Friday, June 27, 2008

Growing Bonsai in Phoenix , Arizona

The growing of bonsai in Phoenix Arizona poses some very unique challenges. The extreme desert conditions means that a lot of the 'classic' bonsai subjects have absolutely zero chance of growing here. Summer temperatures of +115f in the summer are common. Winter temperatures can drop to below freezing. What this means is that tropicals need to have winter protection from frosts. Below is my short analysis of tree material that I have used, or have contemplated using

Juniper- very popular bonsai subject. Grows very well in the Phoenix heat, and is not at all bothered by the low winter temperatures. Strongly recommended as a bonsai subject.

Japanese Maple- Very popular bonsai subject, very beautiful classic bonsai subject. Does poorly in the desert heat. Not recommend for use in Phoenix

Trident maple- Popular classic bonsai subject. Does a bit better than Japanese maple in high desert heat. Needs protection from the summer sun, keep as shady and cool as possible.

Japanese black pine. Popular classic bonsai subject. Can tolerate high temperatures found in Phoenix , but should be kept well shaded.

Crabapple- Popular classic bonsai subject. Will tolerate high summer temperatures, but provide lots of shade and try to keep as cool as possible. All literature on this subject indicates that this subject should be given a period of freezing temperatures. Keep well watered, do not allow to dry out. Very beautiful flowers and fruits. Deserves more research on it's use is recommended.

Pomegranate- Popular classic American bonsai subject. This is a Mediterranean tree, so I do not know if it is used in Japanese bonsai. This subject does extremely well in Phoenix . Tolerates high summer temperatures, and does not mind the ocassional winter frost. Fast grower. Highly recommended for use in Phoenix .

Olive- Popular classic American bonsai subject. Another Mediterranean tree that also will do extremely well in Phoenix . This tree seems to thrive in the high desert heat and is not bothered by the occassional frost. Not enough good things can be said about this tree, it is fantastic! Highly recommended for use in Phoenix .

Ficus- Very popular bonsai subject. Ficus benjamina, retusa, microcarpa, nerifolia all do extremely well in the Phoenix heat. Keep well watered. Protect from winter frost. Can be kept indoors, but will require lots of light. Cuttings take well. Highly recommended for use in Phoenix .

Chinese elm- Very popular bonsai subject. This is a semi-tropical that can go evergreen, depending on conditions. Requires plenty of light. Keep well watered. Tolerates lots of abuse. Protect from winter frost. Recommended for use in Phoenix .

Bougainvillea- Not a well known bonsai subject. Fairly well known for it's papery 'flowers'. I remember this shrub from my days in Hawaii as a tenacious, fast growing shrub. It will grow back from a stump with very little if any roots. As a tropical, it tolerates the high Phoenix summer temperatures, even thriving in it. Give lots of water, light, and fertilizer and you will have a monster grower.


Unknown said...

Hey Victor, Its big Dave from San Diego. Remember the Kobeys swap and San Diego bonsai club.

Wondering where you went. glad to see you making pots.

Se you around


Bonsai Victor said...

I wonder if you're still around. Ten years is a long time. Kids grow, vehicles wear out, and our little bonsai tree will come and go. All this and EVERYTHING else happens over the span of ten years.
Yes, Big Dave, I remember you well.

rnewton8 said...

great article.

Curious - Have you tried growing Brazilian rain tree bonsai in Phoenix?

It's a tropical, likes plenty of sun, which we have, but also likes lots of humidity, which we don't have.

I have one myself, did well this summer, but lost a lot of leaves once the night time temps started to drop into the 50s.

Bonsai Victor said...

Sorry, I don't check my comments too often.
No, have not tried BRT. I've long since moved from Phoenix and now live in the Pacific Northwest. I'm sure the BRT will do quite well in Phoenix, provided you protect in from the crazy heat.

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