Need some guidance on styling (dwarf jade)

lunareye

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Hi everyone,

I'm new to Bonsai and I definitely really appreciate all these useful information in this forum to affirm my decision to dive into bonsai world finally. I dug out a dwarf jade (Portulacaria Afra) from my backyard as my first try because I've heard this should be a relatively easy start.

This plant is 34" high and 27" wide after initial trimming. I'm not so sure if it's still too big to be trained. Here are my questions:

(1) If I should downsize this plant, where should I cut? Should I cut at the joint (1) in the picture or should I cut further down?

(2) How much should I trim the primary branches?

(3) I looked up some pictures of masterpieces to have some "vision" of this guy. I found one I really like and please see below. How do you think? Is it possible? If this example is not so good, do you have an example you think is better?

(4) I found dwarf jade really hard to wire and not really flexible to deal with. Any suggestions on wiring?



Thank you in advance for your kind suggestions!




Dwarf Jade Bonsai 20180314.jpg
portulacaria-bonsai.jpg
 

hemmy

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First, you are luckily in the right climate to grow these outdoors! Congrats! Development will be much easier and faster than most parts of the country.

Look here, for a progression on what your’s could be. And there is a general P. afra guide below. Also search “Jim Smith Florida Portulacaria”, he was the master.

https://adamaskwhy.com/2014/04/02/portulacaria-afra-a-little-tree-you-might-pick-up-down-the-road/

http://www.magiminiland.org/Portulacaria.html

1) Cut it lower, above the first or second branch. But the trunk needs movement lower near the base which will require a bend. Both Adam’s and your inspiration pic have movement in the trunk. Your inspiration pic looks like it was bent hard and probably cracked a little and then re-healed. They can be gradually bent. The stems are segmented and will take some expansion/breaking at the joints if you are careful and let it grow out to heal afterwards. But they are best shaped by clip and grow in the ground.

2) prune branches hard and wire for movement OR prune hard and clip and grow

3) inspiration is nice tree, kind of leggy up top. I like the more tighter pad look.

4) Some say let them dry out a little and they get more flexible.

Also, is that straight pumice or perlite? I have found in hot weather when they are actively growing they can use a lot of water. That mix may not be optimal in this development phase. In nursery cans, I use potting mix with sand or bark and some pumice. Truth be told, they grow in about anything. Really just a well draining mix with a smaller particle size that will hold some water on those hot days.

Some look down on them as bonsai, but in our SoCal climate they grow so fast that they are fun to work on.
 

JosephCooper

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The height is fine for me, because you have valuable taper.

Cut it lower, above the first or second branch. But the trunk needs movement lower near the base which will require a bend.
I personally like a more formal style in this one :)

Let it grow way out before doing much pruning.

Cut some branches coming directly across each other from the trunk, and reduce the largest and the main branches by a third.

Straighten the trunk very carefully with copper wire about a third the thickness of the trunk.
 

lunareye

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First, you are luckily in the right climate to grow these outdoors! Congrats! Development will be much easier and faster than most parts of the country.

Look here, for a progression on what your’s could be. And there is a general P. afra guide below. Also search “Jim Smith Florida Portulacaria”, he was the master.

https://adamaskwhy.com/2014/04/02/portulacaria-afra-a-little-tree-you-might-pick-up-down-the-road/

http://www.magiminiland.org/Portulacaria.html

1) Cut it lower, above the first or second branch. But the trunk needs movement lower near the base which will require a bend. Both Adam’s and your inspiration pic have movement in the trunk. Your inspiration pic looks like it was bent hard and probably cracked a little and then re-healed. They can be gradually bent. The stems are segmented and will take some expansion/breaking at the joints if you are careful and let it grow out to heal afterwards. But they are best shaped by clip and grow in the ground.

2) prune branches hard and wire for movement OR prune hard and clip and grow

3) inspiration is nice tree, kind of leggy up top. I like the more tighter pad look.

4) Some say let them dry out a little and they get more flexible.

Also, is that straight pumice or perlite? I have found in hot weather when they are actively growing they can use a lot of water. That mix may not be optimal in this development phase. In nursery cans, I use potting mix with sand or bark and some pumice. Truth be told, they grow in about anything. Really just a well draining mix with a smaller particle size that will hold some water on those hot days.

Some look down on them as bonsai, but in our SoCal climate they grow so fast that they are fun to work on.
Thank you for all these useful details! Other than this dwarf jade, what other plants do you think to be really suitable for SoCal weather? I just got several cheap one-gallon blue point junipers to practice. Any tips on training blue point junipers in this weather?

I have visited Adam's website before as well. Since he suggested that dwarf jade should remain un-watered for at least a week to prevent root rot, I have left this guy dry in the new pot for a while. I have tried to bend the lower part of the trunk according to your suggestions. However, I don't know if I haven't let him dry out enough, it seemed to be impossible to bend without snap because the trunk was really rigid. I'm probably going to try to straighten him and make him an upright formal shape according to @JosephCooper 's suggestion. I just don't want to end my first bonsai project by snapping my object in half since I have absolutely no clue where is the limit yet.

To answer your question, yes, I was using pure perlite at the beginning because everybody said that succulents' first enemy is root rot, therefore good drainage is the most important factor. But I have repotted this guy with the new soil mixture adjusted based on your suggestions: one part of peat moss, one part of pumice and one part of perlite. I will update with new pictures once I'm done with wiring and more pruning.

Thanks a lot again!
 

JosephCooper

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Thank you for all these useful details! Other than this dwarf jade, what other plants do you think to be really suitable for SoCal weather? I just got several cheap one-gallon blue point junipers to practice. Any tips on training blue point junipers in this weather?
Junipers, Pomegranates, Azaleas, Bougainvillea, most Ficus, Hawaiian umbrella, Elms (specifically Caitlin elms), Willows, Cork Oak, Japanese Black Pine, Ponderosa Pine and Myrtles are the best for California.

Junipers are pretty straightforward, just remember not to remove more than 40% of the foliage.
 

hemmy

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Yup, pretty much everything grows here! Further inland, the hot temps and drying wind can make Japanese maples a challenge. Don’t worry about killing your first tree. It happens to pretty much everyone. And I’m not sure you could kill a P. afra short of rot on cuttings.

Also, I should have been more clear on the growing mix. I grow established plants with roots in a basic nursery can mix. Cuttings go into a sand pumice mixture and do not get watered until I see new growth. Even if then cutting’s leaves shrivel some. Without roots to transport water, they rot quickly if wet. If you dig your tree with roots, then holding off on water for a week or longer this cooler time of year is a good idea. I usually take cuttings and repot when they are actively growing and the night time temps are back above 50F and our days are above 70F.
 

lunareye

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Junipers are pretty straightforward, just remember not to remove more than 40% of the foliage.
What are the consequences of removing more than 40% of the foliage? Will the tree get shocked too much and die?
 

lunareye

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Cuttings go into a sand pumice mixture and do not get watered until I see new growth. Even if then cutting’s leaves shrivel some.
Do you mean that even without roots and watering, jade is till going to grow? So I should look for the tiny new leaves before I water the cuttings, right?

BTW, I dug out this P. afra with roots. I repotted him last evening and left him outside and then it rained hard last night. Although I'm pretty sure the drainage should be good, was that a good idea?
 

lunareye

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Junipers, Pomegranates, Azaleas, Bougainvillea, most Ficus, Hawaiian umbrella, Elms (specifically Caitlin elms), Willows, Cork Oak, Japanese Black Pine, Ponderosa Pine and Myrtles are the best for California.
Another quick question, do you know any nurseries carrying cheap stocks of these trees you mentioned that I can do experiments on? I'm not planning to buy expensive ones until I know what I'm doing. How is San Gabriel Nursery's prices compared with others?
 

hemmy

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Do you mean that even without roots and watering, jade is till going to grow? So I should look for the tiny new leaves before I water the cuttings, right?
When I take a cutting (+1/2” diameter), I leave it outside on table or bench to allow the cut end to dry. Usually for a few days, longer if is cloudy. Then it goes into a sand/pumice and I forget about it for a few weeks. When I see the cuttings start to push new growth it is weak and may be from the tips or at cut sites on branches or trunk. This is usually the sign that they have produced new roots. If your mix is fast draining, you should be alright if it gets watered once or twice before the roots developed. I would place it against your house under the roofline to keep it away from rain.
 

hemmy

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Another quick question, do you know any nurseries carrying cheap stocks of these trees you mentioned that I can do experiments on? I'm not planning to buy expensive ones until I know what I'm doing. How is San Gabriel Nursery's prices compared with others?
What’s cheap, what range? You can get pre-bonsai trees from Fuji Bonsai in Slymar and Kimura’s in the Valley. I haven’t been to San Gabriel in years, but they had a ton of stock. Also Nuccio’s in Pasadena, you can get 1 gallon Azaleas and Camellias for $8.

Have you thought about joining a Club? It is a great resource even if you don’t have any “nice” trees.
 

JosephCooper

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Another quick question, do you know any nurseries carrying cheap stocks of these trees you mentioned that I can do experiments on? I'm not planning to buy expensive ones until I know what I'm doing. How is San Gabriel Nursery's prices compared with others?
Go to a place like Home Depot, and go for their dirt cheap one-gallon hedges. Your best bet is to get on your hands and knees to find the thickest trunk.

Often their Azaleas are very nice, and good practice. They can be left with no foliage and still be fine.

As for the San Gabriel nursery, I'm not sure. Haven't checked yet...
 

JosephCooper

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What are the consequences of removing more than 40% of the foliage? Will the tree get shocked too much and die?
An overpruned Juniper could send needle growth if it doesn't normally have them. They could sulk (stop growing) or give up on major branches.
 

Carol 83

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I bought a jade plant from the grocery store for $4. I planted one trunk by itself, because it showed a little age. The rest I chopped up and stuck in a pot. When they were overgrown, I cut those up and planted a jade forest out of the most aged looking trunks (they are showing new leaves popping) and stuck the younger remains in a pot to grow out. So, a bunch of plants from 1 $4 plant. Maybe, not really bonsai, but an economical and fun way to propagate and practice, when you are starting out.
 

hemmy

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What’s cheap, what range? You can get pre-bonsai trees from Fuji Bonsai in Slymar and Kimura’s in the Valley. I haven’t been to San Gabriel in years, but they had a ton of stock. Also Nuccio’s in Pasadena, you can get 1 gallon Azaleas and Camellias for $8.

Have you thought about joining a Club? It is a great resource even if you don’t have any “nice” trees.
Just realized, I meant to say, you can get pre-bonsai for under $30 at the above nurseries. I bought some nice Shohin sized olives from Kimura’s last year for under $20 and a couple Monterrey Cypress for aroun day $30. As mentioned, box stores are good if you are looking for something to practice wiring on.
 

lunareye

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Have you thought about joining a Club? It is a great resource even if you don’t have any “nice” trees.
Yes, I'm planning to join a club close to me. Their monthly meeting will be in next week. I will definitely go if I can clear my schedule.
 

Solaris

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Are end-of-season sales a thing in California? 'Cause that's when the wifey starts thinking it's safe to leave me unsupervised in the garden section you can usually find some halfway decent trees for dirt cheap. If they're in less than great condition, that provides you an excellent opportunity to practice recovery/nurturing techniques on - something you'd want to be good at before you have a quality tree that's ailing.
 
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