Jaboticaba bonsai trees are petite and beautiful… and they’re also very misunderstood.
The term “bonsai” scares most novice gardeners away, because of the long-standing myth that these exotic-looking indoor trees are hard to care for. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Bonsai isn’t a species of tree—it’s a gardening style, and a cherished art form. In fact, the word “bonsai” (or “bon-sai”) literally translates as “planted in a shallow container.” The word comes from Japanese, but the tradition of planting dwarf trees in pots originated in China more than 2,000 years ago. Not all bonsai are trees, either; many shrubs and other similar plants can also be made into bonsai.
The Jaboticaba bonsai tree, from southern Brazil, is a tropical or subtropical plant that’s a member of the myrtle family, and it’s related to the guava. When the tree is flowering, you’ll see gorgeous small white flowers covering the trunk and the branches. They later transform into dark berries, which are edible and delicious, resembling a combination of cherries and grapes in both appearance and taste. In fact, the Jaboticaba tree is often referred to as the Brazilian grape tree. The berries can be eaten right off the tree or used to make jams, preserves, sauces, or baked goods.
Read on to see how easy the Jaboticaba bonsai tree is to care for.
The Jaboticaba bonsai tree likes a lot of light. Place your tree in full sun outdoors in the spring and summer for best results. Once nighttime temperatures drop below about 45°F, bring your tree indoors, but keep it on a sunny windowsill, or on a table in front of a large window, to make sure it still gets 4-6 hours of bright light each day.
As a tropical plant, the Jaboticaba bonsai tree never wants to get completely dry between waterings. Always add water well before the soil starts to look dry. Water your tree until the water starts draining out the holes at the bottom of the container.
All bonsai grow in shallow containers in a fairly thin layer of soil, so it’s important that the small amount of soil that’s there is very healthy. Fertilize about once a month with a general-purpose liquid fertilizer.
If your tree’s root system begins to outgrow the size of the pot its in, it’s time for repotting. This will also allow you to give your tree fresh soil, which will also help keep it healthy. Some experts recommend cutting back about one-fourth of the tree’s root mass from the bottom before planting in the new, larger container.
Pinching is one of the ways to help these miniature trees stay miniature, and this is the reason why many people assume that caring for bonsai is difficult. Thankfully, it’s not hard to do at all. Trees naturally concentrate their new growth at the top and outer areas, because their goal is to grow taller. But for bonsai to remain small and compact, you want the growth to happen closer to the inner parts of the tree. Pinching off that new growth helps you maintain the bonsai tree’s shape, and it’s usually done in the spring when most of the new growth is happening. Simply use your fingers to pinch off any new growth that would eventually change your tree’s classic bonsai shape. This will “awaken” the “sleeping buds” on the inner parts of the tree and increase the size of the tree’s crown, or canopy.