How To Grow Mangrove Bonsai? Essential Guideline (2023)

The art of bonsai has a long history and has been an element of aesthetics for hundreds of years. Bonsai is the art of creating nature in miniature. The trees that are 15-20 feet tall can be grown in a pot using bonsai techniques and tricks. It is akin to gardening but not completely the same. From creating bonsai to nurturing it takes a significant amount of effort, compared to traditional gardening.

Let’s see how to grow mangrove bonsai step by step.

Growing Mangrove Bonsai

The bonsai community always finds the most unusual trees to make a bonsai out of. There have been many examples of atypical bonsai over the years but mangrove bonsai is very rare among the community. Many bonsai enthusiasts have tried to create mangrove bonsai and the results when successful are majestic.

Although growing mangrove in certain places of the world is illegal and can result in a hefty fine. So, make sure that the area you live in is not under that type of law. The first step to having your very own mangrove bonsai is to collect a sapling or a seed.

However you cannot collect a sapling from the natural habitat, it is illegal in most places. So you can collect a sapling from your nearest botanical garden or find yourself a mangrove propagule. Propagules can be considered seeds for mangrove trees.

The Seeds Or Propagules

The propagules are a detachable part of mangroves, they float on water and when they find suitable places to grow they take roots there. If you live close to mangrove forests or areas you can see them floating on shores.

So, for propagules take a small pot, put a mixture of gravel or sand in it. Then put water in the pot and plant the propagule in there. The soil should cover one-third of the propagule’s length. The growth rate for mangroves is quite slow. The propagule should sprout in 5 weeks.

Mangrove bonsai
Mangrove bonsai

The Soil

The sapling should be planted in a permanent place, that can be considered a pot for your usual bonsai plants. The most important aspect of mangrove bonsai is the setup. The soil needs to imitate the natural habitat of mangroves.

The first step to making such soil is to fill an empty aquarium with 2-3 inches of sand. Then add another 1-2 inches of aquarium gravel. When the soil bed is ready for your mangrove, dig a hole in the bed and plant the propagule. 

The propagule should be planted to 1 to 1 ½ inches deep. After planting it, cover the roots properly with sand and gravel. You should plant it properly so it does not sway. After that fill the tank with water until the sand and gravel mix is completely covered. However, make sure the water does not touch the lowest leaves of the plant. The top of the mangrove should always stay above the water level.

The Lights

The mangrove bonsai are generally kept indoors. It is because they need a stable environment and it can be ensured indoors. In a controlled environment, you have to provide a light source for your mangrove bonsai. They need lots of light and the fluorescent aquarium light bulbs are typically good for them.

Make sure they are rated for 6 to 8 thousand Kelvins. The light should be positioned above the tree and have a minimum of 4 inches of space between them. If the lights are too close it can burn the leaves.

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The Growth Medium

The setup is indeed an important part of your mangrove bonsai but you cannot forget about growth mediums. Many mangrove trees can live in freshwater but saltwater provides them with magnesium, iron, potassium, etc. These minerals are important for your mangrove.

In a controlled environment, these have to be provided manually and aquarium trace element supplements can help with that. In the market you can find supplements that are rated with high minerals, purchase those for your mangrove bonsai.

The supplement should be used once every week to ensure that your plant grows healthy. For mangroves, the lack of magnesium can be very harmful. The leaves can shrink and turn yellow, eventually the tree might die. Also to make your aquarium a saltwater aquarium you can add salt to it every day until you reach the desired salinity. The salinity is usually 1.023 to 1.025 for saltwater species of plants.

Taking Care Of Your Mangrove

The trees need an ample amount of care. The water in the aquarium can turn green and have algae growing in if you do not have a good filtration system. There is also the manual process, take a paper towel and soak it in water. Then squeeze out the water, repeat it until your water looks clean. Then fill it with additional clean water and do this process once in a while. 

The leaves can have white salt building upon them because the trees exude salt. As time passes it can make your leaves look white, so regularly wipe the leaves with a wet towel. In winter the humidity can drop very much. The aquarium water may not be enough to make up for the low humidity. Fill a spray bottle with water and spray the leaves. This process can increase the humidity around the plant.

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Cutting And Trimming

The trimming and cutting process is relevant for mangrove bonsai trees. The mangrove trees usually can be maintained short by trimming the uppermost vertical branch of the tree. The branch is called top growth for mangrove trees. Cutting the top growth usually halts their growth, so when your mangrove is 8 to 10 inches you can start trimming. The trimming process should be done once a month because their growth rate is quite slow.


The world of bonsai is full of wonder and creativity. The bonsai community is always in search of the unusual or unique. The mangrove bonsai is such an idea. A mangrove bonsai can act as a good organic filtration system for your saltwater aquarium too. They can bring the calmness of nature to your homes and also be useful. So, a mangrove bonsai is a good project to pursue but they need some special care compared to traditional bonsai.