A small HS8 Hawaiian Lava Planting in an 8" diameter x 3" high glass container with 6.25" round opening and with 1 1/2" of 1/4" of lava gravel.  This is an easy-care "semi-terrarium" that works especially well in areas that have dry air.  The plant has white roots which is a sign of good health and one section has grown 7-8 leaves and it's time to trim if you want to keep it small.  Information below.  (October 2013 photo)


                  At Fuku-Bonsai we really, really try to make our plants customer-proof!  But it's hard when customers automatically and instantly reject our written cultural recommendations because an acquaintance who kills bonsai say our instructions will not work in their area.  It's frustrating when the person does not follow our written recommendations, and when the plant is dying, turns to us and complains that they followed the directions of the acquaintance,  did not follow our instructions, but now that the plant is dying they want our help! But to more than offset these frustrations,  we have customers who find new ways to grow our trees that go a long way towards making our plants customer-proof!  Here's such a solution:

                 FIRST, FOLLOW OUR INSTRUCTIONS:  "Once per week, soak the rock planting in enough water to cover the rock and allow it to sit in the water for thirty minutes.  Remove from water, allow it to drain until it almost stops dripping AND PLACE IT ON DRY GRAVEL!" 

                But instead of placing the small lava planting in the melamine dish with gravel or larger lava plantings on the saucers and gravel,  place the lava planting on 1/1/2" of 1/4" size DRY gravel,  but in a glass bowl that the top of the bowl is higher than the rock.  We call this a "SEMI-TERRARIUM" AND IT WORKS!  Although not as much as a full enclosed terrarium, this system provides enough additional humidity to clearly make a difference and should be beneficial in dry climates. 

                The photo above shows such a plant after several months at the entrance to the Kurtistown Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center visitor center that greets everyone.  We try to show it to everyone who claims that they live in a dry climate and its impossible to grow plants because in winter, interior heating dries the air and in the summer the air conditioning dries the air! So they ignore our instructions, water a lot more frequently, and kill the plant by over-watering, thereby proving that its impossible for them to grow plants!

             OVER-WATERING.  If your plant has healthy white roots, all is okay. But if you do not see white roots, if the roots are black and rotted, its likely that you are overwatering.  It's that simple.  If you continue, first the roots die, then the trunk gets soft and soggy and you can peel the bark off the trunk.  Over-watering is the major cause of problems, especially where people claim it's extremely dry.


              UNDER-WATERING.  You can go the other way and the symptoms are equally clear.  The leaves start drooping and you should immediately examine the trunk and branches.  Are they desiccated and shriveling because they are dehydrated?  The trunk is hard and there are fine vertical grooves in the trunk, branches and roots. 

              If you see such grooves,  soak the plant in a bowl of water with enough water to cover the rock for 3-4 days.  If a new leaf emerges, it may be able to survive.  The trunk will swell up and could rehydrate and when leaves stand up, in time the tree will survive.  The tree in the right photo survived!   

             Sometimes rock plantings dry out too fast because they are not on 1/4" size gravel or on not enough gravel to hold some moisture.  Rocks dry out too fast if on large round river rocks.  If you leaves go limp, check the trunks and branches to see if there are small creases and contact us ASAP, send photos, and we'll try to help!     



             In 2011, "SD-Florida" told of her tree growing moss and her son's college dorm tree surviving in spite of often forgetting to give it a weekly soaking.  Apparently the high sided glass walls tend to give a little extra humidity and the plants grow well! 

             To I tried it at Fuku-Bonsai and this may be the answer for those who tend to dry out their plants as shown in the photo above. 





          HEALTHY WHITE ROOTS!  These roots developed over several months.  At first there was just one and we tucked it under the rock after its weekly watering.  More white roots developed.  If you see such white roots all is okay. 



           WHEN AND HOW TO PRUNE.   The new growth emerging after a cut is compact and leaves get larger.  Allow 7-8 leaves to develop from where a branch was last cut. This will allow the plant to store enough energy so when the branch is pruned, it will send out new growth,  DO NOT PRUNE EVERY TIME A NEW LEAF DEVELOPS.  ONLY PRUNE THE MOST RAPIDLY GROWING BRANCH.  Growth will then switch to another branch and when that produces 7 to 8 leaves, prune only that section.  If your tree is healthy and growing well, you'll get new and/or multiple new growth.    



           ROOTING CUTTINGS.  Trim off all leaves except the newest youngest leaf and cut the leaflets in half.  Wrap some sphagnum moss around the base of the cutting and plant it. Keep it from drying and new roots will form.  Keeping it in a high humidity environment such as in a wide mouth gallon jar will increase your success rate.

           It is possible to root cuttings just in water, but we prefer rooting in media as we believe it produces stronger plants. 


           Hawaiian Lava Plantings are the easiest and most successful gift bonsai for anyone, anywhere who can grow houseplants.  Because the roots are restricted within the lava rock, growth is very slow and it is relatively easy to keep the tree compact. 

         The semi-terrarium concept adds some beneficial humidity and by following the simple pruning guideline, the tree will stay small and attractive for many years if properly grown and fertilized according to instructions. 




          Six months later,  another branch has grown a total of eight leaves from the previous cut point so a section with 5 leaves will be pruned off to keep the tree compact. Notice that the section has larger leaves.  Prune just one branch each time.



           The tree as pruned.  Trim off all leaf stems except the youngest and cut the leaflets in half. Wrap a little damp sphagnum moss around the base of the cutting and root it in media.  Some of our customers use a used styrofoam coffee cut with bottom corners removed for drainage with a mixture of 3 parts gravel and 1 part houseplant potting soil.  Cuttings will root in two months or less to start a new bonsai.



               Note that a lot more healthy white roots showing good health have formed that are being tucked under the rock and building a mat.  This indicates that the plant is very healthy and the growing condition is ideal.  The plant is near a north facing window that gets bright light but no direct sunlight.


              From another angle, you can see that the first section that was pruned six months ago has new growth.  This month's pruning created a more compact tree.  The third branch is beginning to have larger leaves and will be pruned next.  Prune just the branch that is growing most vigorously.  Growth will stop on the first branch and shift to another.  When that second growth is pruned, growth will shift to the third section and the periodic pruning will keep the tree compact and attractive.


         Initially,  Fuku-Bonsai only produced Hawaiian Lava Plantings.  But as interest in growing bonsai increased,  we offered Premium Potted Bonsai as larger root systems produced stronger growth for more successful training.  As bonsai interest further increased we developed the transformative Introductory Workshop Package and this is proving to be the easiest and most successful way to learn (or teach) bonsai.

         When I began in 1962,  bonsai was a very secretive hobby and it was impossible to learn except by trial and error.  Almost from the beginning,  I was asked to teach and in doing so, it accelerated my own learning.  I've had the opportunity to make major innovations and believe that Fuku-Bonsai has set a new higher standard and has developed the ability to produce high-quality prepared bonsai stock that are the basis for our products and workshop packages. 

          We invite those willing and able to learn and teach to join us to help create a national Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai community!  Please contact me if you need more information.  ~~~David (david.f@fukubonsai.com) 

  ***  Return to the November 2013 issue of Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai

   ***  Return to the May 2014 issue of Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai

  ***  Go to Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation website
  ***  Go to the Fuku-Bonsai website
           Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai, 2013