Jaboticaba - Tree of mystery! Share your insights

Jaboticaba - Myciaria Cauliflora

Man, I totally love this tree, but it’s one of those species that has limited information out there when it comes to bonsai culture. Most of what I hear is the usual “don’t mess with the roots”, but then I see videos from Brazil where they cut back the roots the way we would cut back a maple! AND the trees have leaves on them when they do it!

SO, with some pre-bonsai Jaboticaba that now reside in my underground light bunker for the winter, I wanted to start a thread to share knowledge and experience.

When do you re-pot?
How hard to you cut back the roots?
What type of soil works for you?
When do you prune?
When does this tree grow the fastest and when does is go dormant?
Have you ever had fruit?

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I’ll take a stab as I had one for a while (about 6 years) here in cold upstate NY.

I repotted at different times of the year. I first got the tree at a fall workshop (October or November) and it was heavily pruned and repotted (with major root reduction) but did well that first winter. I also repotted in the spring and summer and didn’t notice any major differences in how it responded. Those were standard repots with what I would call a “typical” amount of root work. Used a standard APL mix for the most part, a little heavier on the A.

Pruning was whenever it needed. Growth occurred in several “spurts” throughout the year - I usually got one such spurt during the winter under lights and 1 or 2 outside during the summer. One thing I noticed was that the bark would start peeling before new shoot growth but I don’t know if that is something typical or unique to my specimen?

I did get fruit on it two summers ago, just two of them. Formed on a short spur off one of the main structural branches. Ate one, it was OK but I had heard how good they were and it didn’t live up to expectations. If you do get fruit you might have to protect from birds as they started pecking at them when they turned purple/black.

One thing I had trouble with - the tree seemed resistant to growing new shoots/branches from the upper trunk for some reason. I had gaps in the canopy that I tried to fill with grafting with only limited success. Again, not sure if that is typical or reflected something lacking in my culture.

Really like jaboticaba, the new red leaves are beautiful as is the peeling bark. But tropicals are difficult in this climate so I’ve been reducing my collection. Maybe I’ll get another one some day.


Thanks @Chris . I am also in love with the new leaves and the bark. Especially that smooth and flaking bark. Wondering about defoliation even though the tree seems to ramify quite well and the leaves are already a good size.

I used to put this tree into the tropical category, too, until I started digging a bit and found out that it actually will survive brief exposure to temps just below freezing (planted in the ground, not as a bonsai) So, I guess sub-tropical?

I have found that the tree I have in a 1:1:1 mix is doing better than all the other mixes. I was just a little shy to put them all in a bonsai substrate after hearing the horror stories but will move all of them next spring. Thanks for your input on that, as well.

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Hi @andy2sheds, why don’t you do a search on facebook (or other) for a bonsai society in Brazil and ask them direct how they do things? Obviously what they say will have to be modified to suit your weather. I have an Australian Koorajong and it reacts to the seasons as if it’s still down under. I live in the UK. I put it outside during the summer and do a bit of pinching but it responds better if I prune October time which is their spring.

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Good advice @Keith-in-UK. I have actually been searching for web pages from Brazil and using google to translate them but have not looked for actual clubs. Might give that a shot.

Also funny you say that your Koorajong behaves as if it is still “down-under”, all of my Jaboticaba sort of lazed along all summer and then, BOOM. As soon as the summer temps dropped off and even as I have moved them into the basement, they are growing like a maple in the spring! They did originate in FL, which does not explain why they are going nuts when it’s fall here (WI) and spring in Brazil. Does make me wonder about treating them more like a sub-tropical, mountainous species than a hardcore tropical.

Thanks for the reply. Off to search for bonsai clubs in Brazil

hey andy, some tips from Brazil!

When do you re-pot?, early to mid spring.

How hard to you cut back the roots?, yeah, but the tree must be healthy and well fertilized in last year

What type of soil works for you? we use here a standar soil, like pine soil, but 20 to 30% organic turf or similar

When do you prune? year arourd, but we fertilize in spring, and late summer defoliate, prune and wire. atention to the wire until winter, because it will bite soon or later

When does this tree grow the fastest and when does is go dormant? this tree do not go dormant, so we here fertilize year around, except when defoliate, and they like sun, like 8am to 6pm, but be carefull with the watering, the soil must not to dry, ever

Have you ever had fruit? fruit, sorry, but only in trees that have more than 5 too 8 years, and are mature.

you can be agressive with the roots, prunning 10 to 30% every 2 to 3 years.


@Daniel_BR Thanks for your tips! My gut instinct followed all you have put forward here despite what I have heard about how supposedly fragile this tree is.

I have found that the trees planted into a standard, well-draining soil mix do better than those in soil with any organic content. So basically a 2:1:1 mix. However, those fertilized with an organic fertilizer do better than those with non-organic.

It seems like the high organic content is a standard in Brazil. I wonder if that is just because it is what was always done? It would help to keep the number of daily waterings to a minimum, but what if you went fully non-organic and could water multiple times a day? Just wondering,

Thanks again for your response. Great to hear from Brazil!

@andy2sheds i personaly think that tropicals do better here in Brazil, with a 32°C at 2pm, and 20°C at 8pm in a 20% organic soil. my routine is 2 times/day watering (7am and 5pm) because of work. here in Brazil commonly the bonsai use more chemicals fertilizers, that is not my case, but we do not have acces to akadama, so we use burned ceramics instead. i strongly think that a 2 time watering in this same climate condition that we have here in a 2:1:1 soil and a strong routine of organic fertilizers can make the trees thrive real good. remember that jaboticaba do not like dry soil, so you can use some topdressing too! i do not have then for now but when i was growing Jaboticabas my soil mix was like 3:1 ceramic and lava, and in this mix i put 20% organic (fine fermented pinus bark and turf 1:1). Here in the nurserys they are grown in 100% organic peat.

good luck!

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