Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bonsai Baobab Tree

See the 2009 update on my baobab here on my blog.

Taking a break from the stifling outdoors, here is an indoor project of mine:
I started this baobab tree (Adansonia digitata) from seed 3 years ago. I bought the huge seed from a mail order company and germinated it in warm conditions after soaking the seed. While baobabs have large leaves (which generally detract from the bonsai form), baobab bonsais are said to be attractive for their leafless form in the winter, when their large trunk and multiple branches look like a tree with its roots in the air.

I am working to increase branching by pruning this little tree. I rooted one of the larger cuttings last summer and I will try to make it into a bonsai as well. I grow it in a sunny window during the spring and summer. When the leaves start to yellow and fall off in autumn, I put it in the basement with no light or water for several months. Every year I wonder if it is dead (it spent about 5 months lying horizontally under the pool table during the winter a couple of years ago). Then to my amazement, it suddenly starts sprouting leaves and then I put it back upstairs in the sun. This one just started growing leaves ago a few weeks ago. It is a bit late this year because I pruned it too late last summer and it proceeded to make new growth rather than lose its leaves in October!

34 comments:

the Red Scot said...

I had no idea that Baobab trees could be grown indoors, much less as a bonsai!

Gardenista said...

Yes, it works as a bonsai - more commonly done in Africa than in North America to be sure. The only tip I really have about this plant is: NEVER let it get a draft of cold air. We moved in winter and I ran one of these from the car to the apartment (in a plastic bag) and it died a few days later.

michellesteeleart said...

Hi, I found your post about your baobab tree while doing a search. I just recently bought one from ebay. They sent it to me using a heatpack and styrofoam peanuts. I am hoping it didn't get too cold on it's journey here because it is 37 today. So how is yours doing and have you started making it a bonsai tree yet? I want to make mine into a bonsai too. :)

Gardenista said...

I have been waiting for a while to show the baobab again. I actually cut it down to a little stump, to promote more bushy growth. Subsequently, it seems to be going dormant for the winter again. It was a bold experiment though - you can cut a baobab down only a few inches from the dirt and it does send out lots of new foliage.

Angie said...

Hi there -
I have three baobab trees that I've been growing indoors for a few years now. One is getting too tall to be on my desk anymore - how can I 'turn it into' a bonsai?
Thanks!

Gardenista said...

I cut my off about 6 inches from the soil. You can apply Japanese cut paste to the wound to help it seal (or just leave it dry). New growth will form all around the wound and will make it a compact tree. Mine's still having its winter and has no leaves yet.

DonJaime said...

Do any indoor growers of Adansonia digitata recommend germinating at a particular time, or does growing indoors (and therefore completely controlling the plant's environment) result in the freedom to plant at-will?

Thanks for any advice!

Gardenista said...

I'd try to germinate a baobab in spring or summer season. Mine drops its leaves for the winter, though it seems to operate on a 14 month year, since the winter comes later every year and it hasn't started growing yet this spring! I'd assume that the tree takes cues from day length when exposed to light coming through the windows and thus has its summer and winter seasons. I always lose faith in my baobab every winter, thinking it won't come back. Let's hope it will again this year.

Anonymous said...

Hi yall, I've grown two African Bonsai plants (trees) from seeds that sprouted exactly one year ago. I have both of them in small sized clay pots. I decided to experiment with one by letting one grow naturally and the second I cut all of its leaves in half and cutting the main stem on top to prevent further upwards growth. I also cut the main root and planted it in a very shallow container. (No more than 2-3 inches versus the small clay pot of 5-6 inches) As a result the second tree has grown leaves about 1/3 the size of its original large leaves. Both have been in a full sun window year round and have retained green leaves without shedding.

Anonymous said...

One more thing re: the two African Baobab trees I planted one year ago. The one in the small 6inch clay pot is 14 inches tall and the one in the shallower 2 inch container that I've "pruned" (not in any pro way- just with scissors) is 9 inches with leaves one third the size of the bigger one. Both seeds were planted the same day.

Anonymous said...

I just planted two Australian Baobab seeds this past week. One in a large approx. one foot tall pot and one in a small 5-6 inch clay pot. Any suggestions for Australian baobabs? thanks.

Gardenista said...

The only tip for germinating any kind of baobab is to soak the seed in water for 24 hrs before planting.

Zimzam said...

Hiya. How long did it take for your baobab to "open" its leaves? I have had mine for almost 3 months now, and although it originally sprouted leaves really quickly, they are still quite small, "closed" and pointing skywards. As I am attempting to bonsai it, it is in a rather small pot. Could this be the problem? Thanks a lot!

Gardenista said...

Many beginning bonsai trees do well first in a bigger pot, to establish some thicker and bigger growth on top first. My baobab is now 5 years old and still in a 8 inch pot. The leaves should unfurl within a month from the bud stage as long as it's in a well lit place and is not in its deciduous winter stage.

Javbe said...

Hey, I ordered some baobab seeds online and have been trying to grow them.. how long does it take for them to sprout?

Gardenista said...

They should sprout within a week. Providing some heat and humidity helps, so germinating it in a pot inside a baggie and in the sun should help.

Svante said...

Hello, new to this. Sorry to bother.

I live in Nigeria, working as a diplomat. At a holiday in Zimbabwe we brought back some Baobab seeds. Now we mannaged to get one to sprout (we planted some 25 seeds so far, only this one came up). Its about 1,5cm high, with the cover of the seed still holding on. Question now: How much should we water it? Any other tips?

Best regards

Svante Edqvist

Gardenista said...

Svante,
Water the seedling just like any other houseplant. Keep it a bit damp but not excessively dry or wet. I used regular potting soil with good drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Always keep it from drafts of really cold air.
Good luck.

Svante said...

Thanks you so much for you swift answer.

Anonymous said...

Hey everyone, I was reading the posts already posted and well I have literally just got into bonsai, and I just got two books and I'm trying to read as much ad I can about it.. I saw te baobab tree and well I thought it would be awwwessome to create a tree like that the same height as me, like 5'10, and have a huge trunk and a big thik canopy with the roots on top of the soil kinda... I also wanted to start it from a seed, but don't understand what germinate and that means, any suggestions on what size pot and soil to get? Also a reliable online store that would mail me a seed? I'm n florida! Thanks a bunch!

Gardenista said...

I bought my Baobab seed from http://seedrack.com They are in the US, and there is no problem sending to Canada either.

Anonymous said...

I bought some seeds, but when i tried to plant them i couldnt get them to work.. i poured boiling water of them as it says to do..i only have a few seeds left.. what should i do?

Clarence said...

Boiling water probably killed the seeds. I am new to this, I just planted three Baobob seeds a little over a week ago (June 30). There are 3 varieties, African, Austrailian and Madagascar; I planted 1 of each. The Madagascar sprouted and is 4 inches (7cm) high already. I'm still waiting for the other 2. I soaked my seeds for 12 hours in room temperature water (72F 22C) before planting in Miracle Gro potting soil in a 4 inch pot. Moist soil (not soaking) covered with plastic wrap and setting on a sunny window sill. Remove the plastic as soon as the seed sprouts. Don't let it dry out in summer, let it rest in winter. These are tropical trees, zone 11+, never let them get cold! I think these will be great Bonsai trees. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Do the bonsai Madagascar Baobab trees grow the pretty pink flowers that open in less than a minute?

Wim said...

Don't boil the seeds. I've soaked my seeds for 24h and then i scratched open the casing. Then you can plant it in soggy potting compost. The seeds wil sprout after 5 to 10 days already.

Wim said...

I want to make a bonsai from my baobab. He is about 20inch now. Do i have to cut the top already? Do i have to cut the roots to stimullate lower branches or i just let it grow so the trunk can grow thicker fast.

Gardenista said...

If the tree is 20" you should probably be cutting it now. Keep in mind the new branches will mostly be close to the new cut and not a long ways below it. Therefore, be bold and cut it fairly low.

Wim said...

i should cut it now you think? Or do i better wait til march just before spring? Here in belgium temperature is not very high and autumn starts very early. So wen i cut it now im afraid the tree can't harden enough before winter starts. What do you think? Thanks already for the good aid

Gardenista said...

You are right that the timing around the season isn't the best. Waiting until it starts growing more in spring is best. Otherwise you'll have lots of new growth that will die out when autumn comes. But do cut it in spring.

Wim said...

I have another question. Today i inspected te roots if i had to change the pot. And i noticed my baobab had a very big root ( 10 inch long and about 1/2 inch thick.) I have to prune the root, otherwise he wil never fit in a bonsai pot? Or i had to cut it earlier?

Gardenista said...

I'm not sure about the roots, as I had been growing mine in a medium-sized pot all along. However, I understand that some root pruning is okay. Hopefully it won't rot at the cut point.

Unknown said...

To me, it's so frustrating sometimes asking questions about this beautiful tree #1 because everyone has such different opinions and not just small differences HUGE differences. Some people say to keep it extremely dark when it's dormant... Then other people say always keep it in light... Then some people say keep it damp no matter what... Then other people say don't water it at all during the winter season... Which I don't even know what's considered the winter season, because I live in Texas our winter is like just November December and January I guess. Lol then it's like I should go months and months without watering it? That just sounds so strange to me. Any straight answers would be nice for me thank you in advance. :-)

Wim said...

I should not watering it in winter. I stop watering my baobab in the begining of oktober but our winter is longer and a little colder than yours. So in your case i'd stop watering in november till the end of januari. If you decide to water it, the three wil not have a stop period but it wil keep growing in winter as well. Even the water consumption will be a lot lower than in summer. Keep a close watch on the soil, because if you keep it constantly wet, the root wil start rotting. Gtrz Wim

Unknown said...

Hi Wim,

The key thing to understand about watering is: why does a plant need water? The answer is: for photosynthesis in its leaves under sunlight to transform into food for the plant. If the leaves fell of, there is no more need for water. The water will just 'sit' in the pot and rotting of the plant may occur.

So if the Baobab sheds it's leaves or is about to: stop watering. If still green? Fine to water it.

Best regards,
Maarten (owner of four 7 yr old potted baobabs)