Serissa - Serissa
General information: These small shrubs are
much loved as bonsai for their tiny flowers which may
occur 2-3 times yearly, gnarled trunks, and naturally
miniature leaves. Most bonsai are S. foetida, of which
many cultivars are available. Probably the two most
common bonsai purchased by the casual bonsai buyer in
America are Juniperus and Serissa. Judging from the
number of junked junipers and shriveled Serissas,
beginners would be far happier with elm and Ficus.
Serissa is a notoriously fussy bonsai. The good news is
that they aren't that hard to keep alive. But
considering that most people buy Serissa on impulse
because the plant is so spectacular at the store, the
bad news is bad indeed. The plant will generally drop
its flowers within a day or two. Then the plant will
drop its leaves. If the grower doesn't panic (and many
Serissas are inadvertantly killed by panicing beginners
who respond by drastically over/underwatering the plant)
the plant will soon regrow its leaves. A power struggle
then ensues. The grower soon discovers that the Serissa
drops its leaves if it has too much water. Too little
water. If it's too hot or too cold. If it's moved, or
there is a shift in lighting or temperature.
Lighting: Partial sun for S. foetida, full
sun for S. crassiramea. If kept indoors, needs 1000 Lux.
Use of grow lamps for 12 hours daily is beneficial. Too
little light will result in leggy growth.
Temperature: Hardy to zone 9. Some growers
bring them in when temps drop to 50F, others leave them
outside until temps are in the 20s! Ideal winter
temperatures range from 50-68F. More important than the
actual temperature seems to be two factors: the plant
dislikes a sudden change in lighting (many die from lack
of light when brought
indoors) and individual plants may be show different
hardinesses (a Serissa grown outdoors from youth will
withstand a greater variation in temperature than a
Serissa purchased from a greenhouse). If brought
indoors, do not position this plant near a heat source,
or it will lose leaves. If kept outdoors year round,
will drop leaves as the
temperatures become colder.
Watering: Keep evenly moist. It generally
needs lots of water during warm weather, so much that
some authorities recommend placing the Serissa in a tray
of water. Others warn against this, as it encourages
root rot. Serissa is not a natural water-lover like bald
cypress, so a water tray should not be necessary if you
faithfully water at the
first sign of dryness. However, if Serissa dries out, it
will soon drop its leaves. If this occurs, remember to
reduce watering until the leaves return, or root rot may
ensue. Some recommend misting in dry weather. Some
recommend daily misting, but do not mist while in bloom
as this causes the flowers to rot. Placing the Serissa
on a moisture
tray is another option.
Feeding: Every 10-14 days during growth,
every 4-6 weeks in winter, using liquid bonsai food or
half-strength plant food. Likes slightly acid soil
condiditions, so the occasional application of Miracid
Pruning and wiring: When in bloom, remove
fading flowers to encourage further flower production.
Prune as needed; the Serissa is a fast grower and may
need radical or repeated pruning to maintain its shape.
Will bud back on old wood; in fact, some books recommend
occasionally pruning back beyond old growth to help the
plant maintain its shape. Wire during the growing
period. Serissa will grow air roots and is often used in
exposed root or root over rock styles. Eliminate
unwanted suckers extending from the base. Suitable for
all styles except formal upright and broom. Suitable for
extra small to medium
Propagation: Cuttings root quite easily.
Lesniewicz recommends using 4 inch cuttings in a glass
of water from early summer on. The Samsons recommend
bottom heat which would probably induce rooting faster.
Repotting: Every 1-2 years in spring. The
newly pruned roots will emit a wretched odor! Prune
roots moderately, and use basic bonsai soil.
Pests and diseases: Red spider mite, scale,
wooly aphids, mildew. Pests are usually not as much of a
problem as a sudden change in conditions such as light,