I have a desert rose plant that I have grown for the past 3 to 4 years. I haven't really ever done any pruning or anything like that and typically (here in Louisiana) all I have done is bring it inside if it will be a cold day. I water it, haven't fertilized, haven't really done anything.
I see on the site that Desert Rose is not a very popular bonsai tree so I am wondering if this is actually a good one to try or not?
If so, when I bring it in, what would you recommend in terms of pruning and should I wait for spring or should I prune any of these branches now?
Very much a beginner, just have been watching as many videos as I can!
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I think it is not a very popular bonsai because it is not a bonsai tecnically speaking. Bonsai is the art of creating images of old trees in miniature. Desert rose is not a tree hence cannot be called bonsai in the traditional sence. However, if you can grow it to look like an old tree, for all means, just go ahead.
In my view there are absolutely no reason for pruning a 4 year old desert rose. No matter if you are trying to grow it as a bonsai or just a beautiful desert rose specimen it needs to fatten up. That takes time, but as much foliage left the faster it happens.
I have another plant that might be interesting to think about for bonsai, but I don't quite know what it is... I think it looks/reminds me of a crepe myrtle but it seems to stay really small and not grow large like the other Crepe myrtles I have.
In spring, it does produce a red flower that looks similar to crepe myrtle flowers
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I know that feeling.....Starting to get interested in bonsai and seeing potential bonsai trees in everything. We have all done it. Yes, that shrub can be turned into bonsai. But believe me, it is not a good material to start with for a beginner. If you have no experience with bonsai you will likelly kill it. If it survives it is a hard specimen to design and it will take many years.
By all means, if the shrub bothers you where it is and you are getting rid of it anyway it does no harm to try. In that case start this spring and cut all roots in a 50 cm circle around the trunk with a sharp spade. Next spring reduce the hight of it. The following spring lift it and plant in a training pot. Now let it recover for two seasons. Somewhere around 2028 you can start styling.
Better option is to take a trip around garden centers after christmas. They usually have potted christmas trees left and heavily discounted by that time. They are already established in pots and can be started on already a few months later after the last frost. I prefere to uppot into slightly bigger pots and work on the design for a few years in oversized pots. But if you wich to get them into bonsai pots that is a posibility as well. Just do not do both things at the same time. No matter what you shose to do, wait a year inbetween. Why not buy a few of them and try both methods? A very good learning experience.
I understand it is quite frustrating in the beginning. It was for me. This hobby is quite slow. But the trick is to buy a few decent materials every year. After 5 years or so you will have new materials to start train every year. Some that needs to be transfered to bonsai pots. Some that needs wiering and some that needs pruning.
The important thing is to look for materials with decent potential. I still have trees from my first year, 8 years ago now that are still not ready to put into bonsai pots. If I knew back then what I know now I would never got them.
There are a lot of videos on youtube about creating bonsai from nurcery stock including how to shoose the right starter materials. Last year many bonsai youtubers made the 50 dollar bonsai challenge. You should be able to find a playlist for that. There are good and bad examples. But pay attention to the wide results within the same budget. Shosing the right starter material is the key.
Thank you for the thoughtout post. I am sure you all get these types of questions often so I know it probably gets repetitive answering similar questions!
I'll definitely try to go that route of looking for something interesting in nursery stock. I can clearly see how / why it seems like most who are into bonsai end up having lots of trees! It seems like without it, you'll never be able to get the experience to learn how to get better because the turnaround time on your choices to what they end up doing to the tree are on such a long term scale, not to mention how do you keep yourself busy if you only have one specimen to work on... it'd be like learning to do woodworking but only making a single box once a year, lol.