Bonsai – Good Eats!
There are a number of species appropriate for bonsai that will actually produce edible fruits or other parts, given the proper conditions. As exciting as this sounds, there are a couple of things to remember when developing a tree for the purpose of causing it to fruit:
- Because a bonsai is a tree in miniature, you will not get the yield you would get out of a full-size specimen. The production of edible parts is more for novelty than to feed your family.
- Too much flower or fruit production will stress a small tree, so you don’t want to overdo it.
- You will want to grow your edible bonsai in a larger pot than you normally would. A bin or other large receptacle should be placed outside in a location where it doesn’t have to be moved.
That said, here are a few species that may produce edible parts if cultivated properly:
Pomegranate: one of the more common fruiting bonsai, pomegranate is a surprisingly hardy plant for a subtropical. It should be kept outdoors as long as possible, and brought inside when the weather starts hitting around 40°. Once inside, give it a sunny window. Pomegranates are monoecious, which means they can self-pollinate, but fruiting is generally more successful with two plants.
Cherry Laurel: Prunus caroliniana ‘Monus’, or Bright ‘N Tight, is a monoecious flowering cherry that is suitable for bonsai. The sweet, white blossoms turn to black edible fruit. This evergreen plant is fairly adaptable, but should be kept outside when it’s warm, in full sun to partial shade.
Fig (Ficus): Fig trees are great beginner bonsai, and sometimes fruit in both spring and late summer. The fruit is technically an inverted flower, but still, edible. Figs love heat and should ideally be kept in a warmer climate so they can be outside in the sun most of the year. If you live in a temperate climate, you might consider grow lights. Some cultivars are monoecious and some dioecious so you’ll want to find out if you need one plant or two for pollination.
Rosemary: this is a fantastically hardy plant and can tolerate temperatures to 30°. Rosemary does need a lot of sunshine, when indoors make sure to provide it with artificial lights or a south-facing window. The best part about this bonsai is that the leaves can be used to season your cooking, and you can harvest them when you’re performing regular trimming of the tree.
Most bonsai are simply ornamental, however there’s nothing wrong with experimenting to see if you can get an edible variety to fruit. Just make sure that if it does flower and fruit, that you remove some of the flowers so that you don’t overstress the tree with too much fruit production.
Edible bonsai can be a fun step in the world of this fascinating art-form. The key is knowing exactly what kind of plant you have so that you know whether you need one or two. Keep your plant outdoors when possible, and offer plenty of light. Happy bonsai!