Weigela florida may well be the most common and popular species along with its cultivars:W. ‘Foliis purpureis’, slower-growing dwarf form of compact habit with attractive purple-flushed leaves and pink flowers; ‘Variegata’, a form with compact habit and cream/white edged leaves; ‘Venusta’, a free flowering form, the flowers being a little larger and of a brighter rose pink than others of the type.
- Common Name: Weigela
- Genus: Weigela
- Higher Taxon: Caprifoliaceae
- Species: florida
- Skill Level: beginner to intermediate
- Soil Type: rich but well draining, with 40% gravel added to the mix.
- Flowers: funnel shaped, reddish or rose pink on the outside, paler inside. Flowers borne in May and June. Sometimes there is a second flush later in the season.
- Leaves: oblong to oval leaves, some have egg-shaped narrowing at the base — obovate; others are more tapered to a point — acuminate. Leaves are glossy green on top lighter green below.
- Bark: light yellow to light brown/grey, roughening as the plant gets older. As it ages, the shrub often features swollen ridges or veins that run from roots to low branches and these help in the process of trunk building and add to the illusion of age.
Tip: Light shade is kind to plants treated as bonsai. Use a fertiliser such as those used for roses.
Nursery: Easily obtained from nursery material. Trimming away clustered basal shoots to feature the chosen line can develop plants with a single trunk. Trim carefully so the stumps of the redundant shoots can add body weight to the lower trunk.
Collecting: Occasionally an old plant can be found in nursery or an old garden.
Propagation: Does well from cuttings. Try cuttings taken from last year’s wood in the spring and from the current year’s wood after it has hardened in summer. Use a good rooting hormone. Air layering and dividing are other ways of readily gaining good material.
Placement: Weigela does best in light shade. Wooden slats or greenhouse shade net — both work well. 40% shade is about right. Protect from frost as potted bonsai.
Pruning: Trim off current year shoots after flowers fall to 2.5cm of existing branch frame. Shorten older shoots, and thin out crowded ones at the same time. The form needs to remain simple for these flower-inducing techniques to be effective. Elaborate styling does not really work because it is hampered by this clip and grow technique.
Repotting: Repot early spring, every two or three years, depending on root production.
Wiring: Wire loosely from spring to summer, using only soft aluminium wire.
Soil: Use a mix such as 4 parts composted bark, 2 parts peat, and 4 parts fine gravel. Sieve it well to promote good drainage.
Watering: Weigela likes water so never let it get too dry.
Quite suitable for bonsai, easily grown and pollution resistant, which can be a plus for city dwellers.
© Copyright Bonsai Europe Publications