My 1st Bonsai Chilli (BonChi)

by Lala

My first post of the year is about my first chilli bonsai project. This is also my first post since the blog turned one in late December. I’m so happy my garden projects and the blog have grown so much since starting off in 2014.

Down to the business of the day…my hot stuff! Around early November 2015 I came across this incredibly fascinating page by a chili grower and seed vendor, on turning your full size chilli aka hot pepper plants, into bonsai:
Fatalii Bonsai Chilli – Bonchi Homepage

So why do Bonsai Chillies / Bonchi?
1. Chillies grow very, very fast especially compared to the usual trees used in bonsai. You can get an impressive, dramatic looking specimen in just one summer season or a year, instead of waiting decades.

2. Chillies are also incredibly decorative. They make beautiful star shaped, white flowers (some with black spots inside if it’s a capsicum baccatum) and of course you get the chillies themselves growing either pendulous or upwards in colors like green, red, yellow, orange, purple and even black. On many of the ornamental capsicum species like Bolivian Rainbow, you’ll get a lot of different color fruit all on one plant.

3. Lastly, you can eat the fruit from your bonsai. There’s not much you can do with tiny cherries like the one I saw on a magnificent cherry bonsai in Japan at outside a shop on Miyajima island.

So here is the result of my first attempt at growing a Bonchi.

I started off with a stump. This was literally the stump of a Karnevale edible ornamental (capsicum annum), that I thought had died in winter. For some reason I never got round to throwing the plant out onto the compost heap. The stump was leafless and about 3cm or 4cm. I never watered it in winter. I was surprised in spring when it sprouted leaves, then flowers and then fruit. I didn’t have the heart to throw it out after it put up such a good fight to survive.

This is what the stump looked like in late spring, and what I started working on trimming and shaping to get a classic bonsai sort of shape. The fruit remained full size despite growing on a stump just a fraction of the original plant.

Bonchi chilli bonsai before RainQueen

This is my Bonchi a few days ago, loaded with flowers.

RainQueen Bonchi bonsai Chilli after

I’m not 100% sure the shape is good, but I worked with what I had. I basically shaped the mess above to create a distinct trunk and sort of an umbrella type canopy. It still needs some shaping but I will let it grow some more. I can’t wait to see it covered with the yellow peppers. It should be quite dramatic. They start off green, turn stripes sort of purple then ripen to yellow.

I don’t yet feel confident enough to try things like using wire to manipulate the limbs. I also kept the plant in the original pot. I didn’t want to invest in a fancy bonsai container if this was going to flop. I do have a shallow, terra cotta planter that I can use but it needs drainage holes drilled.

I have two other ornamental, edible c. annums that I’ve been sort of working on. One has some exposed roots that would be dramatic, grown over a rock. Now that the stump survived and thrived, I will get some wires and work on those two.

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