Here is a tree belonging to a client, the water jasmine, or wrightia religiosa.

The water jasmine is a tree that’s easily found in the online bonsai marketplace or in the tropical section of your friendly neighborhood bonsai shop.

They make extremely fragrant blooms, so beware if you are ever transporting one in an enclosed vehicle, you will become intoxicated with the smell, causing maybe a waking fever dream, transporting you to some tropical paradise where adult beverages served out of coconuts, and shrimp cocktails, abound.

This tree has, to me, a very good beginning structure……

…… but there are some branches that need some wiggle in them. Like RuPaul might say,

“Damn honey, that’s just way too straight!”

There are native species of wrightia on every continent except the Americas and Antarctica.

The one we use the most for bonsai is from the Thailand and Vietnam area.

The flowers are, as I said, extremely fragrant and they hang down (always down to hang, bruh). It’s called a water jasmine (it’s not a jasmine per se, those belonging to the jasminum genus) because the only way to see the bloom is in the reflection in a pool of water. Well, I guess you can bend over and look up at them but that’s cheating. It’s more poetical telling an audience the water reflection thingy.

Unfortunately for my client, I will be removing the flowers for this stage of the styling. As well as the leaves, which you might have guessed if you’ve read my blog before.

This tree is one of those trees, like the dwarf powder puff or a bougainvillea, where you can time the flowering to occur at an exhibit by a judicious defoliation.

In the case of the water jasmine, if you defoliate about 5-6 weeks before the show, you’ll have flowers and win the award for the Most Odiferous Bonsai.

My horticultural peeps are seeing some yellowing. This leaf discoloration could be a magnesium deficiency. Or it could just be old leaves.

I’m going with old leaves.

Considering the new ones are nice and purty green.

This work is actually happening in Mid May in Orlando, so there are still last year’s leaves on it. But water jasmine are very heavy fertilizer users, so if it weren’t this close to winters end, I would say it has nutritional deficiencies. In the case of a magnesium need (which is indicative of yellow leaves with green veins) I would add Epsom salts.

A wrightia is a semi deciduous tree, meaning it will drop its leaves in times of drought or cold or both. The process of a tree dropping its leaves includes the reabsorption of chlorophyll (the green color) and that’s why I am saying it’s just old leaves.

Anywho, it’s sad, I know, but they need to be cut off. That’s the way you work tropical trees. It’s easier (less energy) to grow new leaves than it is to fix old leaves.

Denuded and ready for the wire.

This left branch needs to be lowered. I’m debating a guy wire.

It also needs to be spread out and given that wiggle RuPaul talked about.

“Work! Work it girl!”

From the top. Good branching, lots to work with.

And flexible.

I need to get a good one for myself. I just don’t have one for some reason.

Fast forward, we have a new pot (and a new location. I’ve been in The Nook, in my PT Cruiser, and now I’m at a friends place, Ben)

My client chose this new pot from The Bonsai Supply catalog. I’m liking the color, a deeper blue, one that’s unique to The Bonsai Supply (for now at least).

I’m not so thrilled with the shape though. I’d like it to be in a more shallow oval. But it’s not my tree. This pot, being deeper, will help horticulturally. A water jasmine needs lots of water.

Even though I’m at Ben’s place, who likes using guy wires, I’ve decided to just use a heavy wire instead of a guy wire to move that first branch.

Number 5 (is alive!) wire I believe. And I’m using Ben’s wire, even.

Wire on….

Wire on….

I’m using aluminum of course. A tropical like this will need the wire removed in about a month or so, usually.

And that’s Ben, of Agresta Gardens. He did some of the wiring. Whatever looks good was done by him, whatever looks bad was done by me.

Placement of the branches…..

Back at The Nook, for the Glamour Shots, from the top…

Side view….

From the front….

And in place at the clients house.

The tree to the left is a buttonwood I’ve been developing over the winter and through the spring. Wait until you see the write up on it.

And that’s it. A very simple, subtle, and graceful water jasmine.

This is what I imagine a full sized one looks like in the jungle.

Can you imagine trudging through Thailand and stepping into a grove of wrightia? I can only imagine why it’s called “religiosa”. Maybe the fragrance is so overwhelming you do actually think that maybe God is talking to you.

I’ll post a pic of what it looks like now when I do the post on the buttonwood.

See ya’!

11 thoughts

  1. Great work on this. I was wondering if you had any tips on caring for this WR. I recently purchased one and it was doing great, a little on the yellow side and lots of blooms. I repotted about a month ago and waited until i saw new growth and then gradually put it in a sunny spot. I read everywhere and was told they love water and sun but mine has been wilting so badly. I know the SOFL sun is harsh. I really don’t want to lose this one. Any advise is welcome and appreciated.


    1. Did you defoliate it? I’ll generally put a tree right back into the sun after a repot as the tree needs light to photosynthesize, to create sugars, to make roots. And full sun especially if you defoliate, the new leaves will come out ready for sun.
      There are too many questions to ask here. Send an email to with pictures or bring the tree to the event this Saturday (July 20th, the Komorebi2019 fundraiser)


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