The Brazilian Raintree likes the sandy growing environment in Brazil, but prefers to be evenly moist in a container. This tree has compound leaves and is spiny … very spiny. It will tolerate temperatures in the upper 30º F range, but not for a long time. Growing in the full sun in nature, Brazilian Raintrees appreciate some shade during the hottest days of tropical summers. It is the nature of the tree to grow straight when not affected by the winds in its natural habitat. The delicate green branches belie the very difficult to educate wood.
Bonsai trees live in small pots and their world dries out much quicker than plants in the ground or in bigger pots, so close attention should be paid to watering. Keep your tree evenly moist. Striking a balance between not enough water and too much water can be a bit tricky but is very important. Water thoroughly and deeply when it needs water and let it catch its breath before watering again. An old bonsai watering trick is to place the entire pot in a sink of water an inch or two deep and let the water absorb from the holes in the bottom of the pot. Another favorite way to know if it needs watering is to lift it. You can get a sense for whether it needs watering by its weight.
Fertilizing a bonsai is essential to its health because the nutrients in the soil leave very quickly with the water. When new growth appears in the spring, it’s time to start feeding your bonsai. Use a balanced fertilizer with nitrogen once every two weeks during the growing season. In late summer when growth starts to slow, reduce the feeding to once a month. During the fall and winter months when your bonsai is in its “resting” or dormancy phase, use a no-nitrogen fertilizer. This will help the plant’s root system stay healthy and active without encouraging new foliage growth. A vitamin supplement/root stimulant is an excellent complement to fertilizers.
To develop the foliage, pinch out the tender new shoots using your fingers leaving a small nub to allow for the possible die-back that often occurs. Many artists do not use a concave cutter on the Brazilian Raintree for this reason. Later this can be refined. Once the initial trunk and branch shape is established, clip-and-grow is the best way to develop it.
Use the thinnest training wire that will hold the branch in the desired position. DO NOT WIRE A BONSAI JUST AFTER REPOTTING. Wind the training wire in the direction the branch is bent in order to keep the wire from loosening. Wrapping the wire too tightly will cause scarring. Actually, using only nylon is better for the delicate green branches. It is very difficult to “educate” the wood once it forms, so it is better to use nylon strips. If you do use wire, wrap it loosely or use it only to tie down branches. After about 6 weeks, the branch should be able to maintain the shape on its own, and the nylon/wire can be removed. Cut the wire carefully from the branch. DO NOT UNWIND WIRES. This could cause the branch to break.
Reduce the roots gradually, removing no more than one third of the roots at each repotting. Repot young trees (up to 10 years) every other year. Repot older trees every 3-4 years. Repotting is best done in spring.
Brazilian Raintrees thrive in the sandy growing environment of Brazil; however, it prefers to be evenly moist in a container. By planting it in a fast draining soil this can be easily accomplished. Too much organic material in the soil mix can create wet conditions which cause root rot, fungus and branch die-back.
Insects and Diseases:
You should inspect your tree several times a week to look for problems. Spraying your bonsais once every month or two with a non-toxic insect spray should keep the tree clean and healthy. Soaps should be rinsed off the next day. DO NOT SPRAY WHEN SOIL IS DRY.
Mites also like to infest the Brazilian Raintree. You can prevent fungal problems by keeping your bonsai in a well ventilated area. Air circulation also encourages cell growth. Fungus problems are more likely during the dreary, wet fall and winter days and into the soggy spring days too. Use a mild fungicide and keep the air flowing to chase away fungal problems.
Look for common greenhouse pests such as aphids. Aphids are soft-bodied insects with pear shaped bodies. They cluster on buds, leaves and tips of shoots. Aphids feed on plant juices causing poor plant growth and distorted leaves. Most products used for aphid control work as contact insecticides. The aphids must be hit directly with spray droplets so they can be absorbed into the insect’s body. Insecticidal soaps work well against aphids.
Tying/wiring done when the tree is not dormant must be watched carefully for signs of cutting into the bark, and must be removed immediately if this happens. If necessary, the tree can be re-tied/re-wired after removing the old ties/wire.
An inexpensive moisture meter takes the guesswork out of watering. We sell them on our website. Water slowly so it absorbs into the dirt, otherwise the water will run all over your table. We pot our bonsai trees specifically to drain well, so it’s almost impossible to over water.
Brazilian Raintrees do best with lots of light. If you keep them inside, find a place that gets a ton of sun. If you want to keep it outside it can tolerate just about any condition, but don’t let it freeze. It appreciates some shade during the hottest days of tropical summer.