The money tree (Crassula ovata) tolerates pruning and grows quickly – the best prerequisites for growing and caring for the money tree as a bonsai.
The money tree or penny tree (Crassula ovata) is, as usual with Crassula, a succulent, robust, and extremely popular houseplant that you can place in partially shaded places in the garden in summer. The penny tree has fleshy leaves and loves loose, rather nutrient-poor substrate such as herbal soil, which you mix up to a quarter with sand. The money tree tolerates pruning and willingly regenerates. This property as well as its special shape with the thick trunk make it the ideal bonsai for beginners – for example as a bonsai in the form of an African baobab tree.
Since a money tree can be propagated well from cuttings and even leaves, raw material for a new bonsai is no problem. If you don’t have that much time, you can cut an existing money tree of perhaps 20 centimeters as a bonsai. After a few years and regular care, this will get the typical rustic dwarfism.
Growing a money tree as a bonsai: the most important steps in brief
Pot the money tree, cut off roots that grow downwards and place the plant in a bonsai pot
Break off the lower leaves to the desired stem height and cut off new shoots continuously
During the shaping, each year, either carry out a design cut in spring or autumn …
… or when repotting, cut the roots that are growing downwards
Regularly shorten new shoots when pruning
Why does a money tree stay small as a bonsai?
When pruning bonsai, the aim is to keep perennial plants small by regularly pruning the shoots and roots. This makes use of the fact that plants strive for or maintain a certain balance between root and branch mass. A tree cannot be kept small by simply cutting the branches. On the contrary: strong pruning results in strong new shoots. The plant will often grow to a similar height – not size – in the same year. Only if you also cut the roots will the plants stay small and the crown and roots in harmony. It is the same with the Crassula.
The penny tree cuts a fine figure as a bonsai. With the right cut, it can also be pulled asymmetrically
How can you grow a money tree as a bonsai?
First, find a young, branched money tree with a beautiful trunk or several shoots. Branched shoots offer the greatest scope for the future bonsai. Pot the money tree, shake off the earth, and cut off the roots that grow strictly downwards. Pot the money tree in a bonsai pot. Crassula branches out willingly after each pruning but grows quite symmetrically.
If the plant does not yet have a bare stem, break off all the leaves from the shoot to the desired stem height and continuously cut off new shoots in the following years. In this way, you can give the money to build a basic structure made of crown branches. However, you should only put stress on the money tree once a year: In the years of shaping, either give it just one design cut or cut the downward-growing roots after each repotting. But not both in the same year.
Giving the penny tree the right shape
Cut off or leave on? The decision is often difficult, as the choice of branches determines the future appearance of the bonsai. But take courage. The shaping design cut is best carried out before or after the growing season in spring or autumn. To give the bonsai a basic shape, first cut off large shoots. Or shorten them to branch out. If you want the bonsai to grow asymmetrically, cut out the stubborn branches on one side regularly.
When the twigs have a good ten pairs of leaves, cut them back in half. After removing the lower leaves, the shortened shoots sprout again. The former leaf attachment points remain visible as a constriction on the branch and are good clues for later cuts: Always cut close to such a point, then the money tree will sprout there. Usually, a bonsai is given the direction of growth with wire. Since the shoots from the money tree break off easily, this does not work.
How do you care for a money tree as a bonsai?
The care cut refines and maintains the existing shape of the bonsai. Regularly shorten the new shoots to stimulate the growth of the leaves and shoots inside the plant. Even if the money tree likes warmth in summer, it should be in a cool but bright location at around ten degrees Celsius in winter.
Caring for a bonsai also includes giving it fresh soil every two to three years. How to properly repot a bonsai, we will show you step by step in the following video.
Julia N. Huston has been working as a freelance garden journalist for magazines and online media since 2011. She also produces press and advertising photos, video films and supports commercials with garden content as a set art director for various specialist companies, garden centers, and DIY stores. A further focus is the creation of press releases and brochures.
Julia N. Huston began her professional career with an apprenticeship as a gardener, specializing in ornamental horticulture. She then studied horticulture, graduating with a degree in horticultural engineering. After her training as an editor at the magazine "GARDEN INTERNATIONAL", she was a member of the editorial team of "FLORA & GARDEN" for 14 years. There, she initially dealt mainly with topics from the areas of balconies & terraces, houseplants, and ornamental gardens. Later, she took over responsibility for the practical magazine.