Gardening Vivian | 06 Apr 2011 03:26 pm

Learn About the Serissa Foetida and Its Proper Growing Technique

Serissa foetida is the sole species of flowering plant in the family of Rubiaceae. It is most commonly found in the sub-tropical woodlands and open wet meadows so typical of the Southeast Asian countries such as India, Japan and China. It is also known as ‘Snow rose’, ‘Japanese Boxthorn’, ‘Serissa japonica’ and ‘Tree of a thousand stars’. Despite the generalization, the tree of a thousand stars can be differentiated from snow rose by the unique shape and size of its flowers.

Various characteristics of serissa foetida

The serissa foetida is an evergreen or semi-evergreen tree characterized by its 45-60 cm high, with oval, thick, deep green foliage. The name ‘foetida’ derives from the foul smell that the leaves emit if bruised. This shrub looks elegant because of its upright stems that branch out in random directions to create the shape of a wide spreading dome.

The flowering season of this evergreen shrub recurs twice or thrice in the course of a year. During this period, you can find the bonsai in its full glory with its tiny flowers and naturally miniaturized leaves. Its lasting foliage, flowers and rough gnarled trunk, turning grey with age add to its beauty and make it a widely preferred option for a bonsai.

The serissa flowers are funnel-shaped and could contain both 6 and 4 lobes that are initially pink when the bud is coming out. The other cultivar options of the serissa foetida are ‘Variegata’, ‘Variegated Pink’, ‘Pink Mystic’, ‘Snowflake’, ‘Snowleaves’, ‘Mt. Fuji’, ‘Kyoto’ and ‘Sapporo’. Other than these, the ‘Pink Snow Rose’ is a shrub with double flowers that are pale pink having off-white edges.

How to take proper care of serissa foetida?

Although serissa is one of the commonest types of bonsai, you could spoil it by mishandling it. The greatest advantage with this tree is that it is not very difficult to keep alive. However, you must understand the basic traits of its life cycle like the shedding of its leaves. If you take it as a sign of alarm and in your panic, over or underwater the bonsai, it could die. Generally, the plant soon grows its leaves again but sometimes it could be a sign of temperature variation, improper watering or sudden shift in lighting or temperature.

So, you must know the basic criteria for growing serissa foetida. If grown indoors, the bonsai should be placed in close proximity to lamps lighted for at least 12 hours. If kept outdoors, exposure to partial sunlight would help. During the colder months, the plant should be ideally kept in a 50-68F temperature zone. You must keep the soil of the bonsai evenly moistened by placing the bonsai in a tray of water. In order to avoid root rot, stop watering immediately if the plant is dropping leaves. You could mist the tree instead of watering but this is not recommended during the flowering season.

You should feed the serissa foetida with liquid bonsai food in every 10-14 days in a month. The tree grows best in an acidic soil and so you could apply Miracid for best results. You can maintain the tree by removing dead flowers to enhance further flower production in the blooming period. You could prune the bonsai occasionally and wire it during the growing period. Do not trim the tree for upright and broom styles. Cut the extra roots in the summers and repot the bonsai every 1-2 years in spring.

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