Japanese apricot (Prunus mume): Great blossom bonsai with cracked bark
General information about Japanese apricot:
The Japanese apricot (botanical Prunus mume, Japanese: Ume, family Roses - Rosaceae) belongs to the few bonsai that already flower at the end of winter (sometimes at the end of January). Prunus mume Bonsai are common in Japan, but very rare in Europe. Prunus mume originally came from southern China and is now mainly found in Japan, Korea and Taiwan. In nature the Japanese apricot grows in forests up to 3000m high and grows up to 10m high.
Older apricot bonsai have a thick, borky bark and usually a lot of dead wood. Often they are also hollowed out. The approx. 1-2cm large, white to red flowers, depending on the species or variety, form an interesting contrast to this. The often abundant dead branches and trunk parts are completely normal in many stone fruit plants, to which the Japanese apricot belongs. If not cut back regularly and vigorously, aging branches of the apricot bonsai will die quickly and regularly. The reason for this is probably Prunus mume Bonsai's susceptibility to fungal attack. This is not a problem if the apricots are properly pruned because they sprout well and willingly.
Prunus mume Bonsai - flower:
The Japanese apricot flowers white as a species. However, since many varieties are in circulation, bonsai can also have pink or red flowers (e. g. variety Benichidori). Since many apricot bonsai have grafted branches, bonsai can also have different coloured flowers. The apricots Hibai (red) and Yabai (white, corresponds most to the wild form), especially known in Japan, have 5 petals. Many other varieties have significantly more. There are more than 100 different varieties. The Japanese apricot smells pleasant and usually very strong. The 2-3cm large fruits ripen in July.
If a bonsai of the Japanese apricot does not flower, this is usually due to 3 reasons:
- The tree is still too young. Prunus mume usually blooms only after 1-2 decades, but frequently only after 30-40 years. Here only waiting or grafting branches of an already flowering apricot helps.
- The bonsai has not been well cared for and is too weak. Then it is best to ask an expert to improve the condition until the next flowering.
- Too late and heavy pruning removed many or all flower buds. In this case, simply do not cut back too late and too strongly next year.
Apricot bonsai - cut:
The Japanese apricot blooms exclusively on the new shoots of the previous year. If you want to have plenty of flowers next spring, it is important to cut the shoots back soon after flowering. The new shoots can then be cut back again in early summer. Afterwards - so at the end of July - the bonsai is allowed to grow without pruning. After spring pruning (to 2-3 leaf buds), the leaf buds develop shoots that do not grow as strongly as without such pruning. This means that if a branch is to thicken quickly, it is best not to cut it in spring. But always keep in mind that such shoots can become old quickly and may die after a few years. The flower buds develop on the new shoots in late summer and autumn. If the new branches were cut in autumn, many flower buds would be missing in spring.
When pruning back in spring, it should be noted that Pruns mume has difficulty sprouting from the old wood. Ie. one should leave at least 1, better 2-3 leaf buds at each branch. You should take a very close look that they are really leaf buds that remain on the tree. If you cut shortly after flowering and before the leaves sprout out, you can see the leaf buds well. Later in the year it is much more difficult. If in doubt, leave a few more buds on the tree. When recognizing flower and leaf buds, one should not only orient oneself by the knots. Some nodes forms both leaf and flower buds, other nodes have only one of the two.
Sealing the cut ends with Bonsai wound paste is helpful against the penetration of fungi via the cut surface. If several apricots are cut, a thorough cleaning of the tools is good against the transfer of fungi from tree to tree.
Prunus mume Bonsai - Irrigation:
Bonsai of Japanese Apricots should not suffer from water shortage in summer. With water-lack in the midsummer, fewer buds develop or they even fall off in the extreme-case. In autumn and winter the bonsai only needs to be watered sparingly.
Apricot Bonsai - Location:
Full sun. Only in midsummer a slight shade may be better for the development.
Apricot Bonsai - Hibernation:
Prunus mume Bonsai are hardy. When hibernating outdoors, choose a shady, wind-protected location and sink the pot into the ground or cover it with mulch. If there are longer periods with frost you have to protect the bonsai from drying out by covering it eg. with a foil. This should be removed again immediately after the frost period has ended.
Prunus mume Bonsai - repotting:
Young apricot bonsai trees are repotted every 2-3 years. Later, a 4-5 year cycle is often sufficient. The repot substrate should be well permeable. The Japanese bonsai soil Akadama has also proven its worth with apricots.
Apricot Bonsai - Fertilization:
Nitrogen-rich in spring-summer, later more potassium- and phosphate-oriented.
Prunus mume Bonsai - Wiring:
Branches of the apricot bonsai harden quickly and are quite fragile. Care must be taken when wiring the branches.
Japanese apricot bonsai of the variety Benichidori (Prunus mume benichidori) - Red flowering Bonsai