The Brazilian rain tree (Pithecellobium tortum) is a tropical tree that is native to Central and South America. It is a member of the legume plant family. The tree is a popular choice for bonsai treatment. The Brazilian rain tree is commonly grown in tropical locations as an ornamental yard tree. The tree rarely tops 10 feet. The smooth branches of the tree have large spines that are quite sharp. It produces flower spikes that appear furry in appearance and are strongly fragrant.
Grown as a bonsai or an ornamental lawn tree, Brazilian rain trees require full sun, which means at least six hours of full sunlight exposure per day. The tree does well in partial shade during the hot summer months in areas where the temperatures can reach triple digits. If the tree is grown within a container, moving it into the shade during heavy heat is recommended.
Water and Soil
The tree prefers to be kept moist. It does not like its roots water-logged but it also does not appreciate being dry for any length of time. The Brazilian rain tree can flourish in sandy soil conditions with very poor nutrients. When grown as a bonsai, the tree prefers to be planted in pure sand with no garden soil. Any organic soil additives can cause the trees delicate root system to rot.
The Brazilian rain tree folds up its leaves when it rains. Even when grown as a bonsai indoors, the tree will naturally swirl up its leaves if it senses that rain is imminent. It will also do this at night or if its location is too dark.
The Brazilian rain tree grown as a bonsai requires weekly fertilizing with a balanced fertilizer during the growing season. In the winter months it will benefit from a monthly fertilizer application.
When you prune a bonsai Brazilian rain tree, leave a small nub remaining at the location of the cut. A Brazilian rain tree grown as a lawn specimen can be lightly pruned each spring to add shape to the tree or keep it contained.