Dwarf Barbados Cherry (Malpighia Punicifolia)
General Information: The name, Malpighia, is used to honor Marcello Malpighia (1628 1693). He was a distinguished naturalist at Bologna, Italy. Malpighia are related to Barbados cherry and Surinam cherry. Dwarf shrub, evergreen opposite short petioled, spiny toothed leaves. Open, pink flowers and red fruit. There are three varieties of malpighia which are used as bonsai subjects. Each has unique characteristics. In their native tropical American environment, they may be found in the under story of tropical forests or on rocky hill sides near streams where the soil is rich and moist.
Lighting: Five hours of sunlight in the morning during the winter is ideal and in the summer they can have filtered sun or shade. If growing them under fluorescent lights, they require 14-16 hours of light a day.
Temperature: Malpighias are sub-tropical, so temperature below 40 degrees may damage the leaves and freezing will kill the bonsai. To set flower buds, the night temperatures must be above 60 degrees.
Watering: Do not let a malpighia completely dry-out. However, over watering causes yellow leaves, and so does too much sun. And, water on the blooms ruins them.
Feeding: Fertilize once a month with a weak solution of fish emulsion or Peters water soluble fertilizer. Just before a flower show or exhibition, it may be fertilized more frequently. Malpighias are not salt tolerant.
Pruning and wiring: Limb structure may be difficult to develop on Malpighia coccigera as they continue to produce growth all along the trunk. The clip and grow method (allowing desirable twigs to grow overly long before pruning back) works well. Keep unwanted growth rubbed off or pinched back. Malpighia pendiculata does not bud back easily on old wood. Regular pinching is necessary.
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