Updated: Dec 30, 2021
The Ginkgo biloba or Maidenhair Tree is the sole surviving species in its division. Its origins date back to the ages of the dinosaurs, with fossils of it being found from 270 million years ago. It was thought to have been extinct in the wild and was only recently rediscovered in the Zhejiang province of Eastern China. While not prevalent in the wild, they have been cultivated for thousands of years, and it is used extensively in Chinese and herbal medicine. Ginkgos can live for hundreds of years in the right conditions.
As Bonsai, the Ginkgo is most commonly grown in the ‘candelabra style’ or ‘flame style’, complementing the Ginkgo’s coarse upright branching and showing off its beautiful fan-shaped leaves to the utmost. They are traditionally trained as a medium to large Bonsai to give some form of scale to its large unique leaves.
Position: Ginkgo prefers a bright sunny location. They are very hardy plants, but they don’t like frozen roots, but best protect Bonsai in a cold greenhouse over winter.
Watering: While it tolerates an occasional drier day, the Ginkgo prefers moist soil. It needs to be thoroughly watered in the morning during the growing season to help fortify its lush green leaves. During winter, keep reasonably dry to avoid rot damage from frozen pots.
Feeding: Feed with a balanced organic fertiliser. Organic manure releases nutrients slowly, ensuring that leaf sizes and internode distances stay small and controlled. For example, if using a liquid fertiliser feed every two weeks, if feeding with a pelleted version, apply fertiliser every two months or when pellets have dissolved away.
Repotting: While the Ginkgo is not too fussed by the soil, it grows in; its roots grow thick and quickly, so younger Bonsai need to be root pruned every year. Use a blend of loam, well-mulched bark, sharp sand in equal parts. Alternatively, use a mix of Akadama and Pumice in equal parts, sift fines out and use grain sizes of between 3 mm to 6 mm.
Pruning: Summer pruning is best carried out after the current year’s shoots extend entirely. Prune back shoot to leave three active leaf nodes or lateral shoots per stem. Heavy pruning is best carried out in late autumn early winter.
Wiring: The Ginkgos coarse branches are best styled with the ‘clip and grow’ method. If wiring is required, wire in autumn and remove carefully in spring.
Propagation: Ginkgos can be propagated easily and are commonly grown from seeds and cuttings. You have a high success rate if growing from seeds, especially fresh seeds. It is, however, a stinky affair, primarily if you collect the seeds yourself. A more practical method of multiplying Ginkgo is using 15cm semi-hardwood cutting around mid-summer. Again, use a rooting hormone for a better success rate.