This genus of over 300 flowering and fruiting trees is not covered by just one English species name. It covers, in fact, a whole group of deciduous or evergreen trees and shrubs, widely distributed throughout northern temperate regions and South America to Southeast Asia. The prunus family consists of apricot, cherry, peach, sloe and plum, to mention but a few. All are suitable for development as bonsai, some for their flowers, some for the fruit, and others for their remarkable trunk colouring and markings; all respond well to bonsai training and are not difficult to maintain. Two points to consider – flowering trees are quite spectacular but only for a very short period; also, fruit does not reduce in size as the trees develop as bonsai, so choose naturally small-fruited varieties.
Prunus are happy with full sun or partial shade and some winter protection to avoid loss of next season’s buds; you will not lose the tree, just the flowers.
Water regularly when required, do not let the trees dry out.
Repot annually in late winter, before the buds start to open.
Prune back hard after the flowers have dropped; if you want the fruit to set, delay pruning flowering branches until autumn.
Feed using a general fertiliser every two weeks throughout the summer to ensure buds for the next year’s flowers.
Prunus is susceptible to infestation from aphids, caterpillars and birds, which enjoy the flower buds. Diseases include peach leaf curl, silver leaf and blossom wilt. Treat fortnightly with systemic insecticide and fungicide throughout the season.
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