Root Awakening: Mini bonsai need pruning, regular watering and sunlight to thrive

Mini bonsai need pruning, regular watering and sunlight to thrive.
Mini bonsai need pruning, regular watering and sunlight to thrive.PHOTO: EDDIE LEONG
Red Leea a native plant of Singapore.
Red Leea a native plant of Singapore.PHOTO: CHONG TEN SAN
Sapling is Buah Ceri tree.
Sapling is Buah Ceri tree.PHOTO: LEE HENG KEE
Bamboo palm’s healthy fronds make plant look visually pleasing.
Bamboo palm’s healthy fronds make the plant look visually pleasing.PHOTO: WILLY HENG

Mini bonsai need pruning, regular watering and sunlight to thrive  

I repotted my miniature plants (Photos 1 and 2) into small teacups with drainage holes with pre-mixed organic potting soil I bought from the nursery, which consists of coco peat, green compost and organic fertiliser. I water them once to twice a day based on the dryness of the moss. I also have a bonsai (Photo 3). What are the names of the plants and how do I take care of them? As for fertiliser, which type should I use and is it necessary to apply to all these plants regularly?

Eddie Leong

The plants are bonsai and are variegated Ming Aralia (Polyscias fruticosa "Variegata", Photo 1), Japanese neem tree (Premna microphylla, Photo 2) and Java Feroniella (Feroniella lucida, Photo 3).

Being woody shrubs and trees, the plants need a sunny spot with at least four hours of direct sunlight to thrive. The lack of sunlight will lead to lanky growth and large leaves which are not desired in bonsai specimens.

You need to prune the plants periodically to maintain their shape and form. There are courses offered by local bonsai societies and dealers which you can attend to learn more.

As the plants are grown in small pots, the growing media should be kept moist at all times and well-drained. It should not be allowed to dry out as that will lead to the death of roots and decline of the plants.

You can use a balanced water-soluble fertiliser to feed your plants - use a more diluted version to avoid burning the plants.

Red Leea a native plant of Singapore

Please help to identify this plant.

Chong Ten San

This is a native plant of Singapore. Its botanical name is Leea rubra and is known via common names such as Pucuk Merah, Red Leea, Red Tree-Vine and Red Tree Shrub.

It has attractive red leaf stalks and flowers. It is often grown in ecological gardens where its flowers provide nectar for pollinator insects such as butterflies. The fruit is food for birds and other small mammals.

It grows best under direct sunlight outdoors.

Sapling is Buah Ceri tree

I am trying to identify this plant that appeared in my garden. Is it a weed and should I remove it?

Lee Heng Kee

The sapling is botanically known as Muntingia calabura. Its common name in Singapore is Buah Ceri.

The plant grows into a tree with a spreading crown. It is worth growing if you can afford the space in an outdoor garden.

This tree produces small spherical fruits which are quite pleasant to eat. Best picked and eaten when they turn red, the fruit is also very popular with birds.

Bamboo palm's healthy fronds make plant look visually pleasing

When I bought this plant from a supermarket, it was in a very small pot. As it was growing more leaves, I transplanted it into a bigger pot and left it in the balcony where it received a lot of sunlight. Ever since, the plant has grown more leaves and become larger. Should I prune it or let it be?

Willy Heng

The plant is commonly known as bamboo palm. Its botanical name is Chamaedorea elegans. Its common name is derived from the appearance of the stems, which look like those of the bamboo plant.

It is a popular houseplant as it thrives in a site with filtered sunlight. The growing media should be well-draining and moisture-retentive.

If the fronds are healthy and green, you should let the plant be as the leaves will be needed for photosynthesis. The numerous fronds on the stem will also make the plant look fuller and visually pleasing.

• Answers by Dr Wilson Wong, an NParks-certified practising horticulturist, parks manager and ISA-certified arborist. He is the founder of Green Culture Singapore and an adjunct assistant professor (Food Science & Technology) at the National University of Singapore.

• Have a gardening query? E-mail it with clear, high-resolution pictures of at least 1MB, if any, and your full name to stlife@ We reserve the right to edit and reject questions.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2019, with the headline 'Root Awakening'. Print Edition | Subscribe