Serissa foetida is an attractive little plant with a huge secret: When you bruise or prune it, serissa emits an unpleasant scent. Fortunately, the smell doesn’t last too long. Serissa has a short stature, little leaves and masses of small flowers that make it a natural for bonsai. Even though serissa bonsai is not hard to grow and grows outside in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 11, the plant may be fussy. It dislikes cold temperatures, either too much or too little water, fertilizer or sunlight, and reacts badly to being moved too far. Unhappy serissa bonsai trees shed leaves.

Plant Debate

A serissa bonsai can blossom year round, but creates its greatest floral series from spring to fall. The flowers are only about 1/2 inch across and may be white or pink, single or double, depending on the cultivar. Also known as “tree of a thousand stars” for its prolific bloom creation, serissa has tiny, dark green to variegated green leaves with yellow or cream markings. As a shrub, serissa can grow up to 4 feet tall, therefore regular pruning can be used to form the plant to its bonsai tree form. Serissa may be trained to many kinds of bonsai, from upright to cascading, formal and informal. The bark is rough and light to medium gray.


Pink serissa cultivars include “Variegated Pink,” “Cherry Blossom,” “Pink Princess” and “Pink Mountain,” all with solitary or tubular flowers. “Flore Pleno” has double white flowers. “Mt. Fuji” has variegated foliage with fascinating, cream-colored streaks and margins. “Ahiro Pink” has variegated foliage and pink flowers. “White Swan” has single white flowers and takes fast and readily to bonsai tree form.


The sublime visual synergy of vertical tree and also flat, shallow container is beautiful, but produces proper watering critical. In warm weather, serissa bonsai often needs more frequent watering, especially if their containers are shallow. The growing medium must be nearly — but not entirely — dry before each thorough watering. Fantastic drainage is a must for container-grown serissa bonsai, since continually moist roots encourage diseases. The trees could be planted in regular potting soil, or you may use commercial bonsai combinations. Outdoors, plant serissa in which it’ll get partial sunlight and the temperature doesn’t get much below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Inside, the tree must get bright, indirect sunlight. Grow lamps can help provide the lighting serissa bonsai requirements. Water-soluble, balanced fertilizer may be used nearly every two weeks while the plant is actively growing. Cut back on both water and fertilizer in winter. When the flowers begin to fade, it is possible to remove them to get serissa to generate more. Prune the plant as desired to train it into the shape you’ve selected for bonsai, and eliminate any suckers that strive to grow at the base of the bonsai tree.

Hints and Factors

A gravel tray full of water and placed under the container helps maintain serissa trees hydrated. Spending the summer outside before coming back inside for the winter produces a serissa bonsai happy. If the tree drops its leaves in protest at being moved, then it will probably acclimate and put on new development fast. Serissa bonsai must be repotted about every two years and the origins and canopy pruned, as needed, for balance. Watch for spider mites, scale insects and aphids feeding on the leaf. These may often be washed off using the hose or kitchen sprayer.

See related