Mount Fuji Serissa needs careful handling

Mount Fuji Serissa is a small shrub whose gnarled trunk and tiny leaves make it a popular bonsai. The shrub flowers twice or thrice a year and requires careful handling. The leaves fall off if there is too much or too little water; they also fall off if it is too hot or cold. There is a similar reaction if the plant is moved or if there is a change in light conditions.

The flowers usually drop off in one or two days, followed by the leaves. If you panic and water the plant too much or too little, you may end up killing the plant. The best is to leave it alone, and let the leaves grow once again.

Serissa requires full sunlight when kept outdoors and at least 1000 Lux of light when kept indoors. The plant’s water requirements are most tricky. They go up sharply in hot weather, making some experts recommend that in hot weather the plant should be placed in a tray of water. However, there are others who warn that this may lead to root rot. Some recommend misting, though this needs to be avoided when the flowers are blooming because it can cause them to rot.

If kept outdoors the whole year, Serissa will shed its leaves when the temperature drops. However, don’t move it in and out of shade; also avoid placing it next to a heat source. You will be inviting disaster.

The plant prefers slightly acid soil conditions, and can be fed half-strength plant food or liquid bonsai food every 10 to 14 days the during growth period and every 4 to 6 weeks during winter. It can be propagated with 4-inch cuttings in a glass of water, from early summer onwards. Bottom heat may induce faster rooting.

Serissa grows fast and needs repeated pruning to retain its shape. It can be wired during the growth period. It also needs repotting in basic bonsai soil in spring, once in two years. The roots also need moderate pruning at that time.

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