Hawaiian Umbrella Bonsai

Hawaiian Umbrella Bonsai

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General Information

Hawaiian umbrella bonsai—Schefflera arboricola—is also known as Hawaiian umbrella tree or money tree. Unlike the name suggests, the tree is not native to Hawaii but to Taiwan.

The leaves of Hawaiian umbrella bonsai are helicopter-like, giving them an attractive appearance.

Hawaiian umbrella bonsai is a tropical tree with aerial roots that help support the tree. Its adventitious roots, which make up the base of the tree, come down from the canopy. 

Hawaiian umbrella bonsai make great bonsai trees for banding, similar to ficus, which is also a tropical bonsai. There are two varieties of Hawaiian umbrella bonsai that are well-suited for bonsai:

  ● Arboricola

  ● Luseane

The main difference between Arboricola and Luseane is the size of their leaves. Beyond that, both trees require the same conditions to thrive.

Caring for Hawaiian Umbrella Bonsai

Watering

Hawaiian umbrella bonsai trees enjoy well-draining soil and plenty of humidity, but they can rot if over-watered.

To avoid over-saturating the tree and to better produce aerial roots, increase the humidity—essentially water in the air—within the canopy. This method of watering helps get the needed water into the environment of the tree, without causing damage.

Hawaiian umbrella bonsai trees like moist soil, but if the soil becomes too saturated, the tree will rot. Be sure to water the tree regularly and evenly to avoid over-watering.

Your tree may not need water every day, even during the peak heat of the year, depending on humidity levels. Simply water the tree as needed.

Temperature

Hawaiian umbrella bonsai are tropical and need to be protected from conditions when the temperature falls below 40 °F. 

The trees need nighttime temperatures consistently over 60 °F to thrive. With warm air at night, the daytime temperatures should be fine for their growth and development.

Lighting

Hawaiian umbrella bonsai enjoy a reduced amount of sunlight in the afternoon because they love the morning sun.

You'll find when the weather turns hot, they will close up to protect themselves from the sun's heat. However, if you expose them to too much sunlight in late summer or fall, their leaves can turn yellow and brighten.

A shade cover of 30% to 50% can protect trees from over-exposure to the sun. Increasing the shade typically increases the humidity amount, leading to more roots and larger leaves.

Be aware of the stage of leaf development and what you are trying to achieve with your design when adjusting shade levels.

Fertilizing

Fertilizing is necessary if you want your Hawaiian umbrella bonsai to remain healthy and beautiful. Add fertilizer to the soil periodically to help the tree grow and thrive.

Some gardeners choose to apply a general-purpose fertilizer every month, except during winter. 

You can also spray it with water-soluble fertilizer every other month.

Pruning

Hawaiian umbrella bonsai can handle considerable pruning, including cutting back branches.

They are often pruned by cutting the above the node and allowing the tree to die back to the node.

After winter, it is common practice to defoliate a tree. This is done by removing the leaves, so the tree can fall off its weight and reduce the chances of pathogens getting into the branches.

On a healthy tree, when pruning, you can pinch the new branch tips to prevent them from growing too vigorously.

Hawaiian umbrella bonsai can be pruned to create a variety of styles, depending on the desired look. 

Some people prefer a Banyan-style tree with many tightly compacted area roots forming a trunk, while others may prefer a style of tree with many aerial roots that spread out more broadly.

Repotting

Hawaiian umbrella bonsai can tolerate a lot of root pruning. But be careful not to remove too many of the roots, as this will cause the tree to become unstable due to a shallow root base.

Without a stable root base, repotting may not be beneficial for the tree.

Aerial roots need to be bent or curved to attach them to a pot or plant, which also helps promote finer root growth.

Hawaiian umbrella bonsai can be tricky to re-pot because they may need to be tied down or have wires woven through their trunks to keep them stable. 

Some Hawaiian umbrella bonsai require you to place a base down, so the plant will hold its shape.

Propagation

Hawaiian umbrella bonsai trees are the perfect choice for bonsai enthusiasts, as they are easy to propagate from root cuttings. 

A stem cutting from a healthy Hawaiian umbrella bonsai can grow out into a new plant.

By cutting off any part of Hawaiian umbrella bonsai (except for the leaf) and placing it in a humid environment (such as perlite), it will produce roots and start growing incredibly well.

There's no need to air layer Hawaiian umbrella bonsai, but it may be done if the cut is golf ball size.

Pests/Disease

Hawaiian umbrella bonsai rarely has pests and disease issues.

It may sometimes be difficult to control aphids if the tree is a new growth and has not developed calluses.

Wiring

Wiring Hawaiian umbrella bonsai may be necessary, but it depends on your overall design goals for your bonsai.

Hawaiian umbrella bonsai can snap, or they can be very flexible, depending on where the branch segments or route segments break off. Typically, it's best practice to wire primary branches and then leaves with clip and grow techniques.

Hawaiian Umbrella Bonsai FAQs

Can I Keep My Hawaiian Umbrella Bonsai Inside?
Yes, you can keep your Hawaiian umbrella bonsai inside. Just make sure to: ● Keep the area around the tree moist; and ● Avoid direct sunlight As an indoor plant, your Hawaiian bonsai tree will thrive in a well-lit environment with adequate water. However, keep in mind that direct sunlight can scorch the leaves. If you live in a sunny location, shielded from intense sunlight, you can leave your Hawaiian umbrella bonsai outside in the mornings and bring it back inside for the afternoon.
How Can I Style My Hawaiian Umbrella Bonsai?
With its aerial branches, there is no one definitive way to style a Hawaiian umbrella bonsai. You may wish to try various techniques or use different materials to achieve the look you desire. For example, you might try using wire to hold the branches in place or using floral foam to add a bit of height and volume. Whatever technique you choose, make sure that it is secure so that the branches do not become damaged.
Why Is My Hawaiian Umbrella Bonsai Rotting?
The Hawaiian bonsai tree is a beautiful specimen that should be kept in a cool, moist environment. If the environment is too dry or too hot, the tree's roots will grow slowly, and it may die. Over watering can also cause: ● Rotting roots ● Wilting leaves; and ● Loss of branches Therefore, it is important to water Hawaiian umbrella bonsai only when the soil feels dry to the touch.

Buying Information

Bonsai Mirai, near Portland, Oregon, is a bonsai studio, garden, and creative environment established by bonsai professional and artist, Ryan Neil. In 2010, Ryan established Bonsai Mirai with the mission of exploring the boundaries of the art form and role of bonsai. Ready to start your Hawaiian umbrella bonsai journey? Our shop can help you best care for this particular tree, as well as other species. Bonsai Mirai has a team of experts who are here to help you with every step of the way from purchasing, designing, and daily care of your Hawaiian umbrella bonsai tree.