What is Lime Sulphur - How It's Used in Bonsai

What is Lime Sulphur - How It's Used in Bonsai

Lime Sulphur is a smelly liquid that bonsai fans use to paint deadwood. This turns it white and protects it. When it dries, it leaves a white, chalky colour on the wood. This not only looks cool but also helps keep the deadwood in good shape. In Japan, people dilute it and use it as a winter wash to kill bugs and mildew. They also use it to bleach tree trunks during the dormant period of deciduous trees.

It was first made in the mid-1800s to stop mildew on grapevines in France. Until the 1940s, lime sulphur was popular and made in big amounts. Then, newer chemicals took over because they worked better.

How does Lime Sulphur stain wood? As it dries, it makes Sulphur dioxide (SO2), especially when it's warm. This gas preserves things and kills tiny germs. It's still used in making wine and drying fruits. Sulphur dioxide can also bleach stuff like paper and fabric when mixed with water. But this bleaching isn't forever. Over time, the natural colour comes back. That's why you have to keep applying Lime Sulphur to bonsai deadwood to maintain the white colour.

Be careful with Lime Sulphur. Always wear gloves and keep it away from kids. If you spray it, wear a mask.

Important: Be safe! If you swallow it or get it in your eyes, get medical help right away.

Where to Find Lime Sulphur?
It's hard to find Lime Sulphur at regular garden shops because there are newer products now. The best places to look are bonsai nurseries or online bonsai stores. It's not expensive, and a little goes a long way.

Materials Needed for Applying Lime Sulphur to Bonsai Deadwood
You'll need:
  • A dish to pour some Lime Sulphur into. Don't use it straight from the bottle.
  • A covered or old work surface. Lime Sulphur stains easily.
  • Work outside if you can because of the strong smell.
  • A small paintbrush, preferably an old artist's brush. Cheap brushes fall apart quickly.
  • Clean the brush with soapy water right after using it.
  • Have absorbent paper towels ready for spills and extra Lime Sulphur on the wood.
Tip: To make sure the wood absorbs the Lime Sulphur, dampen it first. Dry wood doesn't soak it up well and might not turn as white.
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