Japanese Apricot bonsai care

Apricot bonsai: Spectacular blossoms + Rough bark ✅ Care and design instructions ✅

Bonsai care

The Japanese apricot bonsai (Prunus mume) belongs to the few bonsai species 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.

Japanese apricot bonsai care in a nutshell: Fertilisation: Fertilize after flowering from March to August abundantly and nitrogen-rich, Irrigation: Pour moderately, but do not let it dry out (especially not just before flowering and in hot midsummer), Overwintering: As a hardy outdoor bonsai it tolerates deep freezing temperatures in the plastic tent, Repotting: Repot every 2-3 years at the beginning of March into a well drained bonsai soil


Fertilize | Watering | Location | Overwintering | Repot | Diseases, Pests | Propagation


Fertilize

Japanese apricot bonsai (Prunus mume)
Apricot bonsai (Prunus mume)

When using mineral fertilizer we apply nitrogen rich fertilizer in spring-summer. Later, from the end of August more potassium and phosphate is used. Since the use of mineral fertilizer (nutrient salts) always leads to the danger of over-fertilization (for example due to calculation errors during dilution) or salinisation, we recommend the use of organic Bonsai fertilizer.

The Biogold bonsai fertilizer and the Hanagokoro fertilizer are well suited and easy to use. Bonsai liquid fertilizers are used less frequently in apricots, but are basically also suitable. For liquid fertilizers, you can give twice the specified amount in the growing season.

Watering

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.

Location

Full sun. Only in midsummer a slight shade may be better for the development.

Overwintering

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 tree from drying out by covering it eg. with a foil. This should be removed again immediately after the frost period has ended.

We overwinter the apricots in an unheated foil tent. The temperatures should not be too high in the foil tent or greenhouse. Even at very low temperatures, the temperature in the greenhouse can quickly rise to 20°C in sunshine. Therefore, ventilate well in winter as soon as it gets too warm.

Japanese apricot (Prunus mume) - Variety Benichidori
Apricot flowers - Variety Benichidori

Repot

Young apricot bonsai trees are repotted every 2-3 years. Later, a 4-5 year cycle is often sufficient. The repot bonsai soil should be well permeable. The Japanese bonsai soil Akadama has also proven its worth with apricots.

Diseases, Pests

When apricots are not cut back regularly and vigorously, shoots of apricot bonsai quickly becomes weaker and die off regularly. The reason for this is probably the susceptibility of Prunus mume bonsai to fungal attack. However, this is not a problem with appropriate pruning because apricot bonsai sprouts out again very well.

Apricots, especially if you fertilize the bonsai nitrogen-rich, show in summer regularly an infestation of the leaves with fungi (rust fungi). This can be well avoided by 1-2 preventive spraying against rust fungi in May and June.

Japanese apricot (Prunus mume) - Yield after sowing in March
Apricot - Yield after sowing

Also with nitrogen-rich fertilization it can come to an attack with aphids. Here, it should only be fought with an insecticide against aphids in case of heavy infestation. A few aphids can be rinsed well with a dilute soap solution. Pesticides containing parathion or related substances should be used with caution. It may come to light leaf fall after application. But the apricots survive this well.

Propagation

The Japanese apricot can be propagated by tree seeds. To do this, the seed must be stratified and seeded in the spring. Since the stratification of tree seeds is not so easy, we advise against it. The yield after sowing of the Japanese apricot is usually low and even under good conditions rarely higher than 20%.

The propagation by cuttings is possible but also not easy. Apricots do not easily form roots. In summary, we recommend to buy young plants in specialized companies. The price is about 10-15 euro and save a lot of annoyance and time.

Styling

Japanese apricot bonsai styling in a nutshell: Wiring: Older branches break easily - be careful when bending, Pruning: Always leave 2-3 buds on the end of each shoot.


Wiring | Pruning | Styles | Bonsai pots | Flowers, Fruits | Bark, Roots | General | Varieties


Japanese apricot (Prunus mume) White flowering bonsai
Apricot - White flowering bonsai

Wiring

Branches of the apricot bonsai harden quickly and are quite fragile. Care must be taken when wiring a bonsai.

Once a new shoot is slightly woody, it's the best time to apply the wire. For this purpose, the bonsai wire is wrapped at an angle of 45° around the branch and then the shoot is slowly and carefully bent into the desired position. More powerful branches are most gently brought down in the new position by pulling it down with very thin wire (1mm aluminum wire is enough)

Young shoots quickly gain strength. Therefore, every 4 weeks it must be checked that the wire does not press in. If there is a risk of indentation, it is best to unwire the bonsai. A wire cutter for bonsai are very suitable for this. With it you cut the wire into small pieces that can be carefully removed from the branch. Usually it is not necessary to rewire the tree afterwards because the shoots quickly become woody and then hold the new position well.

Pruning

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.

Apricot bonsai (Prunus mume benichidori)
Apricot bonsai (Prunus mume benichidori)

When pruning a bonsai in spring, it should be noted that Pruns mume has difficulty sprouting from the old wood. That means you 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, you should not only orient yourself by the knots. Some nodes forms both leaf and flower buds, other nodes have only one of the two.

Apricot shoots quickly become thick and hard. If you want to prune your bonsai, a sharp bonsai concave cutter is often better than a bonsai scissor.

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.

Styles

Apricots are basically suitable for a wide variety of bonsai styles. Often, however, one finds very unconventional shapes. This is probably due to the fact that apricot bonsai are particularly spectacular through their flowers and rough bark. But the contrast of a dramatically designed apricot bonsai with dark bark and white flowers at the end of winter lets forget the classification into a specific form.

Suitable bonsai pots

Glazed bonsai pots are best suited for japanese apricot bonsai with their bloom in early spring. Since they belong to the hardy outdoor bonsai, a frost-proof, handmade bonsai pot should be considered if possible. The inexpensive bonsai pots (made for indoor bonsai) are possible because in our experience these pots are almost 100% frost-resistant. But mostly the glazes of these bonsai pots are very shiny. Dull glazed, handmade bonsai pots are often better.

Unglazed bonsai pots are less suitable. If you wants to use an unglazed pot then the color should be relatively dark. Dark brown pots go very well with the very dark bark of the japanese apricots. For large japanese bonsai, suitable pots can be found under Large bonsai pots.

Flowering bonsai like the Japanese apricot can be well potted in oval bonsai pots. Rectangular bonsai pots are particularly suitable for the often seen dramatic designs. Round bonsai pots can also be used here. However, they shouldn't be too flat. Apricot bonsai doesn't get along well with flat pots. Drip trays for bonsai pots are not required because apricots should not be cared for in the apartment.

Plastic bonsai pots for apricot prebonsai in the growing phase are suitable. The dark brown color of these pots goes very well with the dark trunk of an apricot bonsai and is frost-resistant and UV-stable. For 2-3 year old young plants in the cultivation phase it is best to use plastic plant pots.

Japanese apricot (Prunus mume) - Bonsai with fruits
Apricot bonsai with fruits

Flowers, Fruits

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 shoots of already flowering trees are to be grafted onto other apricots, the early spring is a good time.

The 2-3cm big fruits ripen in July. When enough insects fly at the time of flowering, apricot bonsai fruits are also formed.

Bark, Roots

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 Prunus species, to which the Japanese apricot (Prunus mume) belongs.

The roots are usually not important in the design of apricot bonsai because the focus is on the flowers. The improvement of the surface roots near trunk basis (Nebari) by air layering or tourniquet method almost does not work. Prunus species only badly form new roots. Most of the available apricots are already older which makes the air layering or tourniquet method more difficult. It is best to try to improve the roots over the years when repotting the bonsai. That means if there are enough good roots, inappropriate roots can be removed or bent into a better position.

Varieties

In Japan many varieties (about 100) of the japanese apricot are known. In addition to white flowers, bonsai can also have pink or red (for example, Prunus mume Benichidori) and also filled flowers. Particularly well-known apricot varieties are Hibai (red flowering) and Yabai (white flowering).

General

The Japanese apricot (botanical Prunus mume, Japanese Ume, family Rosaceae) originally came from southern China and today is mainly distributed in Japan, Korea and Taiwan. In nature, the Japanese apricot grows in sparse forests up to 3000m in height and is up to 10m high.

Japanese apricot bonsai - pictures

Japanese apricot (Prunus mume) - Yield after sowing in March

Japanese apricot (Prunus mume) - Sowing

Japanese apricot (Prunus mume) - Variety Benichidori flowers in early February

Japanese apricot (Prunus mume) Benichidori flowers

Japanese apricot (Prunus mume) - Bonsai with fruits in July

Japanese apricot (Prunus mume) bonsai with fruits

Japanese apricot bonsai (Prunus mume)

Japanese apricot bonsai (Prunus mume)

Japanese apricot (Prunus mume) White flowering bonsai

Japanese apricot Benichidori (Prunus mume benichidori)

Bonsai - Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

What are the benefits of Japanese apricots for bonsai styling ?

  • Japanese apricots are impressive flower bonsai. They bloom as bonsai very early (usually in February) and abundantly.
  • The flowers of Japanese apricot bonsai smells very strong and pleasant and are a delight at the end of winter.
  • This bonsai species quickly forms a dark, cracked bark and a bonsai tree looks often older than it is.
  • The hard wood is well suited for Shari (debarked trunk parts). It is easy to form very dramatic bonsai styles.

Why my apricot bonsai doesn't blossom ?

If a apricot bonsai doesn't blossom, this is usually due to 3 reasons:

  • The bonsai 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 of the bonsai removed many or all flower buds. In this case, simply do not cut back too late and too strongly next year.