Popular in gardens across America (and indeed the world) and also commonly used as a house plant, the common myrtle (Myrtus communis) is a great choice for a bonsai. Common myrtle bonsai are at their happiest indoors and will bring beauty and a sweet fragrance to any room.
All about Common Myrtles Plant
They are native to the warm and sunny areas of the Mediterranean and the northern parts of Africa. They have been popular houseplants for thousands of years. When crushed, the leaves release a pleasant fragrance and the oil from leaves is used in homeopathy and as an essential oil to treat colds and bronchitis. Sometimes the oil is used to add flavor or aroma to food, and is often found in perfumes and soaps. You will also sometime see myrtle in bridal bouquets and at weddings, because it is a flower associated with love.
The Common Myrtle Plant Basics
Myrtle plants come in a variety of species, most of which are an excellent choice for bonsai. This evergreen species have small white flowers, a sweet fragrance and a shiny autumn fruit which will yield seeds. It’s possible to grow new plants with these seeds if they are stored and cultivated properly. They have a pretty and glossy leaf. Be aware that some other plants that include myrtle in the name are not related to this species – most commonly you will hear of the crepe myrtle, an unrelated deciduous plant.
Common Myrtles as a Bonsai
Because the branches have a good degree of flexibility, you can use common myrtles for many styles or shapes of bonsai, including more formal styles that are upright, as well as gentle and more modern approaches to give a cascading look. A broom-style bonsai is a great choice because it will allow you to showcase the pleasant texture of the trunk and branches, and the attractive colored bark that peels to reveal colored layers. It is best to start wiring early because as branches age they become firm and stiff and will be more likely to snap.
A Location for your Common Myrtle Bonsai
Where you live will influence the location you choose to keep your common myrtle bonsai. They can do well outside in more moderate temperatures, but if you are prone to frost or extreme heat, it might be best to make this one an indoor plant. If you are keeping the bonsai small enough to move around easily, then you could consider moving it to keep it comfortable across the four seasons. Keep it outside in spring and summer and indoors in autumn and winter. They thrive in a full sun spot outside.
Lighting up your Common Myrtle Bonsai
Common myrtles make a great choice when you are looking for an indoor bonsai, but your pretty myrtle bonsai will also need as much light as possible. Select indoor positioning carefully and monitor the amount of sun the plant is receiving on shorter winter days. Your plant will need a bare minimum of four hours of light a day- so pick a spot close to the window. If you can’t get the minimum four hours, consider popping your plant under artificial lighting.
Pruning and Shaping a Common Myrtle Bonsai
They are relatively easy to trim and prune. Carefully monitor the stem and branches and if shoots appear that are impacting the overall look of the plant, simply remove the shoots using bonsai tools. Extensive pruning while the plant is still young may reduce the chance of flowers. But as the plant establishes, it will certainly benefit from pruning to create denser growth. Once established, it will be difficult to wire any unappealing branch formation. If large branches need to be removed, do so carefully. You will need to cover and treat where the brand has been removed, burning to seal it up.
Repotting a Common Myrtle Bonsai
You will need to be ready to repot regularly- every couple of years in infant plants and then at longer periods of up to five years to encourage more flowers and growth. Make sure you use a bonsai soil, and something that is free of lime elements, and include peat to improve soil texture. As with all bonsai, ensure your pots have draining holes.
Watering a Common Myrtle Bonsai
Like many plants, when used as a bonsai, the common myrtle will require regular and consistent watering. Assess the moisture in the soil with your fingers, and if you feel any dryness or there is dust, then your plant needs a drink. Setting up a regular watering time will help you ensure you don’t forget this important task. Set a reminder on your phone for a certain time every second or third day to begin. You can water through the bottom of the pot, or directly onto the soil.
If you have a water filter at home, or access to rain water, your common myrtle will appreciate this softer water. Leaves can become affected if there is too much lime in the water. They will also not appreciate being overwatered and may develop soggy or rotten root systems is consistently given too much water to be able to eliminate. This could also contribute to the plant losing nutrients. Fertilize as necessary.
Pests and Bugs
Common myrtles are largely pest and disease free. When kept inside in low light or where there is a lack of airflow, you might find some pets infiltrate your plant. Bugs and small flies can become problematic, and should be treated with a suitable pesticide.
Common Myrtle Plant Timeline
- Summer- place out of doors, keep hydrated, enjoy flowers
- Autumn- consider moving plant indoors, watch for berries and collect seeds
- Winter- keep indoors with good amounts of lights, and decent airflow
- Spring- consider moving plant outside to enjoy the warming weather
The bottom line: Common myrtles are highly recommended for bonsai beginners. They are beautiful, fragrant and really rather hardy. If you want to start simple but have a stunning result- go for the common myrtle.