Fukien Tea or Carmona (genus) Macrophylla *sometimes mispelled microphylla, is a popular bonsai tree named after the province of Fuijan in southeast China. It is difficult to care for as well as being quite expensive and hard to find. Thus, it is a tree advised for someone already competent with caring for bonsai or who is quite good at gardening.
Starter versions are often cheaper, i will provide some links at the bottom of the page to necesary tools and starter kits.
If you should decide to grow your tree from a seed, it is not necesary to buy a tree seed labeled bonsai, simply look up fukien tea seeds, the regular tree is the same , and only the pruning keeps it small. Be prepared for patience, this is a tree, it takes a long time to grow, sometimes taking months just to germinate. Then, waiting for it to be big enough , 4-5 years for a tree with an inch or so trunk, proper care, watering, fertilization must be done in this time.
The tree has small dark green leaves, cracked bark ( in a mature tree) younger tree’s have much thinner lighter bark, and dense foilage which accounts for its pleasing appearance and use in bonsai. In early summer, small white flowers will appear among the foilage. These berries will later in the year become small black green or red berries depending on your tree. These can be used to make tea only if your tree is Ethretia and NOT Macrophylla. Please do not eat.
Fukien is best as an indoor tree as it must be kept moist, warm, and humid year round. Temperature should not be maintained below 55 F , and the tree should not be exposed to long periods of hot sun. Around an hour a day or a little more of morning sun, and then being in a well lit room should do adequately. Though it is possible to take the tree outside for short periods of time. Beware that this will increase your chance of aphids. Also the tree should be kept away from drafts.
The tree should be watered 2-3 times per week, the soil should be kept moist but not damp, and should be allowed to dry out completely before the next watering in order to prevent root rot. If your tree is not getting enough water the leaves will begin to turn brown, if the tree is getting to much water, they will turn yellow, you can buy a humidifier to make the process simpler. Avoid checking the soil and guessing and just look at the dial.
Also, please note that Fukien Tea tends to attract aphids, if you notice small brown spots or holes in the leaves, you must remove them quite quickly for the tree’s health. If possible use a natural predator such as a Praying Mantis. Sometimes available at your local gardening store in egg form. Be warned that this is not an option if you are afraid of large bugs as you will have to release the mantis’s outside after a few weeks. If natural predator is not an option. Use a weak fertilizer, weaken it more than the package calls for and very carefully apply.
Pruning tends to be easy as the tree is dense, and thick. Wiring is hardly ever necessary at all except to get the tree into a desired shape. On a healthy tree, heavy pruning is almost always possible. And pruning is often necesary in order to keep your bonsai miniature. It is advised to use concave and straight pruners as needed to preserve the physical and cosmetic appearance of the tree. Be careful not to create scarring on the wood. If you should find it necessary to wire the tree, use the lightest wire possible and remove after around two months or the wire will begin to cut into the wood.
Fukien Tea’s must be fertilized once every 2-4 weeks as each time you water, it washes nutrients the tree needs out of the soil. Use a light fertilizer and add twice the water that the package calls for. A strong fertilizer can damage or shock your tree producing unwelcome results such as death, brown leaves, susceptibility to disease ect.
Repot your tree once every two years in early spring, after repotting do not fertilize for at least three months. Trim roots before placing in the new pot, be careful not to trim to much or not enough. If your tree was planted in China clay, use about half clay and half bonsai potting mix as not to shock your tree. Finally, water, sit back, enjoy your peacefull, zen new hobby, Bonsai!