Fukien Tea #1 (carmona microphylla)

The Fukien Tea tree is native to Southern China. The tree is considered a tropical species so in areas like where I live (Pennsylvania, USA) where we get cold winters, the species must be used and treated as an indoor bonsai. Some people consider Fukien Tea trees not to be a worthwhile species for bonsai especially here in the West mainly because of its overly used commercial use from nurseries. The tree is very easy to care for and when you add the indoor aspects of it, its easy to market to the public. Fukien Tea bonsai can be found at local and major store chains and are normally referred to as “mallsai” in a joking manner. I have told some bonsai enthusiast in the past I had some Fukien Tea bonsai when they asked what type of trees I had and some of the “roll your eyes” “this guys a joke” “that’s not a bonsai” looks and comments you get, kinda piss me off a little. So I was hesitant to write a post about Fukien Tea bonsai on my blog because of this but when I saw an amazing Fukien Tea bonsai at the U.S. National Bonsai-Penjing Museum I figured that for a Fukien Tea bonsai to be displayed there, then all the naysayers can kiss my @#!. LOL 😉

So we will start with some photos of 1 out of the 3 Fukien Tea bonsai that i have and then at the end of this post you will see the one that’s on display at the National Bonsai-Penjing Museum. I will add the other 2 Fukien Teas I have on here in upcoming posts.

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So here is the Fukien Tea shortly after bringing it home. I paid $8.00 for it and guess where I got this “mallsai” from? Wal-mart! Yep I said it…… Wal-mart! Most of the Fukien Tea bonsai you can get at Wal-mart tend to be very little so when I saw this one and its size it was a no brainer! The tree had many more leaves on it then in the photo however, it also had an aphid problem. But those guys are easy to get rid of so it didn’t deter me from buying it. It looks sparse in leaves do to a bunch of them falling off after a good soap bath to kill the aphids. NEVER use an insecticide/pesticide on Fukien Tea or you will kill it. They are very sensitive to them. Either use a diluted horticulture oil or soap, or you can mix your own I like do. Using soap or oil will most likely cause your Fukien tea to drop its leaves but DONT PANIC! They will start to grow back in a few short weeks.  I also wired the tree to give it a little better style and shape. In time once it starts to grow some new shoots, I will lengthen and add mass to some of the existing branches. It has a fairly good taper as you can easily see the thickness difference between the trunk and the apex. This was yet another reason it was a good buy. 

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A fair amount of new leaves tells me it is healthy enough to get out of the over water retaining, bug infested horrible nursery soil. I may have killed the aphids that were all over it earlier, but that does not ensure that they don’t have any eggs in the soil waiting to hatch and cover it again.

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As I started to remove some of the top soil I came across another bend in the trunk and still no roots.That made me happy since now the tree has a little more character and will be slightly taller.

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I pulled the root mass out of the pot. You can see the extra trunk part in this photo. From the tips of my 2 bottom fingers is the trunk section that was buried under the soil. It looks to me though that when this tree was re-potted into this pot for commercial sale it was done poorly. It looks as if they tossed the tree in the pot and just dumped fresh soil on top. That would explain why the extra section of trunk was buried and all the roots were at the very bottom of the pot. But what do you expect when you buy a “mallsai” 😉

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So here is the root mass raked out and rinsed. I don’t recommend bare rooting or rinsing any roots when re-potting, but do to the aphid infestation earlier and the bugs that I could visually see in the soil I wanted to make sure I got as much rinsed out as possible to avoid any future bug issues.

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Roots trimmed up.

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This is the pot I chose. It is a brown glazed rectangle. Nothing special or pricey. I picked it up at my local nursery for $10. But I think it works well for this tree. 

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Getting fitted into its new pot and secured in place. 

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And here is the final bonsai at the moment. Obviously it has a way to go and in need of work and care for the next several ,yrs but at least it is much better than when it was sitting in that horrible pot on the Wal-mart shelf. I need to get the lower branches to lengthen and thicken or at some point maybe do a literati style (bunjin). Hmmmmmm…… Never have I seen a Fukien Tea in a literati style.

Now let’s get to the Fukien Tea Bonsai at the U.S. National Bonsai-Penjing Museum.

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Now is there anyone that would like to tell me why a Fukien Tea can not make a good bonsai after seeing the above tree? I’m confident in saying that I would bet any of those naysayers I spoke with before would have no problem adding this tree to their collection. All you need is a little patience, knowledge, faith and love for bonsai. 

Thanks for reading as always.

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2 thoughts on “Fukien Tea #1 (carmona microphylla)”

  1. I bought a Fukien tea when I first became interested in bonsai and actually had it flourishing at one point but tried doing too much work on it in too short of a span of time and subsequently killed it. Now I have another that I have been taking care of for a few months. It is surviving, but not really growing. It is flowering a lot though. I am thinking about putting it into a grow pot, but I don’t want to stress the tree out. It was in bonsai soil when I got it though, not the crappy potting soil most of these kind of trees come in.

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