Crassulaceae are succulent plants, native to Africa, which produce slightly fleshy, spatula-shaped foliage and thick stems, which, even if still herbaceous, take on a brown color, imitating the stem of woody plants; There are several species and varieties, some of which are grown as bonsai, as pot cultivation naturally tends to miniaturize foliage and stems, making crassules an excellent choice for a bonsai, also suitable for beginners. In nature, these succulent plants sometimes develop to form real small trees, with a thick stem, and a well-branched crown. In pots it tends to form a small bonsai that has these characteristics, encouraging branching only in the upper part of the stem, so as to form an upside-down bonsai bonsai, with a rounded crown, which spreads out over the short fleshy stem. of the external cuticle of the stems, and the leaves which naturally tend to develop into minute dimensions, make the crassules of bonsai very elegant, even when the plants are still quite young. If they are located in an area with a favorable climate, at the end of winter the crassules tend to produce, at the apex of the branches, small star-shaped flowers, of a pure color, which make these plants grown as bonsai even more elegant.
Crassula bonsai

Crassula bonsaiEven if cultivated as bonsai, crassules are still succulent plants, therefore well resistant to drought, and not very fond of high humidity in the soil; they are grown mainly indoors, even if a constantly high temperature makes flowering very unlikely. For correct development, let’s choose a well-lit position, where the plants can enjoy even a few hours of direct sunlight, otherwise we risk having light-colored, unattractive foliage. Watering is provided only when the soil is dry, even if the bonsai pot tends to contain very small quantities of substrate; to avoid that the scarce watering and the little soil are the cause of a perennial drought for the roots of the plant, it is advisable to always water these bonsai by immersion: take a basin, insert the pot, and fill with water up to the outer edge of the pot ; when the substrate is also wet on the surface, remove the plant from the basin, let it drain and reposition it in its place. This operation will only be carried out sporadically in winter, but also every 2-3 days in the height of summer, especially if our bonsai stays on the terrace.

In spring, when the night minimums are above 12-15 ° C, we can move the plant outdoors, in a semi-shaded area, where it can enjoy good ventilation, and at least a few hours of direct sunlight, in the cooler hours of the morning.These plants are repotted every year, especially when they are very young, using a small amount of akadama, mixed with peat and sand, or pumice stone or lapillus, to form a very porous and very well drained substrate, which let the water drain quickly. From March to September, a specific fertilizer for succulent plants, rich in potassium and poor in nitrogen, is provided every 20-25 days.

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Crassula bonsaiIf we want to see our crassula bonsai bloom, we must avoid keeping it in the apartment, as most succulent plants tend to bloom only when it has correctly spent a few months in a winter climate, i.e. with a few hours of light a day, and with temperatures below 10 ° C. To do this we can grow our crassula in a cold greenhouse, or in an unheated stairwell; if we live in an area with a mild winter climate, we can keep the plant constantly in the garden, or on the terrace, but moving it to an area sheltered from the wind during the winter months; in addition to this, it is essential that these pints do not receive any winter watering, as long as they suffer temperatures below 5-8 ° C; under penalty of rottenness, both on the leaves and on the roots, which can lead the plant to death. So it is important to find a position where the plant does not even receive rainwater.

Crassules do not like to be formed using metal wire, this is because succulent stems tend to swell a lot, and much more quickly than a semi-lignified stem; therefore even a few weeks of affixing the metal wire, even if accompanied by a raffia pad in contact with the branch, can cause deep indelible marks on the external cuticle of the branches, since the crassules do not have a real bark. In general, therefore, we only intervene with pruning to form the foliage as we wish; in addition to this, the new shoots are periodically pinched with the fingers, in order to favor the development of a more compact and dense vegetation.

There are many species of crassula, or other crassulaceae, which are used to be bred as bonsai; in general, crassula arborescens is preferred, with light green leaves and dark stems, which often tend to form even more neighboring stems, for a beautiful effect with multiple trunk or false grove. Also widely used are examples of crassula ovata, with beautiful flattened leaves, and also of crassula argentee, which, as the name implies, takes on an almost silver color. Crassula portulacea bonsai are also widespread, especially in the hobbit variety, with particularly shaped leaves, which make the bonsai decidedly exotic. However, some varieties of portulacaria are also used, which offer the advantage of having very dark, almost black stems, with a strong contrast with the light foliage, very minute and often variegated; Portulacaria however often produce erect stems, and not very branched, which must be carefully pruned, to obtain the appearance of a small tree.

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Crassula bonsai – Bonsai tips

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