Snow Rose (Serissa Foetida) Bonsai Tree: How To Grow and Plant Care

The snow rose bonsai is a striking plant which will provide any interior with a serene look, with its twisted trunk, narrow leaves, and white flowers.

It’s a plant suitable for bonsai growers who’ve tried their hand at this art before, as the snow rose is a fussy bonsai tree, difficult for beginners to master.

 Here’s everything you need to know.

At a Glance: What You Should Know About Growing the Snow Rose as a Bonsai

The snow rose bonsai is an interesting one. It has an unpleasant characteristic of giving off a horrible smell similar to vomit when pruned, so you might want to prune it outdoors!

Setting that peculiar quirk aside, the snow rose is a lovely little shrub that works well as a bonsai, featuring a twisted trunk and bright green leaves, growing in an airy but compact habit.

You’ll also see it labeled as the tree of a thousand stars, and the Japanese boxthorn. Many people refer to it as Serissa foetida, but it has been renamed as Serissa japonica

When grown as a bonsai tree, the snow rose can reach about 20cm tall, by 5cm wide. It is a prolific flowerer, producing white blooms from early spring well into the autumn.

If given the right care (and this is more difficult than it sounds), it can live for over twenty years.

Starting Off Your Snow Rose Bonsai: Seed or Cuttings?

This is not a bonsai tree you want to start off from seed. The seeds of a snow rose are notoriously difficult to germinate, and the seedlings aren’t far off from being as fussy as the mature plants.

The better way to start off a snow rose bonsai is to take cuttings of semi-hardwood growth. This is a cutting which has started to mature and become a little woody, but it’s not yet completely set in its shape.

How to Make Sure Your Snow Rose Bonsai Tree Thrives

The key to making any bonsai tree thrive is to understand what the plant in its normal form requires to really blossom. If you can mimic its natural environment for the bonsai version, it will be a happy plant.

Here’s what you need to know.

Sunlight and Position

When it comes to the snow rose bonsai, once you’ve found a good place for it indoors, keep it there. Like ficus plants, (see also Indoor Fig Houseplant Care) the snow rose absolutely hates being moved, so choose wisely!

The snow rose bonsai tree loves a sunny, sheltered position. This will preferably be indoors, in a position where the plant is not exposed to fluctuating temperatures. Temperatures ideally need to be somewhere between 50°F and 68°F (10-20°C).

The warmer the room, the more light the plant will need in order to grow properly.

Humidity is also important. Try growing it in a kitchen or bathroom, where humidity levels tend to be higher than in other rooms. If you’re keeping it somewhere warm, you’ll also need to increase the humidity levels. 

Watering a Snow Rose Bonsai

The snow rose bonsai likes the soil to be moist at all times, but it won’t tolerate soaked or sodden soil for very long at all. 

It won’t tolerate the soil drying out, either. Where possible, avoid watering the plant with water that has high levels of calcium in it, as this can build up in the soil and alter the pH.

Should You Fertilize a Snow Rose Bonsai?

The snow rose bonsai tree does benefit from the occasional feed. Use a balanced bonsai fertilizer every four weeks or so when the tree is active in spring and summer. 

In the winter months, you can feed it once every month if it’s kept in a warm position, with the dosage very weak.

Don’t feed the snow rose bonsai if it has stopped growing, or it looks stressed.

When to Repot a Snow Rose Bonsai Tree

A snow rose bonsai tree requires a new pot every couple of years. It’s worth discarding the old soil, replenishing it for the next two years of growth. 

When you take the bonsai out of its container, lightly prune the roots, but do this somewhere well-ventilated, as the plant will emit its signature smell!

How to Propagate a Snow Rose Bonsai Tree

Take semi-hardwood cuttings in spring or summer to make a new snow rose bonsai. Prepare a pot full of moist compost before you take the cuttings.

Remove the lower leaves, and pop the cuttings at least an inch into the soil. Leave the container somewhere warm and humid, and you should see new growth within a few weeks. 

How to Prune Your Snow Rose Bonsai

In general, snow rose bonsai trees benefit from a good chop every couple of years, back to the old wood, to maintain the compact growth habit.

The snow rose is one of the few bonsai trees which will tolerate a lot of hard pruning. If you need to prune it back hard, do it during the first few weeks of spring.

Never take off all the new growth, as this can harm your bonsai.

Varieties of Snow Rose Plants to Grow as Bonsai Trees

There are quite a few varieties of the snow rose plant to choose from when you want to grow one as a bonsai tree. 

What you want out of your new bonsai tree will influence the cultivar you go for. For instance, ‘Pink Snow Rose’ produces pale pink flowers instead of white, and the leaves are edged in cream.

Common Problems

Leaf Drop

The biggest problem you’ll see in a snow rose bonsai tree is leaf drop. This can happen quite often, unfortunately, and for a number of reasons.

Moving it to a new position (or even just buying it and bringing it home!) is one of the big ones, but it’s also the plant’s way of telling you that the temperature is too cold or too hot, or you’re giving it too much or too little water.

Normally, a snow rose bonsai will recover from leaf drop, as long as you manage to figure out what made the plant drop its foliage in the first place. 

Try changing one thing – if you haven’t moved it lately – and see if your plant unfurls new leaves.

Root Rot

Another common problem that the snow rose is susceptible to is root rot. Allowing the water to pool at the roots for too long will result in the roots dying, and ultimate plant death.

Always check the soil before you water the plant, and one way of controlling the amount of water is to water it from the bottom, allowing the soil to soak up the water through the drainage holes.

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