I have attempted to put together a list of suitable bonsai for the Southern United States. I would not say it’s complete, but something I’m trying to put together as a reference for beginners trying to take up bonsai as a hobby in the South. If you have any additions or any species that you have successfully raised in zone 8, please post them in the comments. I did not list tropical species since those are not specific to zone 8. Also, some trees may be listed in some books as being fine in zone 8, but may result in stunted growth or constantly weak due to heat stress. I have tried to leave these trees off.
Another item I picked up from Guy Guidry at Bonsai Northshore was a Rhododendron ‘Shanghai Rosie’. I liked the shape of it and because my fiance seemed to love the smaller shohin and mame bonsai, I have begun to appreciate them more as well. Some would probably say it has a stick in a pot feel, but standing in front of it, it just gives me the impression of a middle-aged broom style tree. Watering in the summer is probably going to be tough, but we’ll see what happens. I hope to repot this one soon in something slightly bigger so it can have some growing room, and it needs a soil change to something I’m more used to like a Turface mix. Azalea’s are very popular in the south and are a part of almost any Southern garden. I hope this one stays in my bonsai collection a long time.
I think every bonsai grower should have a pine. They seem to be the pinnacle of the art and at the heart of the bonsai’s history. I had hesitated for a long time on getting a pine, because their care is much different than a decidous tree. After my recent trip to Bonsai Northshore though, a group of newly grafted japanese black pines caught my eye and I had to have one. The variety is Koto Buki (Pinus thungbergii ‘Koto Buki’), one of the very few true dwarf varieties of Japanese Black Pine, so the maintenance schedule should be much easier than keeping a standard JBP in bonsai shape. It is very young, but I think I will enjoy the final product a lot.
Here’s the pictures of the Evergreen Gardenworks pre-bonsai trees that I purchased. These will be left alone for 3-5 years while they fatten up a little bit before I try to convert them to bonsai. The weeping atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica var. Pendulum) should be particularly interesting, since they are very nice full-grown. You’ll also notice that the Atlas Cedar is not a Blue Atlas, but just the standard form. I don’t usually like variegated color forms since they don’t give me an impression of an older tree.
Buxus microphylla var. japonica ‘Morris Midget’ is one of my latest acquisitions. I actually have several of these planted in my yard because a local nursery has 30 or so at a great price. They have had them for several years and have been unable to sell them because they are really small for a southern garden. Very small, compact, and a slow-grower at a little over an inch per year. I’ve seen decent growth out of the ones in my yard in well-drained fertile soil, so I decided to pick one up to try to immediately put in a pot for bonsai. It has turned out to be one of my favorites. After pruning and repotting, it immediately sprung back with new growth. I think it will be one of the first in my collection to actually look like a little tree. I’m thinking about training into a oak-tree broom style. Here’s some pictures.