Dwarf Cherry Bonsai Care Guide
Dwarf Cherry is also known as Brush Cherry, or Eugenia myrtifolia. This species has gone through a number of reclassifications and is sometimes recognized by authorities as Syzygium paniculatum. This family of subtropical evergreen plants is common in temperate and rainforest areas of eastern Australia.
Used as ornamentals in climates like Florida, there are also several natural dwarfs perfect for bonsai, such as Teenie Genie and Australian Dwarf Brush Cherry. These smaller cultivars only grow to about 3-5 feet at their largest.
Eugenia is marked by small, glossy, dark green, ovate leaves that grow in pairs. Some varieties produce small cream-colored balls which bloom into lovely white starburst flowers. The bark has a flaky, red, rough look well-suited to bonsai.
The Dwarf Cherry does not like large temperature fluctuations or drafts. It thrives in summer heat, and in winter prefers an environment between 46° and 68° Fahrenheit. This species can be an indoor plant, as it is flexible and will grow with direct or indirect light. If kept as a full-time indoor tree it should be kept on a windowsill in a south facing window. If kept outside it should be offered protection or brought inside when the weather dips under 40° F. When outdoors it may be placed in full sun or partial shade.
Bonsai should not be permitted to completely dry out between watering's but these miniature cherry trees can tolerate a bit of dryness. More water will be required in summer than in winter; simply press your finger down into the soil about a half inch to an inch to check for dryness. If the soil is not moist at that depth, it's time to water. A humidity tray works very well for this species when kept indoors because the air is dryer inside. Daily misting can also help keep foliage bright and healthy. If possible, water with distilled or rainwater because this variety does not tolerate salt.
Fertilize Dwarf Cherries every two weeks during the growing season, early spring to fall, and about once a month in the winter. You may use chemical fertilizer but it should be mixed at half strength so that the roots do not become damaged. The ideal feed for this species is a good organic feed such as seaweed or fish emulsion. An application of Miracid every so often can be advantageous in order to keep the soil at the slightly acid level that Eugenia prefers.
Styles – this tree is amenable to most bonsai styles, however it cannot be grown as a large specimen due to its inherently petite size.
The Dwarf Cherry should be shaped with the use of pruning. It is a vigorously growing tree and so can withstand being aggressively pruned. Once unwanted new growth reaches about six or eight leaves, cut back to one or two pairs. Leaf reduction is typically more successful when achieved through removal of new growth, rather than leaf trimming. Wiring is not recommended for this tree but if you choose to do so, use raffia to wrap the branches because they are easily damaged and scarred.
Eugenia can be propagated from seeds in the fall, cuttings in the summer, or by air layering.
This should be performed about every two years in early to mid-spring, but only after temperatures have risen above the low 60s during the night. As a tropical, this tree can benefit from bottom heat during transplanting. Well-draining soil should be used; an azalea mix that is on the acid side is a good choice. The Dwarf Cherry may not respond well to aggressive pruning of the roots so use caution, only removing roots which have grown out of control or appear unhealthy or weak.
Insects/Pests & Diseases
Bonsai can be susceptible to a number of insects and diseases. While this species is resistant to most problems, it may still come under attack from aphids, mealy bugs, scale, or spider mites.
Aphids and mites may be removed by spraying the plant with a mixture of a spoonful of dish liquid in about a quart of warm water. This should be applied until it runs freely off the leaves, then rinsed with plain water.
Scale, which appear as little bumps on the foliage and bark, are covered in a protective shell which shelters the eggs. These shells can be removed with the tip of a sharp knife after painting them with rubbing alcohol.
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. Remember that appropriate watering, feeding, and light all contribute to the health of the bonsai and can help keep any potential health problems away.