). Then I filled the area around the bonsai pot with soil and added a few succulent cuttings. The result was a two-tiered garden, which you can see in the picture below. After about a year, I decided that I'd prefer the miniature garden to exist in only one dish, the larger planter dish.

Above: Equipment ready. Planter dish, plants, soil (under table), spray bottle and chopsticks (in my mouth. I'm still practicing the whole "being normal" malarky. Sometimes I forget...)

Above: Close-ups of some of the succulents and cactii for the miniature garden. I bought these from a couple at the Porter's Market in Tokai. They had a variety of interesting plants for sale at decent prices. Each plant has its own unique needs with regards to watering and fertilizing. Caring for a miniature garden is much the same as caring for a normal sized garden, except that everything is done on a much smaller scale.

I spent a while looking for inspiration online, but it seems that miniature gardens of this type are quite rare, so I fell back on the classic guideline of, "I'll put it where I want to."
I emptied out the planter dish and poured in a thin layer of fine gravel. I placed the uprooted bonsai into the dish and then filled the dish with potting soil, placing rocks around the base of the tree. I then tamped down the soil around the bonsai's roots pretty well. I didn't want any air channels to be caused by eroding soil, as the air would just dry out the roots.
After that, I started planting, using chopsticks to dig holes, place the cuttings into the holes and then cover the roots with soil. A lot of the cuttings were tiny, and the chopsticks gave me more control than fingers would. Eating utensils, gardening tools, same difference.

Above: The finished result. I placed rocks around the roots of the bonsai to support the soil and create a little "hill" for the tree to live in. I used moss to create a grass-like effect around the base of the bonsai.

 Above: About a year after planting, needing another trim. I've added a few plants, removed others and moved one or two to better spots.

 Above: I may have gone a bit OTT (Over The Top), my favorite method of doing anything. I love all the different colors in this one tiny pot. It really tickles my crazy bone.

Above: The miniature succulent bonsai garden looks spiffing on our porch table, and is a talking point for visitors.

Logically, moss and succulents shouldn't be able to thrive in the same container, because moss likes to be moist and cool, while succulents like to be dry and hot. But... life's too short for logic, so I did it anyway. I water mostly with a spray bottle, so I can control how much water each area gets. The different plants all thrive.
One of my favorite things about this bonsai tree is that it flowers almost all the way through summer with tiny, scented white blooms. The trunk is steadily becoming thicker, so over time it will eventually achieve a stumpy bonsai trunk.


  1. Beautiful Bonsais! Thanks for following me!


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