Growing bonsai trees successfully sometimes can seem a complex endeavor for quite a number of people. Sure, they would like to own their own cute bonsai tree, but not so ready to devote the time and care required. Here is where mallsai fills the demand. Coined by bonsai growers as a combination of “mall and bonsai”, it denotes mass produced rooted cuttings which have been given unsuitable soil conditions with which to grow, and sold for cheap in malls, DIY stores, and discount nurseries. Usually they are cheaply priced at under $10 bucks.
Basically, the plants are yanked out from somewhere else, stuck into small plastic pots and then gravel is glued on the surface of the soil. The crown is just given a trim and that’s about it. Mallsai have a poor survival rate and they are usually dying or dead by the time they find a home.
Many gift shops are now selling mallsai and although they make nice cute gifts, the bonsai trees don’t last long. Those species whose leaves remain green and verdant even though their roots have died, are usually the choicest candidates for mallsai. Species that are often used for mallsai are Chinese Garden Juniper, Chinese Elm and Chinese Jade. Cacti also make popular mallsai subjects.
Despite all the negative attitudes of bonsai growers regarding mallsai, there are also good points to note about them. Mallsai are cheap, make great gifts and are often the first practical experience many people have with actually growing bonsai trees.
Some people really do get hooked on growing bonsai trees after receiving their first mallsai!
However, due to the soil usually being some thick clay soil which is not appropriate for small pots, the roots have difficulty breathing and add to that, having gravel mixture stuck on top, it’s no wonder many mallsai will not live for long after being bought.
Mallsai are often passed of as genuine bonsai, but they are basically non trained young trees little more than 2 years old. The bad aspect of mallsai is that some people get put off of growing bonsai trees altogether because of the bad experience of having their newly purchased bonsai tree die within weeks. Growing bonsai trees than becomes something that they consider difficult and impractical to sustain.
Growing bonsai trees is an enjoyable art and science that should NOT be confused with the seemingly fast and easy mallsai trend. In the end, there is no substitute for the passion, knowledge and astute hands of a qualified bonsai artist.
This pic on the left shows typical cactus mallsai, cute to behold, but rarely do they live long after being taken home. The small plastic container provides insufficient aeration, and the surface of the soil is glued together; providing a typical deathtrap for these otherwise adorable looking juvenile cacti.