GROUP V – Non-Woody Plants
This Page Last Updated: October 21, 2009

Special Condition Key:


A prefers more acidic soil; try 1 Tablespoon white vinegar in 1 gal. water monthly
B brown leaf tips indicate salt burn/salt build-up, often from too much or too little watering
C subject to iron or manganese chlorosis (best iron source is a chelated mineral)
D subject to random branch die-back (which may be due to wrong-timed pruning)
F frost-sensitive, so protect with frost cloth or bring indoors if a hard freeze is expected
I more adaptable for use as an indoor bonsai than other plants, but still requires a certain level of temperature, light and humidity in order to be healthy and to thrive
L may drop some leaves when relocated or repotted
M very attractive to spider mites, so hose-spray and keep in very good air-flow
P pinch first set of leaves when opened, the next will be smaller in size
R do not root prune if at all possible; never bare root this kind of plant
S leaves sunburn/windburn easily, so provide shelter/protection
U larger specimens can take full sun most of day here when established
W bark is tender or branches are brittle, so wire carefully, if at all, to avoid scars and damage
X Outside of a container, this is considered an invasive plant in some areas: err on the side of caution and discard this plant’s clippings or a “dead” specimen in a trash bag, not just on the ground.
^ evergreen
% deciduous/semi-deciduous
* can bloom as bonsai



Note: Plants labeled as susceptible to chlorosis when grown in the ground should not have this problem in a container with a quality soil mix and regular fertilizer schedule. “Established” plants are firmly rooted and producing a good growth of new buds which have opened up into leaves.


Aralia (Aralia sp.) F,S ^


        an upright species with fan-like leaves that produce suckers, these need to be cut off to control width; needs to be wet, so water generously; sensitive to high heat and hot winds so protect with shade cloth in summer; if pruned often it can serve as an accent plant for a few years; some varieties have thorns; most species are woody, some are herbaceous; may be short-lived here.    [Araliaceae; Apiales]     SEE ALSO BCI Plant Sheet.


Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta) B,C,F,I ^


       hardy, easy to grow; very slow grower, especially in pots; needs shade; wiring not used with; yellowing fronds are old or Manganese deficient; evenly spaced leaf spotting means too dry between waterings; on a healthy tree, cut off the old fronds as soon as small new fronds are visible, do this for one or two years in a row and then skip one year to reduce stress on the plant, these newer fronds will grow in shorter; side shoots (“pups”) root easily; a small cluster grouping with these shoots can be a good composition; more an accessory plant than a “true” bonsai.  NOTE: Said to be very poisonous to pets, especially the seeds.    [Cycadaceae; Cycadales]


English Ivy (Hedera helix)   ^ X


        give some sun, but mostly cool shade; needs good draining soil; cuttings take poorly; does not like to be wired except when shoots are young (to prevent cracking); large branches need to be wrapped in raffia or strips of heavy-duty paper towels before wiring; tends to develop good nebari (exposed surface roots) with minimal effort.   [Araliaceae; Apiales]     SEE ALSO BCI Plant Sheet.


Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica) C ^* X


         wiring is seldom used with; looks best in group plantings; root sprouts prolifically; remove the oldest stems to prune; the buds tend to come out a few inches below the chop and at a rather sudden angle, so it’s hard to get a tree without sudden zags in it, can get several sprouts, but they’re as likely as not to all be on the same side; prune the top to get lower growth; leaves change color in the autumn; a chill brings out best color; do not let dry out.   [Berberidaceae; Ranunculales]


Elephant’s Food /
Dwarf Jade
(Portulacaria afra) F,U,W ^


        hardy, easy to grow; not a true jade plant, not even related to it; but this is very much hardier and has more compact growth; cuttings over three inches long are very, very easily propagated, so you can start with a branch or trunk portion that is already well-shaped and branched; cuttings up to at least two inches in diameter don’t need to be callused; rooting hormone not needed whatever the cutting size; to trim, pinch off the second pair of new leaves often; possible to withhold watering on established plants until the largest leaf pads just start to wrinkle from dehydration; leaf pads very easily break off, so use extreme caution if you plan to wire; can bud back readily wherever branches or even leaves have been removed; variegated forms are slower growing.    [Portulacaceae or Didiereaceae; Caryophyllales]     SEE ALSO BCI Plant Sheet.


Rhapis / Lady palm (Rhapis excelsa) I ^


        a slow grower; wiring not used with; best with some shade.    [Arecaceae; Arecales]


Sedum (Sedum sp.) F,I ^


        best in bright light but not direct sun; much less water in winter; more of a companion or accessory plant than a “true” bonsai; S. oxypetalum especially has look of small gnarled tree but is very frost sensitive; S. frutescens is called the Tree sedum.   [Saxifragales; Rosales]


Trichodiadema (Trichodiadema sp.) I ^*


        hardy, easy to grow; treat like a succulent, but does like water; pinch around to shape; may need a little winter chill for best blooming; flowers profusely early in spring; more of a companion or accessory plant than a “true” bonsai.    [Aizoaceae; Caryophyllales]