Trichodiadema bulbosum, commonly known as the African bonsai succulent, makes excellent additions to any indoor garden.
Tired of bonsai? Looking to add some variety to your collection? Consider the Trichodiadema bulbosum. This succulent grows very slowly and will form a bonsai-like shape with minimal effort on your part, though it does require an arid climate in order to thrive.
Trichodiadema bulbosum is one of the hardiest plants you can grow and should be one of your top choices if you’re looking to do some DIY bonsai growing at home, especially if you have kids or pets that might knock over delicate houseplants!
If you live in an area with too much humidity, you may need to plant your bulbosum indoors in an appropriate planter until the weather cools off and you can put it outside again.
African bonsai succulents are fairly easy to care for, requiring only the most basic of care and attention to thrive in indoor and outdoor environments.
Origin and distribution
They are native to dry savannahs and open woodlands in tropical areas of Africa where they grow on rocky hillsides with shallow soils and hot temperatures that last year-round.
The species name bulbosum originates from the Latin word bulbus meaning a swollen tumor, due to its puckered, compact shape and globular leaves.
The African bonsai succulent grows in the countries of southwest Africa and Madagascar. Its natural habitat is rocky outcrops with very little soil, where it can also be found in sand, gravel, or between rocks.
Trichodiadema bulbosum has adapted to arid conditions by storing water in its leaves, which are covered with a waxy cuticle that acts as a barrier against the sun’s harmful rays. The flowers are white and star-shaped, though their color may change to pink when they age.
Trichodiadema bulbosum is an excellent example of how plants have evolved to survive in the harsh conditions on these islands without the need for extra water.
Trichodiadema bulbosum propagation
Trichodiadema bulbosum is an excellent plant for propagation. Cuttings of new shoots can be taken with rooting hormone and planted. The rooting hormone should also be used when taking divisions, which can be done by cutting off a portion of a healthy, mature clump.
Trim leaves from cuttings before planting or repotting into its preferred mix. When removing old, dried-out roots in the winter months, it’s better to work the root ball gently without disturbing the soil than to pull at the roots.
The soil should not dry out between watering cycles, but care must be taken to ensure that water does not pool on top of the roots. These plants thrive in full sun.
Trichodiadema bulbosum care information
Trichodiadema bulbosum requires only modest care. It needs to be watered sparingly in order to prevent root rot, which is typically caused by overwatering. This plant will do well in well-drained soil, with ample sunlight and regular watering.
If it begins to droop or turn yellow, check on its water consumption and adjust accordingly. Although African bonsai are sometimes pruned for shape, Trichodiadema bulbosum should not be pruned under any circumstances.
This plant does best in areas with high light exposure and bright, sunny rooms in your home or office are perfect for it. Avoid very dark corners and don’t place it near windows that receive too much sun.
If you have an area of your house where there is lots of natural light but no direct sunlight coming through windows, that can be a great spot for placing Trichodiadema bulbosum.
The soil or potting mix should be dry, well-draining, and have a neutral pH; succulents are sensitive to excess moisture and wet roots. The soil or potting mix should also allow for excellent drainage to prevent fungal disease and rot.
A good potting mix is 50% to 70% sand, 25% peat moss or perlite (crushed volcanic rock), 10% humus, 5–10% composted organic matter, and 1–2 parts sifted loam.
Most succulents can take a week without water and still survive, but Trichodiadema bulbosum is more sensitive than most. The best way to keep it watered is to use a slow-dripping hydroponic system with a reservoir that holds water for your plants’ needs over several days.
Failing that, you’ll need to check up on it every day, and be sure to never let it sit in standing water. And while they do well in the heat, they are native to South Africa’s winter season and should not be placed outside during this time of year.
Using good fertilizer is important when growing succulents and cacti. Fertilizers with a low nitrogen content, specifically a 3-1-2 ratio, will work best for succulents and cacti.
The process of fertilizing your African bonsai is easy! Soak in water for 24 hours. Water the soil thoroughly. Feed it generously using the recommended fertilizer formula that you purchased from your local nursery or garden center.
Do this at least once every 2 weeks but no more than once a week as overfeeding can cause yellowing leaves or other plant problems such as root rot or leaf scorch.
Like many succulents, Trichodiadema bulbosum is a species that flourishes in warm climates. The plants grow best with temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, but it’s safe to allow them to reach 95 degrees during the spring and summer months.
In cold winter months, you can allow for a drop down to 55 or 60 degrees at night if needed, but try not to let it fall below 50 degrees on a regular basis.
Proper humidity levels in your succulent’s environment are very important to its health and appearance. Trichodiadema bulbs are native to regions with high levels of aridity, where humidity rarely rises above 40%.
If exposed to higher levels of humidity for long periods of time, their thin leaves will begin to swell and soften, eventually rotting away completely. To keep them healthy, remember that 65-75% relative humidity is ideal for these plants.
Trichodiadema’s growth rate is moderate, making it a good candidate for container gardening. This plant prefers well-drained soil, so don’t overwater it. Trichodiadema should be trimmed to maintain its shape as its roots grow outwards and downwards, thus creating a spreader root system.
Use a sharp knife or shears to cut back the top third of the plant, allowing more light and air into the foliage. Keep trimming off new shoots that pop up in the center of the plant.
When to repot
Trichodiadema bulbs will grow to about four inches in height, at which point you’ll need to repot. These plants are slow growers, so you won’t have to move them again for about five years.
Once a year, use your fingers to pluck out any thick roots that are crossing one another or growing through drainage holes in your pot. Then, when planting your African bonsai succulent into its new container, add some of the soil it was previously planted in and continue to fill with fresh soil until the container is full.
Water well and place the pot in a bright spot where it can receive morning sun but not afternoon heat.
Dormancy is not something that we give much thought to when it comes to plants. But for those of us who live in cold climates, most plants need a dormant period before they can thrive again in spring.
As far as Trichodiadema bulbs are concerned, you should make sure to leave them outside from October to April. During these months, they are preparing themselves for their winter rest; if you bring them indoors at any point during these four months, you will have problems later on.
When May rolls around and the temperatures start warming up, you should gradually introduce your plant back into its natural environment by letting it spend time outdoors each day.
It may take awhile for your plant to get used to this transition but soon enough you’ll be enjoying the full spectrum of colors and flowering spikes that this plant has to offer.
Trichodiadema bulbosum flower & fragrance
Trichodiadema is highly sought after for its spectacularly shaped, red and white flowers that appear in summer. Small and red, these flowers give off a pungent odor, similar to decomposing flesh.
Despite its name, Trichodiadema actually has nothing to do with diademas; instead, it comes from a West African word meaning white head and refers to an unrelated succulent from South Africa.
The Trichodiadema bulbosum bonsai succulent will reach maturity within 1-2 years after being planted. It’s a relatively fast-growing plant that is suited for both beginners and experts alike. However, it is important to note that its rate of growth is based on optimal growing conditions.
Trichodiadema bulbosum plants are nontoxic and generally considered safe. However, as with all plant material, it’s recommended that you follow a more precautionary approach to toxicity testing and introduce succulents into your household one at a time in case of an allergic reaction.
USDA hardiness zones
Trichodiadema bulbosum thrives best in USDA hardiness zones 10 to 12. These are often mistaken for cacti because of their thick, fleshy leaves, but they are actually succulents. They grow very well indoors as long as they have plenty of bright light and a little bit of water.
Pests and diseases
Like most plants, Trichodiadema bulbosum can be susceptible to pests and diseases. For starters, it can attract mealybugs and spider mites if kept in humid environments. In more extreme cases, these insects can devastate a plant’s leaves by sucking out nutrients or spinning webs that suffocate their host.
If you suspect an infestation on your Trichodiadema bulbosum, use a blast of water from the hose to remove the bugs and watch for signs of recovery. For fungus problems like powdery mildew, use fungicide as soon as possible.
Treating any problem at its earliest stages will keep the damage from spreading through the rest of your garden.