The Tamarind Tree( tamarindus Indica) is native to tropical Africa. The leaves are bright green, dense, and feathery–a beautiful choice for bonsai. It is one of the most widely distributed tropical fruit trees in the world.
The Tamarind is a long-lived, slow-growing plant. It is highly prized for its attractive, rough bark. It makes a perfect bonsai for those wanting an indoor bonsai.
In nature, the Tamarind tree is slow growing, eventually reaching heights of 40 – 60 feet. The fruit or “pods” are used for seasoning everything from soups to jams. You may be familiar with one very popular use – Worcestershire sauce.
This article details different aspects of caring for the Tamarind tree as a bonsai.
Tamarind as bonsai
Tamarind most often grows as an upright tree. This makes it a very good subject for the formal upright style. They are readily available as tropical fruit trees and can be purchased online through various reputable vendors.
Tamarind bonsai trees give the appearance of age, even as young trees. They’re especially noted for the delicate leaves and deep, rough, furrowed bark.
The deep furrows in the bark of Tamarind bonsai trees appear at an early age, and continue to develop with time. The “fruit” is a brown, somewhat flat, (plump when ripe) bean or pod. They most often appear on new branches.
The pods are on average 5 inches long.
The tamarind bonsai tree flower looks like a small orchid. The new buds have a vibrant pink color which falls away as it goes into full bloom. They are about one inch wide, cream colored with orange and red streaks.
Pro Tip: If you prune your tree too frequently, it may not bloom or fruit.
Despite the delicate-looking leaves, the Tamarind is very sturdy. They tolerate heavy pruning, extensive root manipulation, wiring, and even neglect.
Caring for Tamarind Bonsai
Flowering Tamarind bonsai trees can thrive indoors under bright sunlight, but they will also flourish outdoors in the spring and summer. If night temperatures fall below 50 degrees F, we recommend placing the tree inside near a window that receives a lot of sunlight throughout the day.
Never allow the soil to become dry. A moisture meter is a great tool to determine the needs of your bonsai trees.
Remember: Tamarind is a tropical plant and needs frequent watering.
You should water your bonsai tree until the water runs out of the pot’s bottom holes. It doesn’t matter how you water your tree. What matters is that the tree has been properly watered.
When your tamarind is indoors during the winter months, we recommend that you place it in a tray with gravel and water. This will add moisture to the tree and help reduce moisture loss from modern heating systems.
If you want your bonsai to be healthy and beautiful, fertilizing is also important. Your bonsai grows in very little soil, so it is important to regularly replenish the soil’s nutrients. You can use any general-purpose liquid fertilizer (easily available at big box garden centers).
Except during winter, fertilizer should be applied once per month.
Although foliage can be trimmed any time of year, spring is the best time to remove branches for bonsai styling. New growth will need frequent pruning during summer. Roots should be pruned during periods of warm nights (55 degrees F (13 C) or more.
Keep your Tamarind tree small by trimming and pinching. To maintain the tree’s health, it is best to keep some leafs.
Bonsai tropical or sub-tropical trees need to be trimmed and pinched throughout the year. Different trees grow at different rates, so it is important to assess each tree’s growth rate and adjust your trimming and pinching accordingly.
After their root system has filled the container, Tamarind should be repotted every other year. Repotting is necessary to provide your bonsai with new soil and encourage a compact root system.
Mid-summer is the best time to repot.
Tamarind can be treated like other trees for diseases and insects. Aphids on new growth and powdery mildew (especially in humid environments) are possible problems. Powdery mildew occurs occasionally and is a type of plant fungus.
It can easily be treated with a fungicide. If the mildew is mild, sometimes defoliation will resolve the problem.
Overwatering can cause leaf drop as well as branch die-back. With a coarse, fast draining bonsai soil, this should not be a problem. Otherwise, the Tamarind is susceptible to very few pests and/or diseases. Visit our page on mealybugs for specific care guidelines to get rid of pests (specifically scaled insects).