Potentilla fruticosa

This Potentilla is as fragile as a stained glass window and parts of it literally crumble away every time I work on it. It has undergone some pretty radical changes since I acquired it in 2011, and certainly does not look like the tree I initially envisioned it would become when I bought it. If I could give one piece of advice to anyone who wants to work with Potentilla – especially a deadwood specimen – I would say keep the trunk as clean and dry as possible. They are extremely susceptible to rot. Brush it, lime sulfur it, treat it with wood hardener, remove dead bark… all that good stuff is essential. 

The main things I did this year were to remove the last of the rotting parts, soak every piece of deadwood in lime sulfur then wood hardener, and compact the crown. I also completely redesigned the branch structure such that it is much more simple and “bonsai like”. This is contrary to the wayward, random nature in which Potentilla grow. I’m not saying the current image is better than some of the earlier ones. Certainly some incredible deadwood features have been lost.

Next step is to find the right pot, which certainly won’t be easy. I figure this tree still has a couple years of life before it returns to the dust from whence it came.


The crown still needs a bit of filling out, but that won’t take long.


This is the earliest image I have of the tree. I have no idea of the dates, but presumably the top left shows the tree soon after collection, while the other is the pinnacle of the tree’s development under its previous owner.


5 Responses

  1. Pingback: LakeshoreBonsai.wordpress.com is Moving to www.LakeshoreBonsai.com! | Lakeshore Bonsai: Bonsai in Toronto, Canada

  2. Nigel Saunders

    The tree is actually looking more natural and less like a typical bonsai. I think you will end up with a more interesting tree as it develops. Sounds like it is getting very good care! Look forward to more posts in the years to come.

    Nigel Saunders (K-W Bonsai)

    September 7, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    • LSBonsai

      Hi Nigel,

      Good to hear from you and thanks for the comment. I hope all is well. Bonsai@RBG is having a show Thanksgiving weekend, hope to see you there.



      September 7, 2013 at 8:54 pm

  3. Alex


    I saw this bonsai just yesterday at the Bonsai Show at the Toronto Botanical Gardens! 😀
    So nice! I have a potentilla Fruticosa as well but I find it extremely hard to wire it. The branches (even the ones that haven’t matured yet) snap so easily. I saw at the show that yours were wired…how did you do it?

    It’s a very nice piece!


    October 20, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    • LSBonsai

      Hi Alex,

      Thank you for the compliments. Wiring potentilla definitely takes some sensitivity. I only put movement in new growth. Wrap the wire firmly to minimize the chance that they will kink or break (even if they do kink, they often survive).

      As for woody branches, I only wire them to position them. Trying to put movement in them is pretty pointless as they are so brittle. You may have noticed that the tree has several guy wires on it as well.

      Good luck!

      October 20, 2013 at 9:48 pm

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