The Brazillian rain tree, with the Latin name Pithecellobium tortum, is native to the rainforests of Brazil and belongs to the legume (Leguminosae) family. It is a hardwood tree with delicate branches and compound leaves with tiny leaflets.
The leaflets of this tree are a light green color and fold up in the evening only to open again in the morning.
If you’re lucky you might notice some puffy pinkish-white to white flowers with a very fragrant scent.
The trunk is quite interesting in this specimen. It is naturally dark brown and fluted but appears to be almost white when it exfoliates and peels off. It is one of the faster-growing bonsai which means that you will need to do a lot of pruning. If you want to prune this tree, do keep in mind that it has some nasty thorns.
This extraordinary tree prefers moist conditions when grown as a bonsai even though it can tolerate dry conditions.
In the wild, it grows in a warm climate in a location with access to full sun but if grown as a bonsai, you will need to protect your tree against extreme heat and sun during the hottest days of summer. Also take note that if your area ever receives frost in winter, you will need to protect your rain tree bonsai. Brazillian rain tree bonsai doesn’t tolerate frost at all.
Most Brazillian tree bonsai in the United States and many other countries around the world can be traced back to one particular bonsai grown by Jim Moody in the 1970s. This tree was recognized in several magazines and even in a book. It supplied most of the cuttings from which the Brazillian rain tree bonsai grown around the world today originated from.
In the wild, the Brazillian rain tree is now listed as critically endangered. For this reason, you might have a hard time finding seeds to start your bonsai. Fortunately, it should be quite simple to get cuttings or even buy a little tree from a nursery near you due to their overall popularity.
Care Guidelines For Brazillian Rain Tree Bonsai
Brazillian rain tree bonsai make excellent indoor trees. They do, however, still need a lot of light to grow properly. For this reason, it is best to keep them near a sunny window or in a protected area outdoors with access to full sun. This is especially important during the growing season.
If you live in an area that gets very cold and even receives frost in winter, you will need to take your tree indoors. This should be done when the temperature drops below 45° Farenheight (7°C). Keep your tree near a sunny window or even under grow lights to help it survive.
It is very important to keep the rootball of your Brazillian bonsai slightly moist at all times. Keeping it moist, however, doesn’t mean drowning it in water.
Just make sure the soil around the roots is always slightly damp.
This bonsai also loves a humid environment. If you’re keeping your tree indoors, place it on a tray with wet gravel or mist it regularly to increase humidity. Do make sure your tree isn’t standing in water to prevent overwatering.
Soil And Fertilising
Liquid fertilizer is the preferred choice when it comes to feeding Brazillian bonsai. You will need to establish a weekly feeding schedule during the growing season which is reduced to once a month during winter. Make sure the fertilizer you choose is balanced to provide your plant with everything it needs.
Bonsai is especially needy when it comes to fertilizer. Normally potted plants will get everything they need from the potting soil, but due to bonsai being kept in so little soil, this just isn’t possible for them. However, don’t overfeed your bonsai.
Due to the soil being so sparse, you can easily damage the roots of your bonsai. Make sure to use only half the recommended amount of fertilizer when feeding your little tree. It is also possible to overstimulate growth which in bonsai is not ideal. This is especially true in fast-growing bonsai species like the Brazillian rain tree.
You can also fertilize your bonsai by avoiding direct soil to fertilizer contact. Most bonsai respond quite well to a mix of 50-50 water and fertilizer sprayed evenly across their leaves.
It is very important to leave a small nub when pruning your Brazillian rain tree bonsai. Doing so will prevent possible die-back after pruning. For this reason, many bonsai artists avoid the use of concave cutters on this little tree. Once the little nub is dry, you can refine it.
Once you’ve established the initial branch shape and trunk of your bonsai, you can switch to the clip and grow method to maintain and further shape your little tree.
Some bonsai are easier to maintain while others need more management. The Brazillian bonsai, being a fast grower, falls into the latter category. It is essential to watch it carefully throughout the growing season to make sure it keeps the correct shape and stays small.
You will also need to spend a significant amount of time training this tree due to all the large amount of new green growth. This is especially true if you want it to grow in any position that’s not just straight up. Make sure to shape the new growth early on since a Brazillian raintree is very resistant to training once it’s hardened into place.
When it comes to propagating the Brazillian rain tree, air layering is the preferred method. Seeds can be quite challenging to find. If air-layering isn’t an option, you can try taking a cutting instead. It is best to take cuttings during the mid-growing season (late spring or early summer)
Although the Japanese maple bonsai tree is very hardy, it can be affected by aphids, minute bugs that hungrily feed on sap sucked from plants. The aphids reproduce quickly and may live in large colonies that cause extensive damage to bonsai and other plants.
You can get rid of these with a standard insecticide formula.
Identifiable by black spots on recently pruned wood, verticillium wilt can cause your bonsai to die. The disease is not treatable, and you can unintentionally transmit it with your bonsai tools to other trees. Make sure that you thoroughly clean and disinfect your tools to prevent spread.
Potential Pets And Diseases
Fortunately, Brazillian rain tree bonsai seems to be quite resistant to pests and diseases. One of the pests to look out for is nematodes. They can be identified by looking for visible root nodules. You can use a nematicide to treat this problem.
Other pests to consider are aphids, spider mites, and whitefly which can be quite common on bonsai that are kept indoors. You can control these pests by using pest-specific pesticides. For a more organic option, you can use water, vinegar, and dish soap to wash your plant daily until all pests have gone.
If your plant was overwatered you might experience root rot, mold, or other fungal and bacterial diseases.
Brazillian rain tree bonsai only needs to be repotted every two or three years. Despite the fast growth of this tree, the roots only need moderate pruning when repotting. They seem to grow a lot slower than the rest of the plant.
You will need to make sure to use a well-draining soil mix when repotting to avoid root rot and other ailments due to water retention. Also, make sure to avoid fertilization for four weeks after repotting. The best time to repot your plant is during the growing season to avoid die-back due to stress. Experts suggest repotting in mid-summer for the best results.
Wiring Your Bonsai
If you would like to wire and shape your Brazillian rain tree bonsai, make sure to get a young tree that isn’t set in its ways just yet. As the plant hardens, it becomes much more resistant to reshaping, even with wires.
Keep in mind that the Brazillian rain tree is a fast-growing specimen. This means that wiring isn’t ideal. Since you’ll be working with green material, the wires might cut and damage these delegate branches. There are also some thorns to worry about!
The best way to manipulate and train a Brazillian rain tree bonsai is by using the cut and grow method while keeping it in its natural upright form.
This little tree tends to style itself if you’ll just let it.
If you like interacting with your tree, then this bonsai is definitely the best choice for you. It can be quite fun to care for and looks stunning even untrained. Now it is time to go out there and get started with your very own Brazillian bonsai.