New in the Nursery: Bonsai Starters


Perfect for the indoor gardener or the burgeoning hobbyist, bonsai gardens add green to even the smallest space. We’re curing our cabin fever by welcoming a freshly stocked assortment of bonsai starter plants into the greenhouse. These tiny trees lend themselves perfectly to the ancient Japanese art of bonsai – read on to learn more about how to care for these pint-sized plants and what makes them ideal for growing in miniature.

Portulacaria afra ‘Elephant Bush’: This attractive evergreen is actually a member of the succulent family, with small, round, water-retaining leaves and red stems. Native to the rocky slopes and dry river valleys of South Africa, this low-maintenance shrub makes a great bonsai, thriving in full sun with little water. If kept in warm temperatures, it will sprout tiny, star-shaped pink blossoms from late winter until early spring.

Ficus ‘Green Isle’: Beloved for being low-maintenance, this go-with-the-flow Ficus grows slowly, making it ideal for bonsai. Thriving in full sun to partial shade, this plant is drought and salt tolerant, and should be dried out completely between waterings. Its leaves are a rich green, with a glossy texture similar to jade, and it can be trimmed periodically to maintain a desired shape and size.

Ficus ‘Golden Gate’: Recognized in the plant community as one of the best trees for indoor bonsai gardening, this Ficus requires very little attention. With a slow growth rate and minimal need for water, it sports a sturdy, gray trunk topped by dark green foliage that can be easily trained to grow in whatever shape is desired. This tiny tree prefers temperatures above 50 degrees; it can tolerate low light, but thrives in full sun. Keep your Ficus moderately wet during the summer months, and allow it to dry out between waterings in winter. Periodic fertilizer treatments will keep this bonsai plant happy and healthy for years to come.

Schefflera ‘Umbrella Plant’: While Umbrella Plants can become quite large, if kept pruned they can serve well as bonsai. Featuring shiny, oval-shaped leaves that bow from the stalk, this plant’s unique, tubular “flowers” are unlikely to blossom if planted indoors, but it will put on quite the display if grown outside. Umbrella Plants prefer bright, indirect sunlight, and lots of moisture and humidity. Water weekly during the peak growing season and less frequently in winter. Umbrella Plants grow best in loose, rich soil and temperatures above 60 degrees.

Throughout the season, our plant team highlights their freshest additions to the garden with New in the Nursery. Check in at your local store to take home these newly-arrived greens.

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