Baobab trees are among some of the oldest trees in the world. Considered to be sacred to many different peoples and in many different cultures, these iconic trees are known for their unique appearance. Baobab trees can also be grown as Bonsai trees, though this process isn’t as common as some other types of Bonsai trees.
Should you choose to undertake the task, here is everything you need to know about growing and caring for a baobab Bonsai tree!
|Baobab Bonsai Tree Information|
|Common Types||African Baobab, Australian Baobab, Giant Baobab, Za Baobab, Madagascar Baobab, Fony Baobab, Suarez Baobab|
|Sunlight||Direct sunlight for at least 6 hours a day, or grow lights for 16 hours a day|
|Soil||Sandy and well-draining|
|Water||Drought tolerant, sensitive to overwatering. Once a month during the watering season.|
|For Beginners?||Intermediate to advanced. Pruning baobab Bonsai trees is easier than others, but caring for these trees can be difficult.|
|Indoors or Outdoors?||Outdoors in warm, hot, and sunny conditions, and indoors in cold and dark conditions.|
|Pairs Well With…||Moss, rocks, and other natural ornamentation|
Common Types of Baobab Bonsai Trees
Baobab trees are known for their unique appearances and longevity. These trees, native to Africa, Madagascar, Asia, and Australia, can range in height from 15 to over 130 feet. Most trunk diameters range from 7 to even 35 feet. Also known as “upside down trees”, baobab trees make lovely Bonsai trees because of their appearance.
Baobab trees are old trees that have been important to the indigenous people of their native regions for centuries. Many of them are steeped in myth and legend, or given names that denote their importance to the local peoples and cultures.
Among the nine or so different species of baobab trees, here are the most common! Any one of them would make a great Bonsai tree.
African baobab trees are native to the sub-Saharan region of Africa, though they can be found throughout the entire continent. As such, they are used to hot and dry climates. The fruit from the African baobab tree is considered to be a superfruit. This is due to the number of vitamins and minerals found in them. These trees are also used to make medicine and can provide water for animals as well as humans since they store it in their trunks.
African baobab trees are especially long-living; there are some that are thought to be over 2,000 years old!
Called “boab” in their native home, these trees are from Australia, throughout the northern and western regions of the continent. The trunks of these trees can reach more than 15 feet in diameter! Water is stored in these massive trunks, just like in the trunks of baobab trees native to Africa. It has been discovered that some of the older Australian baobab trees can hold more than 25,000 gallons of water!
In the dry season, the leaves fall from these trees. Afterward, when conditions are wetter, white flowers bloom alongside the new leaves.
Out of the many baobab varieties found in Madagascar, the giant variety is the most popular. The local name for these trees is renala, or reniala. In the Malagasy language, this name means “mother of the forest”.
As the name suggests, this variety is among the tallest baobabs in the world, with some reaching about 100 feet. The tops of these trees, or the crowns, are flat. Many branches spread out horizontally beneath these crowns.
These trees produce flowers that eventually bloom into fruits.
Out of the many baobab varieties found in Madagascar, the za variety is the most common. In appearance, it is similar to the African Baobab, though they are on average taller and thicker. In fact, some za baobab trees have been known to reach heights of over 130 feet. There is one specific za baobab tree, still alive today, whose trunk is about 75 feet in diameter.
The bark on these trees is shades of brown and rose. Za baobab trees bloom flowers as well as fruits. These trees thrive best beneath full sun and in soil that is well-draining.
Out of all of the baobab trees, the Madagascar variety has the largest range in height. On the low end, they can be about 15 feet in height. On the high end, the height is over 65 feet. The bark on these trees is gray and smooth to the touch. From February to April flowers bloom alongside the new leaves. These flowers are especially fragrant, with dark red petals that can sometimes be yellow!
[Image of Fony Baobab | Caption: Fony Baobab are the smallest of the baobab trees, which makes them ideal for Bonsai art!]
These baobab trees might be the smallest of the bunch, but they aren’t any less majestic than their larger cousins. Native to western Madagascar, fony baobab are identified by their red-tinged bark. They also have toothed leaves, whereas most other baobab trees have untoothed leaves.
When new leaves begin to grow in the spring, they are joined by the flowers of these trees. These flowers are large and scented. Petals are yellow, with tinges of green or orange. Fony baobab trees are used to chalky soil that is well-draining.
Suarez Baobab trees were named after the Portuguese explorer who found them. They are native to northern Madagascar, where they are considered endangered. These trees can reach heights of over 80 feet, but their trunks are among the smallest in diameter of baobab trees at 6 feet.
After their leaves have fallen, Suarez baobab trees produce big white flowers. This happens in the late spring and throughout the summer. These flowers produce a lot of nectar.
Caring for Your Baobab Bonsai Tree
Baobab Bonsai trees can be difficult to take care of, but not impossible. From sunlight to placement, soil to water, here is everything you need to know about caring for your baobab Bonsai tree!
Since they often grow in forests or dry deserts in the wild, baobab trees are used to tons of sunlight. They need at least six hours of direct sunlight every day. If they are being grown indoors or in a place where this amount of sunlight is not available, it is recommended to use grow lights. Keep these grow lights shining on your baobab Bonsai tree for 16 hours a day to help them grow their best!
As with other Bonsai trees, a baobab Bonsai tree needs its soil to be well-draining. They thrive best in sandy soil. You can mix this soil at home using sand, compost, and regular soil. Specialty soil mixes for Bonsai trees can also be used.
Baobab trees store water in their trunks in the wild, and this is true of baobab Bonsai trees. Because of this, they don’t need to be watered too often during the growing season. The rule of thumb is generally once a month. They are a bit sensitive to being overwatered, as well as root rot since they are used to drought in the wild.
When your baobab Bonsai tree is not growing, it is not a good idea to water it.
Knowing exactly where to place your Bonsai tree can help it thrive!
Since baobab trees are used to a lot of sunlight, it is a good idea to place your baobab Bonsai tree where it can soak up as much light as possible. This can either be outdoors beneath direct sunlight or in a room with grow lights.
In the wild, these trees grow in regions that are relatively warm throughout the year. So, in the winter, it is best to bring your outdoors baobab Bonsai tree inside. You’ll want to do this as soon as temperatures drop below 55F. Place it beneath grow lights, so it can continue getting the light it needs.
Pruning Your Baobab Bonsai Tree
Thankfully, pruning a baobab Bonsai tree isn’t too difficult. In fact, pruning a baobab Bonsai tree can be easier than pruning other Bonsai trees.
In the wild, most of the branches on baobab trees grow near the top of the tree, leaving a bare stretch of the trunk below. Baobab Bonsai trees can grow similarly. The branches of these trees can be pruned at any time throughout the year. When the new shoots grow too long, they can be trimmed back.
As a whole, it is better to prune baobab Bonsai trees with scissors than it is to try wiring them.
Ideal Baobab Bonsai Tree Styles
Because of their strong, thick trunks it is not easy, and at times impossible, to try growing a baobab Bonsai tree in any direction other than upright. But there are plenty of majestic and lovely upright Bonsai styles to choose from!
One of the most common Bonsai styles, and probably the most ideal for baobab Bonsai trees, is the Chokkan style. Known as the formal upright style, this style is easy to achieve with baobab trees. If you’re looking for a challenge, you can always try the Moyogi style. This is also called the informal upright style and involves forming the tree in a S-shape.
Another Bonsai style to try for baobab trees is the Yose-ue style. Known as the forest style, this style involves growing several smaller stalks at once to form a forest of sorts.
Baobab Bonsai trees can also be grown with multiple trunks and branches. These styles are known as Sokan and Kabudachi, respectively.
Propagating Your Baobab Bonsai Tree
The best way to propagate a baobab Bonsai tree is from the seeds of the baobab tree you want to grow. Cuttings will also work, but seeds typically work with better success.
Common Problems with Baobab Bonsai Trees
For the most part, baobab trees are hardy and do not have many issues with pests or diseases. Root rot can take hold if they are watered too much or too often. When kept indoors, baobab Bonsai trees can become infested with spider mites and aphids. To combat these issues, you can use specialized pesticides.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Ragulina/Shutterstock.com
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