In Japan where the Ginkgo originates, it can easily live to be 100 years or more. Called “Chichi Icho” in the native country, which means “breast” or “nipple”, the Ginkgo is a reverenced tree. However, this ancient tree also makes an excellent bonsai. Most people have heard of Ginkgo Biloba associated with health foods.
In eastern cultures, the Ginkgo tree is considered the “Fountain of Youth” plant, which helps to improve memory and overall health. The leaves of this tree are two-lobed and fan-shaped, making them unique. In the fall, they turn a beautiful yellow color. Fruit is also produced by the Ginkgo, which is yellow when ripe and grows in clusters. When grown as bonsai, the Ginkgo will grow to about 16 inches tall around age six.
Unfortunately, pruning the Ginkgo produces scars that do not heal. Therefore, any pruning should be done extremely carefully. The best time to prune the Ginkgo is in the spring and fall at which time the clusters of leaves should be reduced to about two to three leaves, keeping the topmost leaf on the outside. Then, any new branches should be cut back to two or three buds when the tree is young. To keep the shape, you would likely need to top it off on a regular basis.
In addition, young Ginkgo trees, which would be up to 10 years of age, should be repotted annually in early spring. The best time is just prior to any new leaves appearing. For older trees, those over the age of 10, you can repot the tree every two to three years as needed. The best soil for the Ginkgo tree is a mix that is well drained. Then, for the best results, add approximately 10% coarse sand along with some grit.
To propagate the Ginkgo, you can use air layering from large branches. The result will be a decent plant in about three years. Finally, the Ginkgo can be styled in various ways but the natural shape is best. Because the leaves are large and stiff with thick branches, it works well with the broom style as well. To maintain balance and symmetry, you might need to do a little wiring, but usually very little. Remember, the bark of this tree is delicate so wiring should be done lightly and then, use only lightweight, aluminum wire.