Bonsai Bottle Tree

In my article about “How to Bonsai Australian native plants” I wrote about my Brachychiton rupestris, aka the Queensland Bottle Tree, that I’d been growing in a pot for sometime. I was contemplating turning it into a Bonsai.

Now as I’ve said before I’ve always liked Bonsai but never had the patience to do it properly. The other thing that put me off was I don’t really like plants that rely too much on human support to ensure their survival. Bonsai by nature do rely heavily on regular watering so for a gardener of drought tolerant plants (like myself) this is something that really goes against the grain. But then again……..having said that……..most Australian native plants are very drought tolerant and probably none more so than the Bottle Tree.

Therefore if you are going to Bonsai something and don’t want to constantly water it, then what better plant to try than the Bottle Tree.

Bottle Tree swollen trunk before the Bonsai

Bottle Tree swollen trunk before the Bonsai

Well recently I went ahead and did it. Now I have to say that when I started this I had no idea how it was going to turn out. It was just another gardening experiment. Anyway here’s the story of how it went.

First thing I did was soak the rootball in a solution of Seasol and water a few hours before I started as there was a fair chance that there would be some roots getting pruned.

Cut the pot so the rootball can be removed undamaged

Cut the pot so the rootball can be removed undamaged

Then the pot had to be removed. As you can see one of the roots has grown through the one of the drainage holes.

Now normally if I was to plant this in the ground I’d just cut this root off, as it was growing crooked. In this instance though I’d decided not to cut anything until the whole picture was revealed.

So the best way to go was to just cut the pot instead, so it could be removed without being damaged.

Wash the potting mix away from the rootball

Bottle Tree rootball exposed

When the rootball was free of the pot, the potting mix was washed away. I then had an idea as to what I had to work with.

And wow!… have a look at this…..large tuberous roots. Now I was feeling glad I didn’t just start cutting away. I now have something to work with here. These roots just look a little to attractive to bury under the ground so the obvious thing to do here is to expose at least half of them.

So the next thing to do was give them a good wash. I used a soft bristled paint brush to give them a bit of a scrub to get the tarnish off left from the old potting mix. It was then decision time again. What sort of pot to get? So off to the garden centre to see what’s available.

This pot has a false bottom with a saucer attached

This pot has a false bottom with a saucer attached

There were all sorts of pots I could use. Traditional bonsai pots as well as others that may not be traditional but are effective. I took the second option. The other thing I took into account with my selection was that I wanted to try and get away without having to prune the roots. So here’s the pot I bought. I could have also gone for square or rectangular version of this but decided on the round one because I felt it would suit the shape of the plant better with regard to the round tuberous roots. I feel it’s obviously important to select a pot that will not detract from the main feature…….the plant. Hopefully I made a good selection.

There are 3 holes to let the water into the saucer or from the saucer into the pot

There are 3 holes to let the water drain into the saucer or from the saucer into the pot

The other thing about this pot was the fact that it has a false bottom with a saucer attached. This I thought was a good idea as it would help with watering as the bonsai will be grown indoors. It will also make it harder to over water it as well as it will probably be easier to put the water in the saucer rather that from above.

Ok, so the next thing to do was plant the little Bottle tree into its new home. Normally it’s best to use a special Bonsai mix but in this case because its a larger pot I’m just going to use a regular potting mix.

So here it is in its new home. I must admit it does look a little strange. It may need some of the roots at the front trimmed away, but I think I’ll leave it a little while to settle in. I’ve also left many of the smaller roots attached at this stage as I’m hoping that some of them may continue to grow. We’ll see.

You can see about half of the roots are exposed

You can see about half of the roots are exposed

Here's the view from the rear

Here's the view from the rear. Some of these roots will be pruned away, but I'll wait to see if any grow first.

I haven't pruned the top yet

I haven't pruned the top yet

The next step will be to prune the trunk to length. This I will leave until spring as it isn’t growing at the moment due to the cold winter weather. What length I will prune it to I still haven’t decided yet. The trunk itself is still quite subtle so I might even be able to train it into some sort of spiral and then crop the top to get it to form a canopy or maybe I’ll just crop it lower down. There are so many options.

So there you have it, my little Bonsai Bottle Tree. If you’ve ever thought of growing a Bonsai then the Brachychiton rupestris might just be a good option to start with.

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6 Responses to Bonsai Bottle Tree

  • Boris says:

    What you have created is not a bonsai, but a curious looking plant in a pot. You should have done some research on bonsai before writing your article.

    • Rebel Gardener says:

      Yes Boris you are quite correct “bonsai” is term that is often misrepresented and the form of this plant wouldn’t be considered a bonsai. The intent of the article was more to display what is possible with this plant and then let people make up their own minds.

  • bob Morris says:

    I have over 200 Bonsai in the garden…..all very young..95% are root over rock. Love the all.
    i also have 1/2 dozen Boaba or QBtree I am nt sure as I was given the seeds from a tree that was growing at a vineyard in the hunter. The leaf looks like a Marijuana leaf?
    I have tried to cut the top out of the QBT a few times but it keep growing up. It is very hard to make them split into two or stunt their growth….Have you had any success with your tree and do you have a picture?
    Regards Bob

    • admin says:

      Hi Bob, I had a look at your site and you got some great specimens. I cut the top off mine and it sprouted 2 shoots. It hasn’t grown very much though as it has been very neglected. The other one I bought at the same time has been in the garden for a few years now and is now about 2.5 m tall.

  • ed says:

    great site, thank you for all of the information. I have an euphorbia ammak in my living room and was wondering if you could give me some advice. Plant is pretty big (around 6 feet tall) one trunk with around 7 stems and I am a little worried that maybe the plant is not being cared for properly. My living room has floor to ceiling windows all around but the buildings around me block the sunlight so the cactus receives indirect sun light and since it prefers direct sunlight I wanted to make sure that it wouldn’t die. Also, what are some signs I should keep an eye out for? The color is yellowish green, and the spines on the bottom are black but brownish looking on the top. I can send you a picture if you’d like,

    • Administrator says:

      Euphorbia Ammak is certainly suited to growing in a pot. All of mine are but they are out doors. One of mine is about 6ft but didn’t put on any growth this season and looks a little dull. It probably needs to replanted in a larger pot. If you plant look healthy and is growing then it is happy. If it looks a little dull like mine then maybe it needs some sunlight or maybe some other attention. It’s also really easy to propagate. I just cut some branches off and replanted them in potting mix and before I new it I had new plants. If you want to know how it should look there is a photo on the Euphorbias page

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