How to care for a baobab bonsai?
A baobab (Adansonia digitata) is an interesting addition to a bonsai collection. These trees are native to Africa and have an unusual structure and appearance. Some legends say that the tree was cast down from the heavens and landed upside down, where it began to grow. This story is no doubt a result of the tree’s appearance in the winter, when the upper branches of the tree look more like roots than treetops. The baobab has some specific needs, but if you pay careful attention to its requirements, this tree is not difficult to grow and makes an excellent bonsai specimen.
Keep the baobab tree warm, since it is sensitive to the cold. This tropical tree grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and up, but in most areas of the United States, a baobab bonsai is kept only as a houseplant. You can set it outside on warm days, but if the temperature drops below 54 degrees, the tree may die.
Place the tree in a bright, sunny window. Baobabs need at least six hours of full sunlight per day, so a window with a western or southern exposure is best. If your house doesn’t get enough light, supplement natural light with artificial grow lights for 16 hours daily, or less if the tree receives partial sunlight.
Water the tree well about once a month during the growing season or whenever the soil is dry. Never water the tree when it is dormant, since to do so is likely to cause root rot and kill it.
Feed a baobab bonsai a good-quality liquid fertilizer about once a month, applying the fertilizer when you water the tree. Due to the nature of the bonsai pot and root system, the fertilizer must be diluted to no more than half the normal strength, or you risk burning the roots and killing the tree.
Prune the branches of your baobab bonsai as often as they need it to give the tree the shape you desire, pruning or pinching off branches that are growing at odd angles or are too long. Trim early in the spring before new growth appears.
Repot the baobab bonsai every two years in the spring. Remove it from its pot and trim the roots back by one-third to two-thirds of their length, completely removing any that are damaged or dead. Place it in a container that is twice the size of the root ball and fill the pot with a mixture of 70 percent compost and 30 percent salt-free sand. Water well to minimize shock and be sure to keep it warm.