Herons Bonsai: Create a Christmas Cactus Bonsai

I find this as a most fascinating bonsai. There is a nice development of the trunk. The pruning is with great thought and masterfully done. This is a great tutorial. It is great to do a plant that no one would think of to bonsai. Super video!!!

Video Transcript

Today i’m going to be working on my christmas cactus bonsai here’s a look at the two christmas cactus i have the one on the left hand side here is a cutting off of the larger one and i see where i cut the cutting off it’s grown back in again here’s a look at the area where i took that cutting off of and you can see now it’s grown back in with vigor so every time i cut that branch off in that area a new one goes in so i think it’s just destined to have a branch in that area this has always been the front of the tree but i think there’s a better front if i rotate it around definitely not this view because that branch that low branch sticking up the back view it has this branch that kind of crosses the trunk line which isn’t really good but then when you come around this view it starts to look pretty good everything kind of comes towards you there’s a nice main trunk growing vertical that low branch becomes a back branch yeah i think this is a pretty good view for the front somewhere around here maybe even there at the moment the tree is in this kind of long skinny pot which doesn’t suit the tree at all so do you remember that pot i cleaned up in the video that kind of round fancy one that might be the pot for it i’ll show you that here’s a look at the pot in front of the tree here and i i think it would look quite nice you know this is sort of got a round canopy and it weeps down the pot is kind of high fancy pot with a fancy tree so i think that’s my goal to get it from this long rectangular pot into this fancy round one and prune up the tree the beauty of these christmas cactus is the beautiful weeping branches and the flowers of course this tree is just about done flowering there’s just a couple of withered flowers on it maybe one flower that’s still looking good but so i’m going to prune it back today trying to kind of keep that weeping form now what i’m after is to get ramifications so i’ll show you a branch without ramification here’s a branch here with very little ramification it divides here and then it’s got a segment here another leaf segment another leaf segment and another leaf segment so ideally you want to prune it back to here and then get this one leaf segment dividing into two branches and then that one dividing into two more and and so on so you get lots of lots of branching happening in the canopy of the tree here’s a branch here that comes out and it does divide into two here but it doesn’t divide into two at the end of this segment so this could be pruned off here and here and then i could get a subdivision earlier on that branch instead of way out at the tip here that’s the approach i’ll be using when i go to prune the tree i’ll try and get each segment to divide from one into two and then from the two into four and four into eight and so on so no double segments of leaves without any subdivision all right i’m going to begin pruning and where do i start that’s a good question i could start down low pruning that lowest branch up or i could start up in the apex here and just prune for that division so every every branch that has segment after segment after segment without any subdividing i can prune it off so i think that’s where i’ll start i’ll just start a general prune printing off the segments that don’t subdivide and the tree will look quite bare after this operation but it will grow once again here’s a close-up look at where i prune so i leave just a little tiny segment of the end leaf on the branch like that and then this usually will subdivide as it grows here’s an example of a branch that comes out and divides from one into one two three segments it’s best to have it divide from one and then have two coming off it makes it look more tree-like instead of just a regular house plant so i’ve got to pick which of the two i want to keep this one’s kind of going uphill so i’ll take this one off and keep these two like that i’ll continue printing segments back trying to get that division from one into two and i may have to come in and thin it out later on i’m going to just concentrate on branching for now trying to you know get that segments reduced and then i may come in and further prune up branches you can see here it’s getting very crowded in one area so i may have to come in and thin all those out yeah the tree is going to look quite naked after this here’s an example here i’ve got one segment dividing into one two three four so i think i’ll keep my tightest divisions there maybe yeah i think i’ll keep the middle two and prune out the outer the outer ones that keeps it dividing from one to two like that and you know i may remove that entire branch because it’s growing upwards later on but for now i’m just doing my reduction work putting the segments back like here’s one a segment another single segment so i’ll prune off all that ramification just to get it subdividing earlier here’s another case i’ve got one dividing into one two three four again and i think i’ll take off this one and this one prune this one back and this one back here’s one that needs pruning back like that another one here and then i’ve got one back here that needs pruning back like that and one out the back here so again i’ll prune it back to the first segment and that’s got this one branch pruned up everything’s down to one leaflet dividing into two this branch i’ve got to take the tip off here this tip this one’s dividing from one to three i’m gonna take this inner one off like that everything else is looking pretty good on that branch pruning for the future you know it’ll all grow back in again just gotta keep it in check all these leaves i’m pruning off if you were to plant those they would root and grow so they’re quite easy to propagate that one’s good it divides from one to two this one divides into two and then this one divides into two again now this isn’t a traditional bonsai and a lot of people wouldn’t even call this a bonsai because well first of all it’s a succulent however i think you know any plant you can get a tree-like form to it i would call it a bonsai if you can train and shape it then i call it a bonsai and i don’t care if people disagree with me because a bonsai is just a basically a potted plant that’s shaped and that’s what i’m doing here shaping it shaped or miniaturized whatever makes you happy you do and this this plant is always so beautiful and it always makes me happy when it comes out in flower and just looking at it it’s beautiful plant there’s a long branch here without any subdividing so turn it off i hope to get subdividing on it now i’ve got it inspected i i’m not sure i got all my divisions i’ve got to just check each branch make sure everything’s dividing from one to two there’s the on one like down here there’s two straight segments in a row and then it subdivides so i left it because i don’t want to lose these branches out here so i think next i’ve got to prune it for shape so let’s do that now here’s a look at the tree from somewhere around the front view the new front view so next i’ve got to come down to eye level and start doing branch selection there’s a lot of areas that are really congested branches growing in towards the center of the tree crisscrossing branches so i’ve got to thin the basic structure out all right there’s a little shoot trying to grow at the root base down here i’m going to take that off i’ve got enough branches down low speaking of my low branches this lowest branch here i’ve got one two three main trunks coming up i only need the one so i’m going to take out the smallest one so this one that one comes out and then there’s one at the back here i can remove also i don’t want this looking like a clump style i want it to be kind of this is the main trunk line and this is just maybe an auxiliary little branch so i’m looking at that now yeah i think the front view will be i think it’s already marked there’s a wire in here that’s funny so that that is the front view where the wire is marked i must have done that so now i’ve got a trunk coming up and i’ve got to choose between these two so which one do i choose if i choose this one it’s kind of a wide a wide spacing between the main trunk and this branch this one i think is closer to the trunk and looks better i think this one’s just too far out to the one side so i’m going to prune this outer one off so here i go just like that then i have another one growing in towards it the main trunk i’ve got to prune that one out like that and then you’ll notice i’ve got no real branching until way up here so i could prune it off here and try and get some sub branching down lower which i think i will do so i’m going to take it off right here hopefully i’ll get something you know to get a little branch in this area would be really nice now i have a stub up here and this little stub kind of crosses the main trunk line there i’m going to remove that like that and again i have this segment comes up there’s a segment here another segment another segment it does subdivide here but i’m not really liking this subdivision coming towards the inside here i think i’m going to hard prune this one off here and take this one out like that some tough decisions in with this tree now there’s one coming out here no subdividing so i’m going to take that one off here i’ve got i’ve got some branches coming in towards the center here i’m going to remove those i don’t want it cluttered up then i noticed i have some insect eggs these are spider eggs um they may be old ones i hope i’m going to take them off this one’s definitely old oh there’s a whole bunch of spiders crawling around down here yeah there’s a whole bunch of little spiders crawling around i don’t know where they’re from they must have had a nest in here i’ll continue with the pruning these spiders will just have to find a new home in the greenhouse i’ve got a division here i’ve got one two three i don’t think i want the one on the inside here so i’m removing that one it goes this one divides into two two again this one can be pruned off here no subdividing on that branch and then i’ve got a strong one coming out the side here and it’s i miss this one it divides from one into three and i’m wondering if i should prune it back to this segment keeping that branch shorter i think i will so hard pruning it back like that taking that branch off and then the branch behind here it still has a lot of clutter it goes from one into one two three four so i’m going to take out some of these other small ones on the inside here that one and this one like that so now it divides from one to two and then to two take this one off one to two to two again to two again this one’s gotta come off and this top one kind of comes off okay now behind that i’ve got dividing from one to three here i’m wondering i’m thinking maybe taking that center one out these are older branches so i am going to do that i should have noticed that before that it was one to three but as you prune away you kind of reveal more of the structure and you can kind of see more there goes that segments out so now that’s dividing from one to two this one has one two three i think i’m going to take that lowest one out like that this one can be pruned back this one’s fine this one can get pruned off and this one can get pruned off like that so that’s looking pretty good really cleaned that side of the tree up i’ve got my main trunk line coming up and i’ve got some branching back here so i’ve got two branches coming out from the same spot there i definitely don’t want this one this is a nice branch this one above it isn’t it’s a new one take that one out i’m going to keep them both even though i’ve got two branches coming from one spot this one looks good over on this side it kind of fills in this area maybe until this one gets more developed i’m going to keep it for now this branch this one needs pruning here the rest are all good so now i’m following the trunk line up to the top and i’ve got a division from one into three here i’ve got one on the inside that one can come out that’s a newer branch not as nice and woody as the other two so it divides from one to two here and then i’ve got multiple divisions up here i’ve got a good strong woody one and a lot of soft growth on the inside here so i’m going to keep this nice strong one i’m going to remove the one i’m going to remove this one on the inside here so here i go and then i’m going to keep one of these ones fanning out which would be this one and remove these other ones here again you know tough decisions but you got to make them to keep your structure clean now this one this woody one there’s one segment here without any subdivision so i’m going to prune it off a bit of hard pruning there shorten that branch a bit so that takes care of this part of the trunk line now this one has the same problem as one two three four divisions so i’ve got to pick my nicest ones definitely not the one on the inside here i’ll take that out i’ve got a fairly thick woody one here which isn’t bad i think i better take the middle one out it’s a younger branch i’m going to keep my older branches each side of it like that so this branch it comes up divides from one to two this one comes up divides from one to three i don’t think i want the vertical one so that one comes off and the rest are good now i could prune this vertical part off it’s kind of an extension of the line of this branch so i’m going to prune it off just for shaping it i think it was getting too tall and vertical looking that branch so it needed a change of direction so even though i lost some ramification i gained a change of direction and i shortened the branch down so that that completes this trunk line so the next one comes up divides it from one to two and at the back here i’ve got it dividing from one to one two three so i’m going to pick my ones fanning outwards get rid of the other ones like that so that’s got that taken care of now the other segment here comes up and divides from one one into one two three four five six seven eight eight branches coming from one spot so i’ve got to pick my nicest ones um not the one coming in towards the center i’m going to take that one out that one’s gone ah there’s a little one coming out front which isn’t bad i i want to prune see how this this branch is quite vertical i want to stop that i want to get it a change of direction so i’m going to take these vertical ones out on the inside here that one and this one so now i’m narrowing it down i do like this one fanning out to the side but it’s also nice having something coming out front i’m going to take this little one out so i’ve got four branches up here now tough decisions here i’ve already got a branch coming out the back so i don’t think i need this one coming out the back so i’m going to take that one out i’d rather branch coming more forward so now i’m divided from one to three up there i’m going to keep the two vertical ones and keep this one take this one off like that i’ll reduce this segment back i’ve got this one coming up dividing from one to three i’m going to take this one out like that and that i think completes the pruning i’m going to step back and have a look at it i’m standing back having a look at the christmas cactus now i think it’s looking quite nice i like it’s quite vertical you know you could cut the top off but then you know when you have a vertical branches like this you’ve got room for them to come out and weep if you have it too short then the branches will hang down below the pot so it’s probably best to keep it fairly tall and it is quite woody up in this upper section so it would be a shame to cut it back that hard when you know it’s gotten that old and woody and i think it’s going to look really nice tall when all those all that new growth comes out and cascades down with the flowers so yeah i i’m not seeing anything on it that really bugs me maybe i could take that one branch off behind here i’ll do that where it was dividing from one to two here i’ll take that one off yeah so somewhere around here’s the front now i’ve got to get it into that new pot i think the new pot will look a little big for the tree at first until it grows in again gets all those branches but i think it’s going to be a nice combination i’m going to start by stripping all the moss off the surface of the christmas cactus so i can see what the root base is looking like now i don’t know if i’ll be able to strip it off by hand or if i have to use tweezers i’ll get my root rake in there do a little bit of raking all right i think i’ll try and get it out of the pot now all right here i go let me see there’s two small drainage holes in the bottom i’ll take my front marker out i think i’ll have to loosen it up i can’t remember when i last repotted it but i know it’s been quite a while so i’m definitely going to have to loosen the the root system up in the pot here because it’ll be quite pot bound i’m hoping because this new pot is a little larger i hope it kind of gives the tree a lot of good strength i don’t know how large these can get i mean as a house plant i’ve seen them or they they’re huge but you know i don’t know how old some of these woody trunks can get on them i i would think quite old because i know people have them as house plants and they’re some people have shown me pictures of ones that are 70 years old and they still look healthy so i don’t think there’s much of a limit to the lifespan of these if they’re properly taken care of there it comes which is good i mean that’s what you want in a bonsai there it is yeah you can see all the fine roots in there so you know there’s not a whole lot of point of combing those out because you know it’s not jam-packed root bound and they’re very fine and if you try and comb them you’ll probably just tear through 90 percent of them you basically be starting over as more of a cutting planting a cutting so i’m just going to kind of get my drainage screens out comb it out a bit the soil looks fine in here there’s nothing wrong it drains nicely it’s porous a lot of fine roots okay i’m going to test fit it in the new pot now so i’m going to find my front just somewhere around here and so it’s very close to fitting the lengthwise so i might just have to comb that out a bit and i’ll take a little bit off this side too okay let’s see if it fits in the pot now it does i gotta be careful because the trunk of this is getting all kinds of little spines on it which will probably stick into my skin the front of my tree is about here so i’m going to place it in the pot see how high it is that seems a pretty good height in the pot it’s you know the root base is above the lip the roots can kind of taper down into the soil i’m thinking that’s pretty good so i’ll comb out these surface roots try and get those as radial as i can kind of avoid my crossing roots combing them out so they’re yeah so it’s a good looking root base now the center of my tree is a little off the center of the pot i don’t think i like that actually so i’m going to comb a little more off this side of the root base so i can move the tree a little more central in the pot i think that looks good in a round pot usually you don’t want them too far off center unless they’re kind of a slanting tree or something like that okay i think i’ve got to get the drainage screen in the bottom of the pot a small layer of soil on the bottom and then i can put the tree in i thought i’d better show you how much foliage i took off the tree so here it is there’s a lot here layers deep too yeah so i took a lot of foliage off but it certainly looks more tree-like now i’ve got my drainage screen in the bottom of the pot so now add a base layer of soil like that and now i can position the tree now i do want the front if we look at the pot i can have the pot in two positions if this is the front of the tree i can have a leg each side or i can have a leg in the middle like that now i personally prefer to have the leg each side like that but that’s just my preference so i’ll place the tree in the pot now so that is going to be the front so i’m putting the front of the tree between those two legs like that now let’s step back and have a look at it so i’m just lining it all up i don’t think i want to have it slanting like that not too much anyway so i think more like that and i think that’s pretty good rotation-wise and orientation of the front of the pot there so you’re looking at the front view now i’m quite happy with that okay so i’ll fill it in with soil now and i always put my mask on because this stuff isn’t good to breathe in this this soil the perlite particles and the clay particles it’s best to keep your lungs as healthy as possible i’ve got the soil into the pot now so i’m just making sure it’s all settled down among the roots it seems to be the the tree is nice and firm in the pot i was worried about it tipping over at the start of the day i thought huh but it’s really stable in there especially with the reduced foliage up top okay so i’m going to stand back and have a look at it now i want to see if everything’s looking good on the tree before i give it a water here’s a look at the tree in the pot i’m thinking the pot really suits it i i think it’s a fancy looking pot very unusual and it’s a very unusual bone side too and i think once you know it comes out cascading with those flowers the dark pot will really set those brightly colored you know pinkish flowers off i think it’s going to be a good combination and it’s the color of the pot is different enough from the trunk that it kind of highlights the brownish color of the trunk i think it’s i think it’s a good pot i think it suits it well at least that’s my initial impression anyway so i’m going to give the tree a watering now this is nice porous soil it should like growing in this pot with a little extra room the work is finished on my larger christmas cactus so now i’m going to prune up the cutting you can see that all these three branches are flat in this view they’re all one behind each other so that’s not never very good makes a very two dimensional tree so i’m going to prune this long branch off here it’s too long and i’m going to prune this long branch off up here it’s just too long and there’s some up the back here that are also getting way too big so some hard pruning on them this one too like that just to get it more compact now i’m i’m looking at these three trunks again i’m gonna get rid of one i like this one it’s the thickest this one’s upright i think i’ll get rid of that one i’m sure it’ll sprout another branch there as soon as i do this but here i go like that so it divides from one to two one to two here i don’t like this one crossing in on the inside here i’ll take that one out um this one comes up divides into one two three four so i don’t want the one growing up the middle here take that one out there’s another one going up the middle here that makes three i think i’ll take out this one like that dividing from one to two this one divides from one to two here and then it divides from one into one two three four five six so i’ve got to do some uh choose some branches i guess take out this one going to the inside and also this one i want to get some three dimensionality so anything kind of coming forwards or backwards is good these two come forward so i’m going to just keep this one’s kind of growing over top of the other branch i’ll get rid of that one keep this one coming forward i got one coming backwards i’ll take out this other thick one here like that and i’m gonna prune this one back that is a good severe pruning but i think that’s better now as far as a front view i would probably say somewhere around here you don’t want these two branches flat on to the viewer so maybe a slight rotation like that with my thickest one coming forward somewhere around there once again quite a pile of branches this would make a really nice cutting you can see it’s getting woody already just stick that in soil but i already have two of these christmas cactus i can’t have any more so there’s a look at the two christmas cactus together they’re looking pretty good i’m uh i’m looking forward to them growing again and getting flowers again hopefully next year it was a big transformation today of my larger christmas cactus trimming it up and getting it in the new pot getting that new front to the tree and i really like it i think it was a a good day for the christmas cactus my little one got pruned up too so someday as it grows bigger i’ll get a nice fancy pot for it too and that’s all for today i’m nigel saunders thanks for joining me in the bonsai zone [Music]

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