Updated: Apr 1, 2020
The Chinese Pepper is a small shrub growing to about a meter and is native to China, Korean and Japan where it is widely cultivated. It lemon-scented, dark green waxy pinnate leaves make a dense, beautiful crown. It is grown extensively in China where its leaves and peppers are used for flavouring.
Styles: As bonsai, they make bonsai excellent small to medium bonsai. They are typically found in the upright styles, although its dense branching lends itself to most styles of bonsai.
Position: The Chinese Pepper, are a hardy species and can take temperatures up to -4°C, but they do not like their roots being frozen so are best protected in cold climates. In most of the temperate areas, they grow quite well as indoor bonsai.
Watering: Needs a fair amount of water, especially before fruit production. Chinese pepper can be severely damaged by drought. When grown indoor best to provide a humidity tray and mist when possible. If the growth rate reduces overwinter, reduce watering accordingly, so as not to waterlog the pot.
Feeding: Feed with a liquid organic fertiliser every couple of weeks. If using a pelletised version, apply every couple of months or when the pellets have dissolved completely.
Repotting: Chinese pepper grow dense roots so need to be repotted every couple of year. Use a well-draining, rich, organic bonsai mix. Use leaf-mould or bark and loam and sharp sand in equal parts. Alternatively, you can use Akadama and pumice in the ration of 2 to 1.
Pruning: The Chinese Pepper is a continuously growing species and as such benefits from regularly pruning especially between spring and mid-summer. Avoid pruning later if you want flowers and fruit. Prune back shoots to leave 3 active nodes or lateral shoots.
Wiring: Branches can be very brittle, so shaping is best done with the clip and grow method, rather than wiring. If wiring must be done, it is best to wire in autumn, taking care to protect the bark.