Portulacaria africa - succulents, bonsai and a rarity
Among the plants used to create bonsai, succulents are considered a very rare option. And one of the best crops that can store water in the leaves and lends itself well to containment and formation is the unique African portulacaria. This is a charming plant with a very beautiful bark and even more beautiful light fleshy leaves, which is pleasantly different from other types of bonsai both in appearance and in endurance.
Unrestrained Bonsai Succulent
Indoor bonsai are mainly represented by well-known gigantic shrubs and trees, which in nature and in gardens are associated with oriental design. But there are exceptions among bonsai. Portulacaria, a fast-growing and surprisingly spectacular succulent, which began a completely new career as a bonsai, can rightly be considered a unique plant. Portulacarias are not very popular not only in floriculture, but also in landscape design. And you can meet them only in the form of bonsai and very rarely - in ampelous culture, but in this capacity they will outshine even the most eminent competitors.
Portulacarias are often associated with the Portulakov family, but the plant has long been transferred to the genus of perennial Succulents of the Didieri, representatives of which in room culture can be counted on fingers. Portulacaria is represented by a single species. This amazing plant from among the succulents-giants came to us from the African deserts. Adaptation to the most extreme conditions on the planet even allows us to consider portulakaria as an extremely unpretentious plant even in the form of a bonsai.
Portulacaria African (Portulacaria afra), - despite the ease of formation and control, it is considered one of the largest types of bonsai. Young portulacaria 15-20 cm tall quickly transform into seemingly ancient multi-stemmed trees 50 to 80 cm tall. In nature, this shrub with gradually woody, fleshy, drooping shoots and amazing bark can grow up to 3 m, striking in its size. Without measures for the continuous formation of portulacaria, it can grow up to two meters, so trimmings are considered a vital measure: rapid growth needs constant monitoring. Portulacaria bark is very beautiful, with grayish-reddish hues, quite catchy, glossy. The most amazing thing about the plant is a red tint, the same tone, characteristic for young twigs, and for a trunk with an old bark. The only difference is that on the trunk the bark gradually becomes more and more wrinkled. Shoots are so contrasted with greenery that they seem to illuminate the crown from the inside. The leaves of this unique bonsai are also fleshy, about a centimeter long, bright green, obovate in shape, although they visually appear to be flat round disks. Seated opposite leaves perfectly emphasize the drooping shape of fleshy shoots. Dressy, curly, all made of small discs, the crown of the portulacaria looks amazingly impressive, and the light green color combined with the bark of the tree is simply amazing.
In indoor culture, Porulacaria africa almost never blooms. A plant only at a very significant age and under ideal conditions can please with single light pink flowers, but you can admire this sight only in the botanical gardens.
Purslane care at home
Portulacaria is considered one of the easiest to grow bonsai species, but this statement is true only relatively. This is truly a drought tolerant plant. But the rest should be very careful. Portulacarias love fresh air, it is easy to make a mistake with watering, and temperature conditions must be controlled.
Very rarely, portulacaria are found as ampelous succulents. They are grown as bonsai, but excluding from the care program a permanent formation.
This type of bonsai will be comfortable only in the brightest light. Portulacaria prefers sunny or extremely bright places, is not afraid of direct sunlight. Lighting for the plant must be kept constant even in winter, rearranging the bonsai to brighter places. Portulakaria does not like artificial illumination, like most succulents. With an increase in daylight in spring, the plant must be carefully accustomed to growing lighting, especially to direct sunlight.
This plant grows well on the southern or partially southern window sills, as well as on windows with a western orientation.
Like almost all types of bonsai, Portulacaria prefers to winter in a cool, but can adapt to a warmer winter. The air temperature should not fall below 8 degrees. Optimum performance is from 10 to 16 degrees. The maximum wintering temperature for Purslacaria is limited to 22 degrees. In the active period of extreme heat growth, it is better not to allow it, but in the range of indicators from 22 to 27 degrees Celsius, Portulacaria feels very comfortable.
One of the important conditions without which portulacaria cannot be preserved is access to fresh air, not just regular, but frequent airing. The plant will prefer to spend summer in the fresh air or in rooms with constant ventilation. But rooms with portulacaria will have to be ventilated even in winter, taking measures to protect the plant from cold air currents.
Watering and humidity
Portulakaria will need gentle watering throughout the year. Waterlogging is fatal for a plant, but succulents can tolerate drought even in the form of a bonsai very easily. In summer, the soil is allowed to dry not only in the upper layer, but also almost completely; they carry out sparse, but frequent watering. But in winter, watering of portulacaria should be economical, only supporting the lightest moisture of the substrate and still allowing it to dry between waterings. The plant tolerates any drought well.
When watering portulacaria, it is important to ensure that the plant does not experience constant surges in moisture. To transfer from summer to winter irrigation regimes and vice versa, portulacaria should be slowly. The plant is watered so that there is no constant fluctuation in dampness and dryness, creating the most stable light soil moisture.
Like the rest of the succulents, even in bonsai, Portulacaria is not afraid of dry air. The plant does not need any measures to increase air humidity. Spraying for her is not carried out. Contamination from the leaves is better to remove with a soft brush, rather than choking.
Feed for portulacaria
This plant allows you to select different feeding strategies. Some flower growers fertilize this type of bonsai only once a year, at the very beginning of the active growth phase: it is enough to feed African portulacaria with a standard dose of full mineral fertilizers. But it is better to divide fertilizers into rare, but regular top dressings from spring to autumn, in order to create the most stable conditions for the plant during the period of active growth and development. With this strategy, fertilizers are applied 2 times a month, using half the dosage recommended by the manufacturer.
For portulacaria, only special fertilizers for cacti and succulents are suitable, and not preparations for bonsai.
Pruning and trimming
Portulacaria can be formed at will. This plant is not afraid of even very strong pruning, it is easily restored. You can carry out the formation at any time convenient for you, focusing on the desired aesthetic characteristics, shape and size.
Much more important than the formation, in time to contain portulacaria. In this culture, it is better to pinch or shorten young shoots regularly, preventing the plant from greatly increasing its height.
Any pruning on portulacaria is best done in the spring, but pinching of the tops can continue throughout the entire active growth period.
The need to constantly restrain the plant by pruning is simply explained: it is impossible to direct and shape the portulacaria with the wire, the use of the wire always leads to injuries. The formation of branches using wire is a very complex process that is best left to professionals. In order to create a silhouette and limit growth, it is better to limit yourself to cropping.
Portulacaria transplant and substrate
Portulacaria is rarely transplanted, only as needed. Young plants are transplanted about 1 time in 2 years, but adults need a transplant no more than 1 time in 4-5 years. A transplant is carried out only after the complete development of an earthen coma with roots and a clear lack of soil.
For this plant, you need to select stable, heavy containers. As for all bonsai, flat containers are used for portulacaria, but when planting other parameters in pots, the plant will feel good provided that a high drainage layer is laid.
The substrate for portulacaria is selected not according to the rules for growing bonsai, but in the same way as for other indoor succulents. It should be light, water permeable, quality loose. For the plant, you can choose any substrate for succulents or cacti containing sand and clay, or add sand to a regular substrate for growing bonsai. They independently prepare a soil mixture, combining gravel-sandy soil with clay-turf and leafy soil in equal proportions. The soil reaction for portulacaria can range from 4.5 to 6.0 pH.
When transplanting, portulacaria will necessarily shorten the roots, trimming about a third of the entire root mass in order to restrain plant growth. At the bottom of the containers for portulacaria, always lay a high, up to 5 cm layer of drainage. The plant grows well with overhead drainage or decorative mulching of the soil with stone chips.
Portulacaria diseases and pests
Portulacaria are relatively resistant to diseases and pests. But with a deviation in care, waterlogging, stagnation of air, plants can be affected by powdery mildew. Of the pests on the African portulacaria, scale insects, aphids and mealybugs are most often found. Fight insect pests can only be treated with insecticides.
Common problems in growing portulacaria:
- dropping leaves in poor lighting or when lighting is reduced in winter;
- stretching shoots in low light or high humidity;
- yellowing and wilting of leaves with waterlogging.
African Portulacaria breeding
This is one of the easiest to breed bonsai species. At portulakaria, cuttings easily and quickly take root, which allows you to get your own offspring and experiment with creating bonsai. For reproduction, you can use the shoots remaining after pruning. The main thing is that at least 2-3 leaves remain on the handle. You need to cut the stalk at the very base of the leaf. Before planting, the sections are dried for 24 hours, and the bottom sheet on the shoot is removed. Planting cuttings is best done in small individual containers, where they will be grown. They cut the cuttings 3 cm into the standard mud mixture mixed with sand for portulacaria. Rooting is carried out in bright but diffuse lighting with light soil moisture without a cap.