Texas Ebony Bonsai Care Instructions

Ebenopsis ebano

The Texas Ebony tree is native to Texas in the U.S. and Mexico. It belongs to the popular legume family and is grown in many homes as a bonsai. The species can handle most conditions, so it’s suitable for beginners.

One of the most noticeable characteristics is the lengthy seed pod that develops after the flowers are pollinated. Bees love to visit this tree for pollen, so you may find plenty of seeds if you place the bonsai in your garden. 

However, there are a few factors for you to consider to care for the Texas Ebony bonsai correctly. It’s not as simple as placing it in the sun, watering it, and hoping for the best. If you want it to thrive, you need to supply the correct conditions.

Texas Ebony bonsai
Image courtesy of David J. Stang / License Details

Here’s what you’ll find in our Texas Ebony Bonsai species guide:

Here’s what you’ll find in our Texas Ebony Bonsai species guide:

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Quick Texas Ebony Bonsai Care Sheet

For a quick summary of the basics to care for your Texas Ebony Bonsai, see the care sheet below.

Recommended soil

Regular soil mix, with 50% inorganic and 50% organic matter

Watering

Tolerate dry soil but not heavy moisture

Potting season

Every three years in early spring

Shaping and pruning season

Due to slow growth rate, pruning is mostly done when dormant

Light

Full or partial sun

Fertilizing

Weekly when active in spring and summer

Propagation methods

Cuttings and seed

Pests and diseases

Scale and root rot

Growth patterns

Slow development, even when young

Recommended styles

Light and graceful styles, such as formal, informal, and literati

Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom:     Plantae
  • Clade:          Angiosperms
  • Division:      Eudicots
  • Class:          Rosids
  • Order:          Fabales
  • Family:         Fabaceae
  • Genus:         Ebenopsis
  • Species:      E. ebano

How to Care for a Texas Ebony Bonsai

We’re incredibly excited to write a care guide for the Texas Ebony bonsai, as it’s so popular in the United States. Surprisingly, not many nurseries have them, so you can view it as a specialty for your home. Here’s what you need to care for them.

Best Soil

The roots of the Texas Ebony bonsai form radial patterns in the soil. In some cases, you may see the roots protrude above the soil, which you can keep for visual effect or remove. They remain shallow at first, but they may start boring deeper into the substrate as the tree grows older.

You can use a standard bonsai mix, as the tree isn’t too fussy. If you want to see healthy development, the mixture should contain 50% inorganic and 50% organic material. A substrate that includes lava pieces, chicken grit, akadama, or similar items will suffice. You can also look into our pumice vs. perlite comparison to see which one would suit you best.

Watering

The Texas Ebony bonsai loves dry conditions, hence why it thrives so well in Mexico and Texas. Even if you let the soil dry out completely for a few days, it won’t suffer too much. You may see some leaves falling down, but it will grow new ones when you water it again.

The one thing the tree doesn’t like is having too much moisture. The bonsai will develop an unhealthy exterior, and you may notice a foul odor from the soil. Make sure there’s enough drainage, and wait until the substrate feels completely dry before you water again.

Repotting

Since the Texas Ebony bonsai grows incredibly slowly, you’ll only need to repot the tree every three years. As it becomes more mature, you can wait even longer before changing the soil. It’s essential that you look for signs of root overgrowth so that you can take steps to remedy it.

When you clean away the old soil, take a good look at the root structure. You’ll want to keep the main roots while removing some of the finer ones. Make sure to prune so that the remaining roots will fit inside the pot without taking too much space. Don’t overwater the new substrate.

Shaping and Pruning

You’ll almost never have to spend time pruning the Texas Ebony bonsai. It develops so slowly, you’ll want it to extend its branches and leaves as much as possible before you bring the pruners out. The same applies to shaping. If you see the foliage is growing in a way you don’t like, the small tree can handle some trimming.

There are two seasons you can prune. The first is summer if you feel there’s too much growth, which will almost be never. We recommend performing some design maintenance in autumn or winter when the Texas Ebony bonsai is dormant. In this way, you’ll have a better view of the structure.

Location and Sunlight

You’ll want to place your Texas Ebony bonsai outside where it can receive as much sunlight as possible. When it’s cold or dark, the leaves will fold inwards, cuddling as they rest. As soon as the sun rises again, they’ll open up to soak in the light and start the photosynthesis process.

If you’re growing the tree inside your home, please place it where it receives direct sunlight for several hours in the morning. It can survive indoors, as long as you give it the light it needs. You can also use a bonsai grow light if the conditions are less than ideal.

Fertilizing 

You can use most fertilizers with the Texas Ebony bonsai. We recommend a balanced approach in the growing season, such as NPK 10:10:10. You can even get away with a higher nitrogen level if you want to see slightly more growth, like 15:10:10. In spring and summer, you should feed the tree weekly.

When autumn arrives, slow down the feeding to once a month so the bonsai tree can store carbohydrates for the coming winter. As soon as you’re in the coldest season, stop feeding altogether. It needs to rest for the coming spring.

Propagation Methods 

The best way to propagate the Texas Ebony bonsai is via cuttings. You’ll want a semi-hardwood branch of a few inches at a chance of success. If you take a large section, it will be harder to develop roots by the cut. Use rooting hormone to help the cells create roots, and then place the stem in the soil.

You can also use the seeds, but there’s less chance of success. There’s a hard, waxy coat over each seed you’ll need to soften first. It can take up to a month or more to germinate, depending on the conditions. Most seeds aren’t viable, mainly due to insects that feed on them if not stored correctly.

Pests and Diseases

This species is one of the hardest you’ll come across in terms of pests and diseases. Putting aside the feeding on the seeds, there are few insects that will cause trouble. You may find issues with scales, but it doesn’t happen often. Just keep an eye out for any decaying bark or leaves.

Texas Ebony bonsai is also resilient against most fungi and other diseases. The one that causes the most issues is root rot, especially when you water the tree too often. The soil becomes too soggy and introduces mold or powdery mildew. You’ll also smell a bad odor when you work through the soil with a fork.

Growth Patterns

If there’s one message we want to bring across in this bonsai care guide, it’s that the Texas Ebony tree grows incredibly slowly. You may see new shoots in the spring, but they won’t spread too quickly. Even the girth of the trunk takes forever to swell. 

For those that don’t have patience, you can buy one that’s already older than 10 years old. It will already be settled and you won’t need to maintain it too much. If you’re going to grow it from a 2 week old seedling, you’re going to wait a very long time before it looks like a bonsai.

Recommended Styles

You’ll want a gentle, graceful style for the Texas Ebony bonsai, showing off the foliage in a spectacular way. The most promising forms are formal and informal, with the canopy or broom being two of the top choices. It doesn’t do well as a cascade bonsai or root over rock. 

If you want to aim for a freeform style, you can make a literati bonsai from it. It takes the normal rules of bonsai and turns them on its head. You can make irregular growths with the branches and trunk, which is perfect with a slow-growing specimen.

Texas Ebony bonsai
Image courtesy of Daderot / License Details

Considerations for Growing an Indoor Texas Ebony Bonsai

We’ve mentioned that the Texas Ebony bonsai loves full sun, but we don’t blame you for wanting to have it inside your home. Here are some guidelines for what you should do in this situation.

Place it by a Window

As we’ve mentioned, this species grows incredibly slowly. No matter how much you attempt to speed it up, it will take its time. However, having the bonsai indoors with low light will make it develop even slower, which is something you don’t want. Make sure you have it nearby direct light for most of the day.

Check the Humidity Levels

Depending on where you place the bonsai in your home, the humidity level may be too low. The moisture in the air struggles to penetrate the interior, which means your small tree won’t be able to receive any of it. There are a few solutions to this problem.

One option is a bonsai humidity tray that holds water for the sun to evaporate up to the leaves. It works better than a misting bottle, which only provides a solution for a few moments. You can also invest in a small humidifier for the room, but that will use electricity. 

Watch out for Mold and Other Fungi

Since you’re growing the Texas Ebony bonsai inside, you may be delivering a breeding ground for fungal spores. All they need is dampness, food, and low light. Even if you’re securing indirect sunlight, you may see powdery mildew on the leaves.

One option is to spray the tree with a fungicide, but you’ll need to do it once to twice a week for it to make an impact. We recommend moving it to a location with more sunlight and fresh air. Inspect the branches and foliage daily so you can take action if any diseases do appear.

Pay Attention to the Leaves and Flowers

Your bonsai will often show you signs that there’s something wrong. For example, the leaves will change color, fall off, or develop a warped shape. Just remember that the Texas Ebony bonsai’s leaves close at night or when there are low light conditions, so don’t take it as a sign of disease.

The bark may also change color, giving a sickly appearance when it’s not well. If you had flowers before but the new season brought none, you should also be concerned. However, it could be acting differently if you recently switched locations since it will need time to adjust.

Texas Ebony bonsai
Image courtesy of Lobster1 / License Details

Final Thoughts on this Beautiful Legume Bonsai

Despite its slow-growing nature, we love the Texas Ebony bonsai. There’s something about its maturity and structure that makes them more appealing to us. If you happen to own this wonderful gem in your nursery, we hope this care guide has helped you look after it better.

FAQs about Texas Ebony Bonsai

We have one more treat for you. You shouldn’t leave here without all your questions answered. We’ve done our best to find the questions people usually ask about this species and then supply the solutions. If you can’t find it here, please send your query directly to us.

The Texas Ebony tree has a slow growth rate, about 12 inches per year, if that much. If you’re growing it as a bonsai in your home, it may even develop slower based on the light conditions. Even adding more fertilizer won’t really speed up the process by much.

The bonsai shouldn’t lose any of its leaves unless there’s something wrong with it. Another reason the Texas Ebony may do so is if the temperature drops to below 20oF. There’s also a chance of the branches dying back to the trunk, so make sure you keep it warm.

When the night descends on your home or there’s low light, the Texas Ebony leaves close up like most trees in the legume family. It doesn’t respond to you touching it with your fingers. You’ll need to wait until the sunlight arrives before the leaves open up to soak it all in.

The branches of the Texas Ebony tree have small thorns between the nodes and leaves. The primary function of these items is to provide protection against humans and animals. You’ll need to be careful when pruning or taking cuttings for propagation.

The best way to propagate the Texas Ebony into a new bonsai is via cuttings. You can grow them from seeds, but the process may not work if you don’t do it correctly. Since the pods have so many seeds, you’ll strike it lucky if you get all of them to germinate.

Like most legume trees, you can cook the seeds like beans in a vegetable soup. Some people even fry them for a crispy taste. While the seed coat protects the fruit from damage, you can actually use it as a viable substitute for coffee.

The Texas Ebony is actually an evergreen bonsai. You can expect green foliage all year round in your home, which is why it’s ideal for beginners. However, you may find the leaves changing or falling if the temperature is too low or if you’re watering it too much.

As the name implies, you’ll find this Ebony bonsai in the heart of Texas. To be more exact, they’re prolific in the southern part of the country. There are plenty in the fields from which you can take cuttings. You’ll also find these trees in abundance in Mexico.

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