Melaleuca Bonsai – Rags to Riches

I have written this story to encourage others to give natives a go because in a relatively short space of time you can convert a nursery stock plant to a tree worth putting on the bench and in a competition.

I purchased a Melaleuca Styphiloides stock plant in May 2017 from Bonsai World in Jilliby. I could see potential in the tree because it already had a good sized trunk with a strong bend in it a few centimetres from the base.

Melaleuca Styphiloides Bonsai
Melaleuca Styphiloides – May 2017

I cut the tree a couple of centimetres above the bend of the trunk leaving only a couple of shoots below. I also shortened the root system by about half using a knife the slice across the root ball. Although melaleuca species a generally very robust, I always develop my natives in stages not doing too much to them sat any one time. I then planted the tree in a generous training pot using a good native bonsai soil mix. The mix I used was that recommended by the Victorian Native Bonsai Club (2 parts diatomite, 1 part mini pine bark, ¾ choir peat, ½ perlite).

The plant responded well over the next year I began shaping the branches and cut back the foliage.

Melaleuca Bonsai October 2018
Melaleuca – October 2018

When I went to repot the tree, I found that the whole pot was full of tiny roots but basically none of the tree had developed any decent nebari. I changed the potting mix – replacing the diatomite with pumice and the
perlite with vermiculite and let the tree grow on.

By March of 2019, two years after purchase, the tree was now ready to be put into a bonsai pot and I found “just the one” at the Auburn AusMarket sales.

Though the tree was now sitting better in the right sized pot, the soil area near the base of the tree still looked like a “lump.” I excavated the soil and fine roots hoping to find some larger roots to expose.

Despite this, I decided to enter the tree in the Royal Easter Show in the section natives (other than fig) over 400mm. I managed a second and I was really stoked.

Melaleuca Bonsai - April 2019
April 2019, Two years after styling, my Melaleuca is
now bench-able.

The tree is still very young and has a way to go. It needs to have the nebari further developed and its foliage needs to be refined and cut a little closer in. So give a native a go – they grow fast; the can get results in a relatively short time and are really rewarding.

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