Methods of Cultivation
  1. The most important thing in Penjing is style. The cultivation of penjing must first be based on the natural qualities of the plant and artificial training should be kept to a minimum. Nature endows each species with special qualities and too much artificial shaping would ruin the tree. Before deciding upon the style and arrangement of a plant, the grower must first study the species and, in the process of dwarfing, retain its good points and remove the bad ones. Although there are variations in style, two main styles of cultivation can be identified, i.e. those with an ancient appearance and those with a graceful appearance. The styles may also be classified as follows: (a) single-tree (b) two-tree (c) multiple-trunk on one stump (d) the forest style (e) cascade plant (f) semi-cascade plant (g) overlooking-the-water style (h) the reclining style (i) the branch-out style (j) the dropping style (k) mother-with-son style and (l) rock-clinging style. With regard to rock-clinging penjing, it must be noted that the rock used must be suitable and the roots of the plant should be embedded firmly in the cracks of the rock to give the impression of an ancient tree growing out of the rock.
  2. Plants freshly taken from the wild are best cultivated first in the ground so that they may obtain nourishment from the earth, which will quicken their growth. When the twigs and foliage increase, the tree should be potted.
  3. When a tree has been potted, it should be shaped by pruning. In order that the trunk and branches may have an aged appearance with "strength", the "Grow and Clip" method should be used; when the first section of the branch has grown to the desired size, it should be clipped so that a side-branch may grow from it. When this side-branch has again been developed to the desired size, it is again clipped so that a second side-branch may grow. This process is repeated several times and a picturesque penjing will come into being.
  4. Each species of plant has its own soil requirements. Some species have to be re-soiled each year, while others do not require re-soiling for several years. The soil mix, whether it is of earth and quarry sand or mountain earth or fertilised soil, should first be dried in the sun to kill any insect pests before use. Fertilising and keeping will be different for different species.
  5. In winter it is advisable to keep indoors those plants which cannot stand intense cold. Alternatively, the container may be placed in holes dug in the ground with the brim of container placed slightly above the ground, or transparent plastic covers may be used to cover the plants, thus protecting them from the wind.
  6. Just as some penjing cannot stand intense cold or strong winds in winter, others cannot stand the hot sun in summer. These plants should be taken care of accordingly.
  7. Insect sprays should be used regularly to get rid of pests harmful to the penjing, and the soil should be likewise disinfected. Special care should be given to flowering and fruit-bearing plants.
  8. As regards flower-bearing plants in general, their blossoming may be hastened or delayed by various methods. If it is intended that flowers will come out earlier in winter, plants should be placed under the sun by day and kept in a hot-house by night, or, in the absence of a hot-house, plants may be kept indoors and moisturised with the steam of a boiling kettle. If it is desired that flowers are to bloom late, the plants may be placed in colder surroundings where the winter cold and winds would delay the blossoming of flowers.
  9. Most penjing require watering once a day in normal weather conditions. In hot summer and dry autumn weather, watering should be done twice: once in the morning and once in the evening. In very humid weather, watering should be regulated according to soil conditions. When the plant is first potted or after soil is first changed, the plant must be adequately watered immediately.
  10. Except for a few species of penjing which need so much water that the plant should be placed in the midst of water, most penjing species do not need too much watering, and should therefore be drained so that the roots are not harmed. This can be done by placing a piece of broken pot or wire mesh over the drain hole and then, after sand is put into the bottom of the pot, soil is added. In this way excessive water will drain away.
  11. When the soil of a penjing has been changed, it takes some time for the roots to be firmly planted in the new soil. Exposure to strong sunlight is to be avoided and the plant should be placed in a cool, well-ventilated place for about 10 days. Also fertilisers should not be used for a month. In rainy seasons and severe, cold weather most plants are in a dormant state and the soil should not be fertilised.
  12. When changing the soil, care should be taken to remove about one-third of the soil while retaining that part surrounding the taproot unless it is found that the soil is unhealthy in which case all the old soil should be removed. In any case, the taproot should be soaked in a solution of appropriate insecticide to get rid of pests before the plant is re-potted.
  13. Any decayed roots must be cut off. In any case, old roots should be trimmed so that new roots may develop to give more nourishment to the plant.
Hong Kong Baptist University. All rights reserved

For questions or comments, please email webmaster
Last modified: 17/10/2000