Fukien tea - Carmona microphylla
General Information: A very small genus of tropical tree which was once referred
to (and still often listed as) Carmona. The most widely known Ehretia
species is the Fukien tea, a tropical shrub originating in Southern
China and other parts of Southeast Asia. It is very popular for bonsai
in China, but not a traditional favorite in Japan. It can be grown
outdoors in warm climates, but is quite popular as an indoor bonsai.
Ehretia anacua, a recent addition to bonsai, is more resistant to heat
Lighting: Likes a
bright position (1000 Lux). Most sources recommend only about an hour of
direct sunlight daily, although success has been reported growing it in
a sunny position all day.
prefers temperatures between 60-72F in winter, although occasional dips
into the forties produce no ill effects. In the summer, most books
recommend protection from extreme heat, although the plant has been
successfully grown in sweltering Texas weather. Ehretia does not like
Watering: Keep well
watered, reducing watering only slightly in winter. Never allow Ehretia
to stand in water, or allow the soil to dry out completely. Frequent
misting will discourage spider mites, but will apparently encourage
mealy bugs. Choose your poison! Ehretia anacua, a Texas native, is more
resistant to draughts, and likes to dry out a bit between waterings, but
should not be allowed to become bone dry.
Feeding: Every two
weeks during growth, every four-six weeks in winter. Use bonsai food or
half strength plant food. Do NOT use Miracid. Fukien tea does not like
to be overfed; Lesniewicz suggests watering well before feeding to avoid
root burn. Feeding weekly has been reported with success - I would guess
that frequency of feeding can be increased as long as the strength of
the food is kept diluted.
Pruning and wiring:
Prune new shoots after six to eight leaves have appeared. The leaves are
tiny enough that leaf pruning should not be necessary. Can be wired any
time during the growing season, but it is generally styled through
pruning alone. Wire should not be left on over three months. Its small
leaves and fine branch ramification make it ideal for miniature
Ehretia anacua does not ramify as well, and its
stiff branches make wiring dangerous. It has a strong tendency towards
apical growth, and needs constant pinching of topmost branches. It buds
back readily on old wood, and is suitable for any style, although broom
and literati are especially nice.
Propagation: By seed
or softwood cuttings in spring or summer. Cuttings root more readily if
given bottom heat.
Repotting: Every 2-3
years, in early spring. Reduce water after root pruning. Bottom heat
helps stimulate new root growth. Use basic soil mix. Ehretia anacua is a
faster grower than other Ehretia species, and may need yearly repotting
in hot climates. It may be repotted spring-fall, but should be
defoliated in the heat of summer. Beware of snapping thick roots - they
are more brittle than they appear.
Pests and diseases:
Aphids, scale, chlorosis, mealy-bugs, snails. Red spider mites find this
plant a special treat, and will attack it over any other plants in the
area. Unfortunately, Fukien tea is very sensitive to insecticides, and
Diazinon will kill the tree. Use the weakest insecticide possible that
will address a particular problem, or if possible, employ predator
insects. Will drop leaves if underwatered. Overwatering results in
yellow, sickly leaves. It is quite sensitive to sudden changes in
temperature and lighting. Ehretia anacua is more resistant to pests,
with leaf miners being the only reported problem.
Some species suitable for bonsai:
- Ehretia anacua - Rick describes this tree: 15 to
40 feet tall with a straight, fluted trunk having thick, furrowed dark
brown bark. The leaves are rounded, dark green, and extremely rough,
like sandpaper. The tree is listed as evergreen but colder
temperatures will cause them to shed their 3" leaves. Depending on
rainfall, the tree will flower, with clusters of white blooms, from
early spring through late fall. The flowers are followed by yellow to
red, two-seeded berries.
- Ehretia buxifolia (also called Carmona
microphylla, Ehretia microphylla): Fukien tea, Philippine tea - Well
loved for bonsai due to its tiny, shiny green leaves, tiny white
flowers throughout the year, and red berries.
- Ehretia dicksonii - a deciduous species of
Ehretia. Rare as bonsai.
- Ehretia thrysiflora - Another deciduous species
of Ehretia which deserves wider use in bonsai.
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