Al Klein | May Meeting Speaker

Gates October Meeting, May 3rd at 7pm PST
Redlands Church of the Nazarene
1307 East Citrus Avenue
Redlands, CA 92374

Presentation: Succulent Bonsai 

Growing succulents as “bonsai” is fun and rewarding. In this article we will be going over the care of bonsai, specifically succulent bonsai. True bonsai has very specific parameters. When creating succulent bonsai it may be difficult to follow traditional rules. With succulent bonsai we are still trying to capture the look of mature plants from the wild, in a container, and a smaller version of that plant. Traditional bonsai enthusiasts might cringe that we would dare call these creations bonsai! There have been attempts to come up with a new name for these creations, however none have caught on as of yet. In any case this is an art form that has its roots from traditional bonsai, so for now we will refer to them as succulent bonsai. Growing succulent bonsai is very rewarding.

Many succulents exhibit features of mature old specimens at a young age. As with all bonsai it is amazing that these plants can live in such a small container with so little soil. This is the main factor in the “dwarfing” of these spectacular plants.

As usual we will always talk about the importance of soil. Soil mixes for bonsai should be well draining just as the general soil mixes are for succulents. I would recommend a mix with at least 50% inorganic materials, such as perlite or pumice. As always, don’t skimp on your soil! It is amazing how little soil is needed to grow a plant. I have some plants with about 1.5 inches of soil depth in a small diameter pot! The soil becomes a solid mat of roots. This limitation is what helps cause that “fat” compact look we are seeking.

Watering is very important with succulent bonsai. Because of the small container and soil mass, your plants will require more attention when it comes to watering. During the summer months in California I may water every three days. My plants have direct sunlight only part of the day. Occasional feeding with a good plant food will keep your plant in good health and growth. Make sure your fertilizer is applied dissolved in water, otherwise you may get some burning. Some of your plants may need little or no water at certain times of the year. Make sure you know your plant, and if it goes dormant, etc

If you plan to do bonsai, you will want to build a stockpile of various supplies. I like to have a selection of pots. This way I can choose the “perfect” pot for my plant, the right color, size, etc. Whenever you see a cool pot buy it. One day it will be the right pot for that special plant. I do the same for gravel, rocks and driftwood. I have large selections of all these. This way when you have the creative urge to create a bonsai everything is at your fingertips. You will be amazed at what you can do, and how great your bonsai will look!

Who is Al Klein?

Al Klein

Al’s interest in the natural world started in his childhood. Growing up in Chicago he would make regular visits to the Field Museum of Natural History, and read books on the natural sciences. His favorite hobbies were growing exotic plants like cacti, and collecting fossils, minerals, and insects.

After moving to California at the age of 17 he found his passion in plants. He was amazed at the diversity and beauty of the flora of California. He was employed by South Shores Nursery in San Clemente California while attending California State Polytechnic University in Pomona. He received his Bachelor of Science in Ornamental Horticulture with emphasis in landscape design and retail nursery management.

After graduation he was hired by Rodgers Gardens in Corona Del Mar, California. Within a year he was promoted to Nursery Manager. Soon Al had the opportunity to start a new business. He was asked to help open a nursery-gift shop in Escondido California, called Canterbury Gardens and Gifts. Soon after he was asked to be a partner in the business. Al recently retired from Canterbury Gardens after 35 years of service. Al is now running his nursery business, Botanic Wonders full time, his true passion! Botanic Wonders specializes in growing and selling rare and exotic plants, including rare succulents, and cycads.

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