You probably saw the post about blue bonsai trees and sites purporting to sell their seeds, claiming that their leaves will grow blue! Surely something this fantastical like a plant out of Narnia can’t exist, can it?
Blue Japanese maple bonsai trees do not exist. Pictures of these blue bonsai plants online are edited or photoshopped. Any seller claiming they do exist and are willing to sell their seeds are scammers.
Bonsai is an intimate and intricate craft of miniaturized plant, which mimic the full-grown appearance of the same through careful pruning. It’s the labor of love and time that produces these artistic pieces, which can last generations. Despite the non-existence of blue Japanese maple bonsai trees, there are plenty of other aesthetic alternatives!
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Blue Japanese maple trees do not exist. There is no cultivar or variety of Japanese maple trees that produce blue leaves.
Although Japanese maple trees (Acer palmatum) have different varieties and come in many shapes, sizes, and colors, there has never been one that exhibited blue leaves. At most, the color that comes close to blue are the purple leaves of the “Purple Ghost” variety of the Japanese maple tree.
The pictures of blue Japanese maple bonsai trees are either edited or photoshopped. Likewise, sellers who purport to have blue Japanese maple tree seeds are scammers. They will claim that the leaves will be blue but the plants will actually grow green leaves.
We, at YourIndoorHerbs, do not recommend that you purchase seeds from these sellers. What they will possibly deliver to you are either seeds of a regular Japanese maple tree or seeds of an entirely different plant.
In many occasions purported “Blue Japanese Maple Trees” sold online en up being from other plants like Mandarin tree. Scammers claiming to be selling these blue-leaf trees are also present in other online marketplaces such as Amazon. You can spot them immediately based on their review scores and user feedback.
So you still want something close to the fake blue Japanese maple trees? Fortunately, there are plenty of other plants, having a variety of colors, that can mimic the same fantastical aesthetic.
Any perennial woody-stemmed tree or shrub species can be turned into bonsai. It’s all about picking the right plant with the right characteristics, and sticking with the long and intimate process of pruning and cutting.
Here are some possible alternatives!
The Purple Ghost has purple-red leaves with dark veins during the spring. This purple-red color transitions into a fiery red color upon the coming of fall.
This is a close alternative to the fake blue Japanese maple trees. Coming from the same species, they will necessarily share similar physical traits such as shape, leaf size, and woody stems.
As a general rule, Japanese maple trees enjoy fertile, moist soil that drains well; indirect lighting; and protection from environmental pressures such as strong winds. They prefer subtropical to temperate climates.
Japan’s national flower, the Cherry Blossom or Sakura in Japanese term, is a symbol of hope and renewal. When in full bloom during the spring, the tree produces pink, light pink, yellow, or white blossoms.
If you are into the Japanese aesthetic, nothing can beat the Cherry Blossom tree with how culturally significant it is in Japan. A noteworthy tidbit is that the leaves of the Cherry Blossom tree only grow after the flowers bloom. This makes it easier to schedule a consistent look and feel.
As a general rule, Cherry Blossoms need rich and fertile soil and at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Moderate watering of around 2-3 times per week is also necessary. They prefer subtropical to temperate climates.
Hydrangeas are an excellent choice as an alternative because of their blooms. They have long lifespans (up to 50 years!) and large blooms, with colors that could range from pink to blue, and can either be vibrant or pastel.
They are a bit difficult to use in making bonsai because the leaves may be too big to reduce. However, the Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala petiolaris) has been praised by bonsai practitioners to have the desired properties: (1) small leaves and (2) a small body.
Hydrangeas prefer partial sun and some afternoon shade. They have high nutritional requirements but only modest water requirements. They also enjoy temperate to subtropical climates.
4 – The Azalea
Azaleas are flowering shrubs in the genus of Rhododendron that make good bonsai trees for beginners. They come in many shades of white, pink, red, orange, and yellow.
They are easy to prune and train because every cut produces a new growth. There are many varieties of this plant. The best ones for bonsai are the Satsuki and Kurume azalea hybrids.
Azaleas grow well in well-drained, acidic soil. They prefer indirect sunlight or filtered light since too much sunlight can stress the plant. It has low nutritional requirements and only moderate watering requirements. Finally, they do best under temperate climates.
Bougainvillea is renowned for being a hardy subtropical to tropical plant, and for being easy to train. They come in magenta, purple, pink, orange, yellow, or white color. They have tiny flowers which are surrounded by large colored leaves.
As with other desirable bonsai tree candidates, sprouts grow fast after cutting and pruning, which makes bougainvillea easier to train. Woody stems allow the bonsai practitioner to create the illusion of a miniaturized fully grown plant.
Bougainvillea enjoys full sun in a well-draining, slightly acidic soil. They have moderate nutritional requirements and watering requirements that involves frequent shallow waterings 3-4 times per week. Lastly, they are subtropical to tropical plants, thus enjoy warmer, sunnier climates.
Dwarf trees are results of dwarfing, a process that may involved human or non-human intervention in which cultivars or varieties of a plant are significantly smaller than the standard species.
Dwarf trees are good option as it is or in conjunction with bonsai techniques.
In dwarfing alone, gardeners are allowed to have what would be otherwise large plants grow in smaller, more confined spaces. This also have the added benefit of sometimes fruiting faster than their full-sized counterparts. Examples of dwarf trees include dwarf apple, dwarf orange, and dwarf lemon trees, among others.
In conjunction with bonsai techniques, a bonsai practitioner is allowed to have an already small plant as the foundation of the work. The smaller leaves but woody bodies of dwarf trees are perfect for the miniaturized look, which the art of bonsai strives to achieve. Overall, it makes the process of pruning and getting the desired look much more achievable.
If you want to start your bonsai adventure, it will never hurt to have the right tools with you!
- There is no such thing as a blue Japanese maple bonsai tree. The photos online are edited or photoshopped.
- Likewise, online sellers claiming to sell the seeds are scammers. They will advertise them as genuine but the seeds are actually regular Japanese maple tree seeds or seeds from an entirely different plant.
- There are plenty of alternative plants that have equally colorful and vibrant foliage and flowers. These are: 1) the “Purple Ghost” Japanese maple tree, 2) the Japanese Cherry Blossom, 3) the Hydrangea, 4) the Azalea, and 5) the Bougainvillea.
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- “2020 Open House: Sale, Bonsai Displays & Demonstrations” by William Valavanis in Valavanis Blog
- “Bonsai Orange Tree” by Erik Olsen in BonsaiGardener
- “Hydrangea Bonsai” by n/a in Colorado Rocky Mountain Bonsai – Suiseki
- “In Photos: Stages of Cherry Blossom Blooms” by Live Science Staff in LiveScience
- “JAPAN’S NATIONAL FLOWER IS THE CHERRY BLOSSOM” by n/a in Silk Sense Global
- “Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum var. Matsumurae, Aceraceae) Recruitment Patterns: Seeds, Seedlings, and Saplings in Relation to Conspecific Adult Neighbors” by Naoya Wada and Eric Ribbens in American Journal of Botany 84(9)
- “NATIVE AZALEAS: NATURAL COLOR IN THE SHADE GARDEN” by n/a in HGIC
- “Purple Ghost Japanese Maple” by n/a in Monrovia
- “The Role of Dwarfing Traits in Historical and Modern Agriculture with a Focus on Rice” by Ferrero-Serrano et al in Cold Spring Harbor perspectives in biology 11(11)
- “Traditional uses, phytochemistry, and pharmacology of the genus Acer (maple): A review” by Bi et al in Journal of Ethnopharmacology 189