The Fukien Tea is originally from China and it was named after the province Fukien, in Chinese Fuijan. It is also endemic in parts of Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan and Australia. The Fukien Tea is still very popular for Penjing in China and in Western countries it is a common indoor bonsai tree. Its small dark-green shiny leaves have tiny white dots on the upper side and are covered with hairs underneath. Small white flowers can appear all year round and sometimes produce small yellow-red to dark berries.
Position: The Fukien Tea is an indoor bonsai which can only be kept outside all year in very warm climates. It needs a lot of light and in the house it should be positioned behind a window pane where it gets the best light. The perfect temperature is around 20 degrees C (68F), make sure it doesn’t experience much lower temperatures. In summer the Carmona can be placed outside as long as the nights are warm enough.
In most cases the winter in our heated flats is a problem for the Fukien Tea. In addition to the few hours of daylight there is the problem of dry air. You can use a plant lamp if necessary and put a large tray filled with wet gravel or foamed clay under the pot for more humidity. When you open the windows in winter, take care that the Fukien Tea is not exposed to cold or even frosty air.
Watering: Keep the tree moist, as it doesn’t like droughts. But be careful not to water too often because it doesn't like soil wetness either. As soon as the soil surface gets dry the tree needs to be watered generously but it must not be left standing in excess water.
Feeding: Solid organic fertilizer is appropriate for the Fukien Tea because its roots are sensitive. Liquid fertilizers can also be used in carefully measured dosage and only on moist soil. Feed the tree well from spring to autumn following the directions for use, but in winter less often.
Pruning: The Fukien tree can take pruning quite well and regular trimming will make the tree grow a dense branch structure. Young shoots are tender and flexible so that they are easy to trim or wire. Mature twigs and branches are hard and brittle, so use appropriate tools for pruning and be careful when you want to wire and bend them.
Repotting: Repot the Fukien Tea in early spring about every two years. Root pruning should be done with care because the Fukien Tea does not take a great loss of roots well. A well-drained but on the other hand water buffering soil is very important because the Fukien Tea is sensitive to drought as well as excess wetness. A mixture of Akadama with a little humus and pumice is well-proven.
Propagation: From seeds or by using cuttings in summer.
Pests and diseases: Under inadequate conditions the Carmona bonsai can suffer from spider mites, scale and whiteflies. Customary insecticide sprays and sticks to push into the soil will help but for long-term success also light and humidity must be improved.
If the Fukien Tea is watered with hard water the leaves can show signs of chlorosis which can be treated with iron fertilizer.
In rare cases fungal diseases can enter through wounds. They can kill single branches or even the whole tree and are hardly treatable. Use clean tools and treat fresh wounds with cut-paste.
Carmona tree, owner unknown.
Carmona Bonsai tree by Heike van Gunst.
For tree identification use our Identify my bonsai tree species guide or go to the Bonsai care forum.
General guidelines can be found in our Bonsai care section or in the outdoor & indoor bonsai pages.
Return to the Bonsai tree specie guides section.