Tag Archives: Cotoneaster


I’ve wanted to document what I’ve done as far as propagation for a long time. I haven’t seen anything that is very in depth about propagation with specifics. Here is the first of many about different plants and scenarios that should help to narrow down any misconceptions about plant propagation that might be out there.

Before I talk about the successes and failures I want to describe the propagation medium, situation, and frequency of watering.

*AHS Recommendations refers to this book by The American Horticultural Society on plant propagation.

Propagation Box

Propagation Intermittent Misting System

Plant Propagation Box

Dimensions: 2′ x 10′ x 8″

Medium: 100% Silica Sand – Lowe’s 100lb bag

Watering System: Misting system x 2 – Orbit’s Misting System

Watering Frequency: Misting for 3 minutes every hour – Raindrip Timer

Location: 100% Indirect sunlight next to the garage (Helps retain heat)

Weather: Average Monthly Weather (Also windy daily which would enter through the small openings since the box was not airtight)

Zone: USDA 8 / 9 and Sunset Zone 9 – 11 (technically 10) | We seem to be a bit above and below of the zone due to weird extremes within our zone.

Cutting Preparation: Very rarely did I use rooting hormone, large hardwood cuttings were cleaned around the edges on the bottom with box knife, no intentional “scoring” of the bottom of woody cuttings, and no anti-phytophthora dipping substances.

Lizard/Animal Tank Box

Dimensions: Unimportant, but I saran wrapped the window screen top to keep it more airtight.

Medium: Pumice and Silica Sand mix. About 80% sand to 20% pumice.

Watering System: Spray bottle

Watering Frequency: Anywhere from 2 times a day to 1 time every 2 days.

Location: 90% Indirect sunlight with the 10% being morning sun.

Weather: Average Monthly Weather (Wind not nearly a factor as it is almost airtight)

Zone: USDA 8 / 9 and Sunset Zone 9 – 11 (technically 10) | We seem to be a bit above and below of the zone due to weird extremes within our zone.

Cutting Preparation: Very rarely did I use rooting hormone, large hardwood cuttings were cleaned around the edges on the bottom with box knife, no intentional “scoring” of the bottom of woody cuttings, and no anti-phytophthora dipping substances.

Successful Species

Crepe Myrtle – Lagerstromia sp.

AHS Recommendations – SW cuttings in Summer, Difficulty: 2

These would root from softwood cuttings, semi-hardwood cuttings, and hardwood cuttings. All were taken between late Spring and late Summer. One set of hardwood cuttings were taken mid Summer and left on the ground for a day, then I came collected, cleaned the edge of the bottom of the large cuttings with a box knife to clean the cambium layer for easier rooting. With softwood and semi-hardwood cuttings I’d say I had about 70% success rate. Some of their leaves wilted and rotted. Large hardwood cuttings has been near 100% so far.

Waxleaf Privet – Ligustrum Japonicum

AHS Recommendations – SW/SH from early to midsummer, Difficulty: 1. HW from late autumn to midwinter, Difficulty: 1

These root fairly easily without too much work. You can take SW, SH, and HW cuttings. Hardwood cuttings took extremely well under the constant wet conditions. With SW cuttings I had a lower success rate around like 60% – 80%.

Boxwood – Buxus sp.

AHS Recommendations – SW/SH early summer to late autumn, Difficulty: 1

The SW cuttings will root with an almost 100% success rate. I haven’t taken any hardwood cuttings, but heard that they root just as well.

Green Japanese Maple – Acer Palmatum

AHS Recommendations – SW early summer, Difficulty: 2

These had a low success rate. I would say about 40% with the SW cuttings that I took. They also didn’t transplant well due to being in an almost out of zone area here. I had a few larger hardwood cuttings that I took in Summer that rooted, but I wasn’t able to keep them once I got them out (personal flaws and care taking problems).

Barberry – Berberis (Specifically Crimson Pygmy)

AHS Recommendations – SH midsummer and HW in winter, Difficulty: 2

I took only a few SW cuttings of this and they all rooted wonderfully. 100% success rate and it lived in the box for a few months.

Star Jasmine – Trachelospermum jasminoides

AHS Recommendations – SW/SH cuttings in Summer/Autumn, Difficulty: 1

I took a few cuttings and the only ones that didn’t survive were due to the mist nozzle plugging that resulted in no water being delivered to that area.

Burning Bush – Euonymus Japonicus

AHS Recommendations – SW/SH/HW cuttings from Spring to Fall, Difficulty: 1

These did great and rooted super easy with a high success rate. They also transplanted well and survived a few knockdowns from the dog, and emergency repots midsummer from the same thing.

Fruitless Mulberry – Morus sp.

AHS Recommendations – HW cuttings late Autumn, Difficulty: 2

I had around a 70% success rate with rooting SW cuttings of Fruitless Mulberry. I also took cuttings from the root graft of a fruitless mulberry and they rooted fine as well as a SW cutting. I also was able to take HW cuttings while leaving on the leaves. It rooted, produced new growth, and was transplanted into soil with indirect light outside of the propagation box. This all happened midsummer.

Pomegranate – Punica Granatum

AHS Recommendations – Not found

The pomegranate cuttings didn’t do well under such wet conditions, but they did great and thrived in the aquarium tank box. They rooted really quickly and grew faster than any others to date.

Chinese Elm – Ulmus Parviflora

AHS Recommendations – SW/SH cuttings midsummer, Difficulty: 2

These were really hit and miss, and the AHS section mentions that they need to make good growth to survive the winter. Suggests to keep them frost free and to pot them up before Spring commences. These did well in both the tank and the propagation box.

Rosemary – Rosmarinus

AHS Recommendations – SH/HW cuttings and seeds in spring, Difficulty: 1

I took softwood cuttings which isn’t recommended at all, but they did awesome and thrived in the propagation box. They haven’t transplanted very well once I moved them outside without major protection.

Gingko – Gingko Biloba

AHS Recommendations – SW cuttings, Difficulty: 3

These SW cuttings rooted 100% of the time. They need good protection when transplanting. Several of mine dried out from the wind even with nearly 90% indirect sun.

These are the species that worked for me. In the next post I’ll talk more about the failures and what I learned from them.

Cheap Bonsai Supplies

For those of you that have recently begun your bonsai journey you’ll notice that this hobby can become expensive quickly. I put out a post about cheap bonsai pot alternatives and here is another post about alternative things to use.

Cut Paste

https://www.amazon.com/Joshua-Roth-6044-Bonsai-Paste/dp/B000X36W7O – $19.50

https://www.bonsaioutlet.com/bonsai-cut-paste-spcd09/ – $14

Duct Seal Bonsai Cut Paste

Now not all bonsai cut paste is that expensive, Duct Seal was $2.98 at Home Depot

This was recommended to me from Rob Pressler, the owner of Kimura’s Bonsai Nursery.

Now we could get into the argument of whether or not to use cut paste, but rather than that I’ll just suggest that if you want to use it and want to save a few dollars (For another tree, lets be real…) try this out.

Glass and Ceramic Drill Bits:

I bought these to be able to convert glass and ceramic bowls I find into viable bonsai pots. I can drill wire holes and large enough holes to keep drainage sufficient.

Pro Tip: Read how many RPMs it can handle, if not you will burn the drill tip and have a useless stick of metal (also water . Pressure = broken bowls. Let the bit do its thing, however slow it may feel.

Here are some of my latest pickups that were either free or from garage sales (Californians can do this all year, not like you in the Midwest and Northeast that have a garage sale “season”)

Cheap Bonsai Tree Material

Lowe’s and Home Depot can have discount racks depending on where you live. These are great choices since both have return policies incase something dies. Great for beginners working on trees for the first time.

What we call “Yardadori” or collected material from yard renovations or seemingly undesirable trees that people want removed is a great way to source material for bonsai.

The last resort would be cuttings from easy to root plants. I have found that Crape Myrtle, Portulacaria Afra, Chinese Elm, Cotoneaster, Olive, Ficus and Pomegranate can all handle pretty large cuttings that can become bonsai quickly.

Drain Screen

Rather than purchasing pre-made screens for your pots, you can buy “Gutter Guard” and cut it to whatever size you like. My favorite part about this is when I use a nursery pot as a temporary training pot I can cut the gutter guard into a circle to cover the entire bottom of the nursery pot. Same goes for my other DIY homemade pots. https://www.homedepot.com/p/Amerimax-Home-Products-Metal-Black-Lock-in-Gutter-Guard-6360/205207064

These are just a few things that might give you a few more dollars to appease your spouse.

Fundamentals of Bonsai – Spring

Spring is when the tree wakes up from its dormancy in Winter. The daylight length and temperatures increase and this signals to the tree that it is time to wake up. The tree then begins a cycle that it follows through Spring.

Juniper Chinensis Bonsai Shohin

  • Buds begin to swell

  • Leaves emerge and the tree goes into an energy deficit.

  • The first flush of growth hardens off and tree goes into energy positive

The perfect time to repot is while the buds are swelling. While the timing cannot always be perfectly right before the buds break, the closer to bud break (without repotting AFTER the bud break) the better.

When leaves emerge the tree spends some of the saved up energy from Fall to produce foliage with the possibility to generate more sugars and starches. When this happens the energy “bank” so to speak, goes negative. The new leaves are like an investment. Until those leaves harden off and form a cuticle, they do not photosynthesize. Until this happens this investment is a negative overall.

Pruning too much at the wrong time, defoliating, a hard freeze that kills foliage, pest issues that grow out of control, and even missing a day or two of watering can do a significant amount of damage to your tree’s health. While it doesn’t always end in a dead tree immediately, you need to consider this in the long term. You might have a hard freeze one year, prune a little off at the wrong time each season, defoliate in the Summer, and then after a few years you find your tree dead for what appears to be no specific reason.

Cotoneaster Repot Bonsai

This guy died from a late freeze after the first push of growth. I had recently repotted it and it was weak due to that. It never made it out 😦

A better way to understand this is to think of investing a significant portion of your savings into a stock hoping for a consistent return of maybe 7%. Instead of return, your stock plummets and becomes worthless. To be able to do anything with your money you’re going to need an amount of time to recoup the money you lost. If you continue as if you hadn’t lost all of your money in the investment and then spend with the intention to withdraw your invested money, you’ll be negative because you don’t actually have that money. If you have a tree that loses leaves from a freeze and then pushes out new leaves, the tree will have less energy in the bank. If you proceed by delofiating it to get a smaller push of leaves, you’ll find that it doesn’t have enough energy and will possibly die.

The vigor of the growth, length of internodes, size of leaves, and amount of leaves all depends on what you’ve previously done.

Fertilizing frequency and strength play a large part in Spring growth. If you’ve been fertilizing heavily and at the maximum frequency, you’re bound to have a large amount of energy. This will result in a lot of leaves, larger leaves, and longer internodes. The pot size also has an effect. If you fertilize lightly and infrequently, but you have your tree in a large training pot, you will not see small internodes or small leaves. Restricting the area for the roots to grow creates less vigorous growth.

If you’ve repotted a deciduous tree and pruned a large amount of roots, you’ll only see the amount of leaves that the roots can support. For a photo of this see this blog post about the difference.

Let’s go over what we’ve learned:

  • Daylight length and temperature determine when a tree breaks dormancy

  • Fertilizing strength and frequency (are not the only factors, but major factors) correlate with internode length, leaf size, and leaf quantity.

  • A deciduous tree will only push out growth that it can support with its root system.

  • Fertilizing can be throttled with frequency and strength.

  • Energy for Spring growth is stored by the tree in Fall

  • Repotting is best done before the buds break at the beginning of Spring.

  • New leaves take energy to produce and then produce energy when they harden off.

  • Common bonsai techniques (repotting, pruning, defoliation, watering, etc.) performed at the wrong time or late freezes can damage your tree’s health.

Japanese Maple Leaves

Deciduous Root Pruning Effects

During the early Spring I purchased two cotoneasters from the discount rack at Lowe’s. I took one of them and repotted it and slip potted the other one into a larger container. You can see these photos and notice that the cotoneaster on the right has significantly more foliage than the root pruned cotoneaster on the left.










This is how deciduous trees respond when root pruned. They will not put out more foliage than they can support with the root system and stored up energy from the previous Fall.

Cotoneaster Nursery Bonsai

I found two of these Cotoneaster Apiculatis (Tom’s Thumb) for $3 each in the discount rack at Lowe’s. Couldn’t pass these up seeing that I don’t currently have this species of Cotoneaster, and they both had interesting enough trunk possibilities that it was well worth the $3.

As you can see there is a lot going on here. Branches everywhere and roots all over.

Another angle.

As I started through this I basically ended up cutting the rootball in half vertically. I separated a ground-layered section and then combed out the remaining roots for the main trunk.

This is the portion of the tree that had been naturally ground-layered. I was able to cut a majority of the root system off in hopes that this can become established in its new pot.

There was another large trunk that I to cut off due to it being too close to the main trunk. See bottom left of the trunk.

This is the front with finger for scale.

Full view of the front in my funky bowl gone bonsai pot.

A closer look at the options I have near the trunk.

For now this is what I’m thinking about. I’m going to be taking several cuttings from the other side once late Spring comes around. I’ll let it grow out and re-establish its root system without doing too much work on the top. Spring growth brings foliage, and foliage stimulates root growth. The roots will open as many buds as it can handle, and the rest will slowly take care of itself. Yay for plant physiology!

Your Average Bonsai Trees

Every time I see a gallery of fine-tuned perfect bonsai trees it elicits a few feelings inside of me. First I’m awed about the perfection of them, then jealous, impatient, then angry. I come today with the purpose of showing a few trees that I am able to look at and feel that I could eventually reach the level to be able to create similar material.

The following are from Oak Hills Nursery in the neighboring town:

This Barberry has a wonderful bark on the trunk which is what draws me to it. While the slight inverse taper isn’t exactly perfect, I’m excited to see the dark foliage come Spring.

These Cotoneasters are a bit thin on the pads, have wire marks along the trunk, and the nebari isn’t exactly something to write home about, but I like where this tree is going. The potential in the next decade to fill out is definitely there.

The next group of photos are from Benny Kim in Phelan, CA. He runs his own bonsai nursery and has created some amazing trees. I love different aspects of of the following photos. He has an admiral ability to plant on slabs, rocks, and use moss to help the aesthetics of his displays.

This photo (and the 2 following photos of this tree) are more taken for the moss display than the overall tree.

I love how the moss here has covered all of the soil (though I know this has been advised against among some bonsai enthusiasts.

These two are his Chinese Elm breeding grounds. A large trough of cuttings that can grow out as he chooses a few to repot when needed. Love the display of his cuttings as they grow out here.

Fantastic group plants on a large rock here. Low photo quality and lack of background available make this harder to appreciate. Spring photo will follow this when I get one.

I love how this resembles what you might find on a hill or mountain side. Very real natural growth feel to it.

Literati style juniper in the making.

Another fantastic Chinese Elm group planting with moss incorporated.

I’m curious to see the development of these next few olive trees with interesting carving.

I’ll follow up with a few better pictures in the Spring to showcase more of some of my favorite parts of these trees.

Cotoneaster Bonsai Care Guide

Cotoneaster Sp.

Cotoneasters can be broad-leaf evergreens or can be deciduous depending on your zone and species. Cotoneasters naturally form to the cascade, semi-cascade, informal upright, root-over-rock, and raft styles wonderfully. They form fantastic mame and shohin sized bonsai. Be careful not to let too many shoots develop at one point as reverse taper can happen quickly if left unchecked.


Cotoneasters can handle heavy pruning and will back bud on old wood. Pruning is great on Cotoneaster because we can predict the direction of growth due to the alternating pattern of the leaves. Due to this you can easily style these trees through the clip’n’grow method.


Cotoneasters thrive in full sun with protection from afternoon sun in the High Desert. Allowing 6+ hours of sun would be best.


Wiring should be done in Spring. Since Cotoneasters are vigorous growers you should be careful about the wire cutting into the branch or trunk. Be careful not to pinch leaves under the wire.


Don’t fully bare root your Cotoneaster.


Taking softwood cutting in early Summer is the best way to propagate Cotoneaster. They are notorious for being easy to propagate. I just did a softwood cutting in later Fall and stuck it in some potting soil and compost and it leafed out in Spring (USDA Zone 8/9). Really hard to mess up propagation on these guys.

Additional Comments:

I personally recommend these for beginners due to their durability. They don’t have too many nuances to pick up on to be able to successfully grow and train them.

For a great example of a Cotoneaster progressing through it’s Bonsai life refer to this Flicker gallery by Jerry Norbury: Cotoneaster Progression

For care guides on other species head to my Bonsai Information page.

To learn about specific species and their care head to my Bonsai Information page