21 June 2017

Poor Man’s Tea

Sweet Plum
Chinese Sweet Plum
Chinese Bird Plum
Hedge Sageretia
Pauper’s Tea
Mock Buckthorn
Sageretia theezans
Sageretia thea

Chinese Bird Plum

Sageretia theezans

Sageretias are tender shrubs with small green leaves and leathery exfoliating bark that leaves a multicolored patchwork. In summer tiny flowers appear in the leaf axils of new shoots and produce large clusters of white followed by small blue stone fruit. If a Chinese Sweet Plum is pruned too often, the flower buds will be removed and it will not flower.

field grown
Chinese sweet plum
 Sageretia theezans

Sageretias are evergreen in milder climates but become deciduous in temperate zones when exposed to the cold of winter. Sageretia are very rarely seen for sale in Garden Centers. Chinese sweet plum has a tendency to climb and is difficult to control as an ornamental plant. The growth is similar to Pyracantha. There was one growing in Daffin Park, but it was removed a few years ago. Branches have spines, sharp thorn tips.

Small white flowers in spring

Chinese sweet plum is widely used for creating bonsai and is often sold as a bonsai for indoors. Sageretia theezans shoots from old wood and is trained using the “Clip and Grow" technique. Many bonsai Chinese sweet plum are imported from China where they are field grown. Sageretias are tender shrubs and will survive temperatures just below freezing but will drop all leaves. They must be protected from hard freezes where the roots could freeze. Sageretia are considered to be a cool house bonsai. If kept indoors, Sageretias need a position that is reasonably humid and should be cool at night as in an unheated room. The tree should be held at 55-60 F for 6-8 weeks around the winter solstice. Once nighttime temperatures are consistently over 55 degrees, move tree outside. Can take full sun all day but watering requirements increase dramatically. Beware of leaf burn when moving from shade to full sun. Keep the soil slightly moist, never let dry completely. Sweet Plum is usually trained with the clip and growth method. Sageretias back-bud readily and has a nice angular growth pattern.

exfoliating bark

In Savannah the Sageretia can be grown outdoors all year round with some protection on the few nights that dip below 25 F. Small flowers and fruit will develop if the tree is left unpruned.

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