Are you new to the art of bonsai? A boxwood variety might not be the most obvious choice, but it is a good one. Boxwood plants are both easy to grow and easy to train and have a pleasing appeal all year around.
All about Boxwoods
There are many types of Boxwood (Buxus) plants, and sometimes they are referred to simply as box plants. You are probably accustomed to seeing them as hedging plants in manicured gardens around the states. There English, America, Korean and Japanese varieties and an increasing amount of hybrid variations which are resilient and attractive. The leaves are often used in festive decorations and wreaths because they are so glossy.
The leaves are so shiny they almost look unreal. It’s as if it’s an artificial plant you have in your living room rather than a real one! Boxwoods are evergreen plants, although you may notice some slight changes to leaf color in the cooler months; generally a lightening to the depth of the green shade. While generally not to be encouraged, some gardeners don’t mind this color change. If your plant is kept indoors you may not see this occur anyway.
Boxwoods as bonsai
All most all forms of Boxwood will be suitable to grow as a bonsai. Any originating from Japan are a good option. Some varieties you might consider are:
- Morris Dwarf
- Morris Midget
- Newport Blue
- Northern Beauty
Boxwood bonsai like and dislikes
Boxwood bonsais are pretty tough and robust plants. As there are so many varieties try and do some research to determine which might be happiest in your zone or climate. If you live in a temperature climate, it is definitely worth creating your Boxwood bonsai as an outdoor plant. They thrive in full sun, and do pretty well with some shade, although in lower light settings the leaves become a darker shade of green. Likewise, exposure to frost can turn leaves a brown or almost red color. Neither of these situations is ideal for a plant which should have bright green and very glossy leaves. Luckily they can be easily rectified and plants will usually pick up when given more light or warmth.
Watering Boxwood bonsai
Compared to many other plants that are used in bonsai practice, Boxwood bonsais require considerably less water. It is certainly not necessary to soak your Boxwood bonsai for any length of time. Rather, use a hose, watering can or even mist to keep the soil comfortably wet but not soggy. If you forget to water for a couple of days, Boxwoods will generally recover well. They are much more forgiving when it comes to being under watered than some other plants that droop or shrivel very quickly.
Repotting Boxwood bonsai
The root systems of Boxwood plants develop quickly, so you will need to be ready to repot into a bigger pot every two years. Select a pot to see you through for the next couple of years, and fill it with a soil that will provide good drainage. Remove the plant and give the roots a good clean and tidy up, the reposition in the new pot. If you want to increase your plant collection, you can also propagate Boxwood by taking stem cuttings and working with them.
If you are using a premade bonsai potting mix, consider adding some extra organic material. Your plant will appreciate it. Don’t forget that potting mix left sitting around in the yard or shed can attract pets or bugs, and you are betting acquiring just a small amount each time your plant is transplanted.
Bugs and Pests
An unfortunate disease can affect Boxwoods. It is called box blight and shows up when a branch dies for no reason. If you do have a dead branch on your bonsai, cut it just before the dead material. You should also burn the branch to seal it up and prevent fluid loss. Other pests you might spot include mites, psyllids and leafminers. Treating pests is easy and the plants generally bounce back to full health quickly. Fungus can be a problem on occasion.
Boxwood bonsai timeline
- Spring – fertilize and prepare for a season of serious growth, repot if necessary
- Summer – enjoy the glossy green leaves
- Autumn – you will see less growth but leave should retain gloss and color
- Winter – be ready to start pruning as early as late winter
Tips to help your Boxwood Bonsai
If you are looking to create a genuine and authentic looking Boxwood bonsai, go back to some of the bonsai basics.
- Form – above all should appear natural
- Trunk – should be elegant and tapering
- Space – because of its shrubby nature, you won’t necessarily create space between branches, but overall shape should be pleasing to the eye
- Position in the pot- as you will expect the trunk to widen over time, it is suggested always planting within the first third of the pot
- Soil surface- should look natural and will be complemented with some rocks
- Pot – best matched pots for Boxwood bonsais are often in the brown tone range so that the green can be the main attraction
- Location- often Boxwood bonsais make their way to family rooms or the study
Advice for growing Boxwood bonsai
You won’t need to wire any Boxwood bonsai plant and pruning is a simple activity. Use scissors to snip out any young shoots that don’t belong. Cutting is preferable to pinching and you will get a more polished and finessed result. It’s also very satisfying to see the form you are after emerge. Pruning regularly is completely fine. Some people do report a slight irritation from the leaves, so consider wearing your bonsai gloves while working on the leaves. The wood can be carved and marked, which gives you an opportunity to create a driftwood effect.
The bottom line: Boxwoods don’t belong only along the garden path. Bringing one into your home or garden is a wonderful idea if you want to practice your hand at training a quick growing and glossy plant.