Most indoor bonsai trees are a coniferous or deciduous species, with the occasional fruit tree forming part of the collection. But there are more exotic choices that allow the bonsai artist to expand his or her skills.
Wisteria makes one excellent alternative to the run-of-the-mill bonsai. A native of China, Korea and Japan, they can reach 30 feet in the wild. Forming them into a bonsai is an interesting challenge, since they don’t conform to any of the usual styles.
The flowers, assuming a variety of colors – blue, purple, pink, white – are both beautiful and aromatic. They blossom in the spring when they need lots of water, so long as there is adequate drainage. Wisteria do well in full sun to partial shade. Provide ample fertilizer in spring just before they flower, then again in late summer while the leaves are still present.
Orange Jasmine is another option that will provide both beauty to the eye and delight to the nose. Their fragrant, white blossoms are accompanied by bright red fruit.
Orange Jasmine should be fed every three to four weeks beginning in early spring and continuing through mid-autumn. Light watering is adequate for most of the year, with slightly more in the hotter season.
Since they do better in filtered sun and moderate shade, they are one of the few bonsai that can, and probably should, be raised indoors.
Mimosa, or silk trees as they are sometimes called owing to their long silky filaments, are as fragrant as either of the two choices above. Their lacy foliage and puffy flowers are also just as lovely.
Flowers bloom in late April to early July, during which time they should be given moderate water. Avoid watering the flowers since, like many flowering plants, they wilt rapidly and deteriorate when wet.
The Mimosa will be one of the larger bonsai in your collection. They grow rapidly, have large leaves and are very difficult to sustain at a very small size. So give them lots of room on the display bench.
The Desert Rose is another non-traditional bonsai that can turn an ordinary collection into one full of color and excitement. This native of East Africa can grow up to 10 feet in the wild and produce large, pink, trumpet-bowl flowers.
Very bushy, it makes an excellent design complement to the many trees in a standard bonsai set. They need lots of fresh air and ample sunshine, so keep them outside most of the year.
They’re sensitive to cold, though, so in cold climates they should be brought indoors. They don’t thrive below 50F (10C), though will lie dormant and healthy from 50-60F (10C-15C). During this period they will need very little water.
Expand your design horizons by trying your hand at a few of these fragrant and beautiful flowering plants. Spaced among some of the standard evergreens – pines, firs and others – they provide a nice contrast. You’ll also have an ever-changing display, as they blossom in spring and lose their leaves in the fall.