Water Jasmine Bonsai (Wrightia religiosa)

Water Jasmine (Wrightia religiosa) is a great plant for bonsai. This tropical plant is native to tropical Africa, Asia, and Australia. It can be pruned heavily and has beautiful, fragrant white flowers for five weeks out of the year.

Water Jasmine in Bonsai Garden
Water Jasmine Bonsai – Courtesy of Bonsai Vietnam

Water jasmine is a popular material for bonsai in southeast Asia. This one was imported from Vietnam, where rounded, cloud-shaped foliage pads on bonsai are typical.

The National Bonsai Foundation

Watering

The Water Jasmine needs plenty of water. It is a tropical plant accustomed to heavy rainfall and well-draining soils. Make sure that the roots have time to dry out partially between waterings. Never have the roots be continuously soggy as it will cause disease.

When watering the Water Jasmine, be liberal with the amount you give it. The frequency of watering depends on the time of year. The growing season requires much more than the winter months.

Just remember: Do not let the roots sit in water. Ensure your pot has drainage holes and the soil is appropriate.

Fertilizer

Like most tropical plants, the Water Jasmine needs a variety of nutrients. Fertilizers with high amounts of nitrogen are best (the first number when looking at fertilizers). A 10-5-5 fertilizer would be appropriate.

During the growing season, apply fertilizer every week. When the winter comes, reduce fertilizing to once a month.

Aesthetic

The water jasmine has an inherent ancient look which attracts many bonsai artists to this species.

Many attributes of this plant make it a desirable bonsai subject.

The trunk looks like a tree and usually has good nebari. It’s easy to maintain and is fast growing. The beautiful flowers are one of the most popular reasons for growing Wrightia religiosa as tropical bonsai.

Upright Water Jasmine Bonsai – Courtesy of Bonsai Vietnam

There are over 23 species of Wrightia (Apocynaceae family.) Some have been traditionally considered medicinal herbs. Over the years, it’s been used for everything from skin care to stomach aches.

Wrightia Around the World

Wrightia religiosa root-over-rock style by Mr. Pee, Thailand
Cliff Chong, in Malaysia, is the artist who created this cascading bonsai tree.
In Vietnam, Lam Ngoc Vinh creates traditional Japanese bonsai and creative, unique bonsai using figurines.

Although rarely used in Japan, many other countries respect using figurines in their bonsai.

Figurines are often included in the Vietnamese art of “hòn non bộ”.

Water Jasmine as Indoor Bonsai

In New Jersey, USA, Carl Rosner is enjoying a wonderful experience growing his Water Jasmine as bonsai in his “Tree House.” Over the years, Carl has kept us posted on his bonsai.

Carl Rosner's Water Jasmine Bonsai
Carl Rosner’s Water Jasmine Bonsai

His Wrightia has had very few problems. Once, he had too many roots, and another time a terrible attack of mites, both of which he quickly resolved.

His most recent email was a rightful ‘brag’ about the number of flowers. I think Carl’s success is proof of Wrightia religiosa being a good “indoor” tropical bonsai.

Wrightia Bonsai Care

Fast growing is the good news and the bad news. Frequent pruning of the foliage will keep it from getting too wild, and hard branch pruning will add lots of ramifications. 

This tree does not tolerate neglect.

The roots will also need pruning often. Check them once a year, but most likely will need pruning at least every two years. In the tropics, possibly more often.

If pruning the roots is neglected, you are asking for poor water drainage and potential weakening of the plant overall. Root pruning, as with most tropical bonsai, should be done during the time of warmest nights.

Wrightia is considered a “heavy feeder,” which means do not neglect regular fertilizing.

Although it likes water, it can be overwatered. This will mainly depend on the type of soil and/or whether or not it is root bound. As with any bonsai, the bonsai soil should be fast draining.

Overwatering and under-fertilizing can both contribute to yellow leaves.

Small branches are easily wired. Don’t forget it grows fast and may cut in quickly.

This tropical bonsai is susceptible to the same pests as many other tropical plants. Good light, air circulation, and regular maintenance will prevent many of them.

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