Brush Cherry Bonsai Care Guide
Eugenia myrtifolia – which has been reclassified by some botanical authorities as Syzygium paniculatum – is a subtropical group of evergreen shrubs known as Brush Cherry. Many cultivars are natives of temperate and rainforest regions of eastern Australia. In their natural environment some varieties will grow to upwards of 30 feet in height, and they are commonly used as ornamental garden trees in warm climates such as Florida and Hawaii. There are several types that are suitable for bonsai, including Australian Dwarf Brush Cherry and Teenie Genie.
The foliage is dark green and glossy, with the leaves measuring at approximately three inches in length and growing ovate, in pairs. New growth is tinged with a vibrant red color. This plant may produce small, white, puffy blooms and red berries, which are edible in some varieties. The bark on most types is reddish, rough, and flaky.
This evergreen loves heat in the summer and temperatures between 46-68° F in winter. Eugenia does not prefer a lot of temperature fluctuation or drafts and should not be exposed to temperatures below 40° F. This plant can be grown indoors, or placed outdoors in summertime in full sun to partial shade, especially in hotter climates. It is fairly adaptable and will grow well in indirect or direct light. Hot afternoon sun can burn the leaves, particularly when the light is magnified through a window. Direct morning sun is ideal due to its mild intensity.
Eugenia myrtifolia may be permitted to dry a bit between watering's. If the soil is dry a half inch to an inch beneath the surface, it's time to water. This bonsai will require more water in the summer than the winter. The Surinam Cherry variety prefers to be kept moist consistently rather than drying out and then being soaked. None of the Brush Cherries should be allowed to go dry for any extended period of time. These bonsai do appreciate a humidity tray as well as a daily misting. Distilled or rainwater is best for watering this tree as it does not tolerate a high salt content.
Brush Cherry bonsai should be fertilized bi-weekly in the growing season and about every four to five weeks in winter. Organic liquid feed like fish emulsion or seaweed is ideal. If using chemical fertilizer, dilute to half strength in order to protect the roots from damage. Both regular fertilizer and organic pellets may be used as well. An occasional dose of Miracid is beneficial as Eugenia prefers soil that is slightly acid.
Styles – this specimen is suitable for all styles of bonsai, and all sizes except the largest.
Brush Cherry can tolerate hard pruning, as it is a fast grower. Shaping is best done by pruning – trim undesirable new growth to one to two pairs of leaves. Leaf reduction should be achieved through pruning rather than leaf pruning. If wiring is done, the branches should be protected with raffia because they scar easily.
Eugenia may be propagated by way of seeds in autumn, cuttings in summer, or air layering.
Repot this species every other year, during the early to mid-spring, when nighttime temperatures are sustained above the low to mid 60s. Bottom heat can be beneficial to this plant when repotting. A well-draining bonsai mix should be used, or alternatively an acid soil such as that intended for azalea. Certain cultivars are sensitive to aggressive root pruning so you will need to research your specific plant and see how much it can tolerate.
Insects/Pests & Diseases
Although this is a particularly hearty and resistant species, any bonsai can still be vulnerable to certain pests if they are prevalent in the area. Scale, mealy bugs, aphids, and red spider mites are all concerns for any bonsai enthusiast. To avoid most problems altogether, treat the tree every few months with a non-toxic insecticide spray. Be sure not to apply insecticide when the soil is dry.
Aphids, which are soft, tiny insects that gather on leaves, buds, and shoots, feed on the plant's juices and can cause stunted growth and misshapen foliage. Mites may be identified by shaking a branch over a piece of white paper – they will look like red pinpoint dots. Both of these can usually be controlled with a good spraying down with a mixture of a teaspoon of dish soap in a quart of water. Spray until runoff occurs, then rinse with a spray of plain water.
Scale look like brown or black bumps on leaves or branches. The shell is resistant to insecticide, so these pests are usually removed manually, or if preferred you can paint their protective coating with rubbing alcohol. If insecticide is used for scale, it must be done while they are in the nymph stage, before they develop their hard shell.