Air Layering a Chinese Elm Mallsai into Two Shohin Bonsai

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The Chinese elm shohin in this display was air-layered from a mallsai. This post shows the progression of the transformation.

Mallsai is a term coined in the US; it refers to mass produced bonsai sold in big-box stores, roadsides, gift shops and nurseries. The word often carries a connotation of a poor quality tree planted in a shallow pot to look like a bonsai, and sold to the uninitiated. But many people have credited mallsai, either through personal purchase or receiving it as a gift, for introducing them to and getting them hooked to the hobby.

Typical mallsai has an exaggerated S-shape trunk which lacks taper. I found some of them can be inexpensive starting materials, just like garden center trees, for bonsai development.

This post will show the progression of air layering an inexpensive S-shape Chinese elm mallsai, and it’s transformation into two shohins.

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The top half of this Chinese elm mallsai has a good trunk movement and several well-placed branches suitable for air layering into a shohin.  I marked the trunk where I want to air-layer, and cut off a swath of the bark girdling the trunk.  Rooting hormone was applied to the region to encourage root development.   Moist sphagnum moss was wrapped around the stripped section and covered with a piece of plastic cling wrap, tied firmly to retain moisture while the roots are growing.

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February 7, 2009 – Top: bark removed, and Bottom: Wrapped with moist sphagnum moss Continue reading

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