How to take care of a japanese juniper bonsai tree


Care guide for the Juniper Bonsai tree (Juniperus)

Juniper Bonsai Care guidelines

Placement

Place the tree outside, year-round, in a bright location with lots of sunlight. The Juniper cannot live indoors. During the winter protect the tree once temperatures drop below 15 °F (-10 °C). Some species change their foliage color during frosty periods to a purplish brown which is a part of their internal frost protection mechanism. Don’t worry they will turn green again in spring.

Watering

Be careful not to overwater, as the juniper’s roots don't like soil wetness. Before you water, the soil should slightly dry. Misting the tree can be done regularly, especially after the tree has been repotted because it benefits from air humidity. Continue reading about watering Bonsai trees.

Watering

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Fertilizing

Use normal organic fertilizer pellets every month during the growing season or a liquid fertilizer every week. If you’d like to see strong growth you can apply some higher nitrogen levels in the spring.

Pruning and wiring

To develop the foliage pads, long shoots that stick out of the silhouette can be pinched or cut at the base with sharp scissors throughout the growing season. Do not trim the juniper like a hedge because the removal of all growing tips will weaken the tree and the cut will turn the needles brown. When the foliage pads become too dense they must be thinned out with sharp scissors at the base. The Juniper Bonsai is generally a strong tree that also withstands aggressive pruning very well. But it cannot bud again from bare tree parts, so take care that there is some foliage left on every branch you wish to keep alive. Continue reading about pruning Bonsai trees.

Junipers produced for Bonsai are often heavily wired when they are very young. Dramatically twisted shapes are very popular and correspond with the natural shapes that used to grow in the Japanese mountains. Junipers can be bent aggressively, but be sure to wrap branches with raffia or tape for protection. Use caution when bending areas with deadwood as those parts do break easily. If they are large and old, you can split the deadwood to bend the more flexible living parts. The foliage pads should be wired and fanned out after thinning, to let light and air get in, otherwise, the inner parts of the foliage pads will die, and dense pads also increase the risk of pest infestation. Aesthetically, we want unobstructed structures to avoid the juniper from looking like broccoli.

Repotting

Repot the Juniper Bonsai tree once every two years using a basic, or slightly more draining soil mixture. Very old trees can be repotted at longer intervals. Do not prune the roots too aggressively. Continue reading about repotting Bonsai trees.

Propagation

Use seeds or cuttings for propagation. Many well-suited juniper species in different sizes can be found in most nurseries. You can usually find good raw material for Bonsai there. Old junipers can be found in gardens, concrete pots, and on cemeteries, with old graves that will be cleared, and if you are lucky the owner will allow you to dig one out for little money or a new plant. Specialized Bonsai traders offer everything from young plants, pre-Bonsai, and pre-styled juniper trees up to high-value Bonsai in various styles and shapes.

Pests and diseases

If junipers are well cared for and placed in an ideal location they are very resistant to pests. Make sure not to allow foliage pads to get too dense otherwise, pests can settle in them more easily. During winter the junipers must be kept in a place with enough light and they must be checked for pests regularly even in winter. Junipers can sometimes get infested with spider mites, juniper scale, juniper aphids, and juniper needle miners as well as juniper webworms. Traditional insecticide/miticide sprays will help but if you want to get rid of pests, you should investigate why the tree was prone to infestation. Fungal rust diseases are a big problem. Juniper species have different levels of susceptibility to rust fungus. Some are even considered resistant to fungal rust diseases. As a rule of thumb, the blue-green junipers are more resistant than those with yellowish-green foliage. The Japanese junipers are also not infested often. You can find files that list many juniper species and cultivars and their susceptibility/resistance level to rust fungus on the internet. The rust fungus infests the junipers permanently and cannot be cured. It causes swellings that erupt with brown galls. During winter, particularly in rainy weather, the galls produce large, orange, gelatin-like tendrils, full of spores that infest the leaves of pear trees or hawthorn/crabapples. You can identify the fungus when you see orange spots on the pear leaves. In late summer brownish proliferations grow from the bottom-sides of the leaves which release spores that infest junipers. While the pear trees in most cases are not fatally affected – they are newly infected each year, and they can even be treated successfully with a fungicide. An infected juniper normally cannot be cured. The visibly infested branches die in most cases and the fungus can emerge on other tree parts. Removing the parts with the swellings and galls is no guarantee that the fungus will not reappear. Some people have a different opinion, but it’s best to burn rust-infested juniper immediately or put it into the garbage instead of your compost heap. For more detailed information on these techniques, check out our Bonsai tree care section.

Juniper bonsai tree

Foliage of the Juniper

Needle juniper bonsai

Rocky Mountain Juniper

Chinese juniper (Juniperus chinensis)

General information about the Juniper Bonsai tree

The Juniper Bonsai trees that can be found in large stores, like Walmart and Home Depot, are often Japanese Garden Junipers, also known as Green Mound Junipers (Juniperus procumbens nana.) Other popular species include the Chinese juniper (Juniperus Chinensis,) the Japanese Shimpaku (Juniperus sargentii,) the Japanese needle juniper (Juniperus rigida,) two central European species: The savin (Juniperus sabina,) and the common juniper (Juniperus communis. ) It also includes three American species: The California Juniper (Juniperus californica,) the Rocky Mountain Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum,) and the Sierra Juniper (Juniperus occidentalis). All of which have very similar care guidelines. If you need help identifying your tree, take a look at our Bonsai tree identification guide.

Scale junipers’ new growth, or juvenile foliage, appears needle-like until the typical scale-like foliage appears when they mature. Juvenile growth can also result from heavy pruning, bending, or overwatering and can last as long as a few years until the normal scale-like foliage grows and the young needle-like foliage falls or can be removed. The foliage color can range from steely-blue-greens to light greens, occasionally with silver or gold hues.

The berry-like cones are round or oval and are filled with round or edged seeds. Depending on the species they can measure from 1/8" to 1" (0,3 - 2cm), and it usually takes a year or two to ripen. The cones are often eaten by birds who spread the germinable seeds through the bird’s droppings.

Junipers are also great for jin and shari, or deadwood. It grows live veins below broken or dying branches that dry out and die to make deadwood. The deadwood is then naturally peeled, polished, and bleached by climatic conditions that make it very durable. The triad of green foliage, reddish-brown or yellowish-brown bark, and silvery-white deadwood is very appealing. For photos of a few spectacular Junipers, check the Juniper Bonsai top 10.

Identify your Juniper species

There are two groups of Junipers, one with scale-like foliage and the other one with needle-like foliage.

The two most popular juniper species for bonsai with scale-like foliage are the Chinese Juniper and the Japanese Shimpaku. The Japanese Shimpaku is actually a variety of Chinese Juniper which was originally found in the mountains of Japan. Both have scale-like foliage with color ranging from yellowish-green to bluish-green or silver-green. Another very popular juniper for bonsai is the Itoigawa Shimpaku due to its delicate emerald-green foliage. There are numerous varieties of Chinese Juniper, many of which difficult to distinguish with certainty, but the care guidelines for these varieties are very similar. Check this article for the styling of a Juniper. The Savin is a juniper from southern Europe, North-Africa, and some parts of Asia with scale-like foliage which can be finer or more coarse and has different shades of green depending on its origin. All parts of the Savin are poisonous. The California Juniper is native to California and has bluish-grey scale-like foliage. In nature, it grows as a small tree or shrub. The Rocky Mountain Juniper grows in western North-America and can become a tall tree. Its leaves are scale-like, coarse, and can be dark green or bluish-green. The Sierra Juniper is a shrub or tree native to the western United States. It grows in mountainous terrain at altitudes of 2500 to 10000 ft. (800–3000 meters) Its foliage is scale-like with grayish or dark green coloring and tends to grow quite dense.

There are also popular juniper species with needle-like foliage. The Japanese Needle Juniper has sharp, dark green, stinging needles with a narrow white line along their length. The Green Mound Juniper Bonsai is also from Japan with needle-like foliage, but the needles are shorter, more compact, and the coloring us bluish-green, similar to some scale-like foliage. This plant grows as a ground covering shrub if it is not shaped. The Common Juniper is native to Europe, North-America, Asia, and North-Africa. Its needles are sharp but smaller and more delicate than those of the Japanese Needle Juniper. In nature, it grows columnar or as a depressed shrub.

How to Grow and Care for Juniper Bonsai

Bonsai is the ancient Japanese art form of growing ornamental miniature or artificially dwarfed trees in containers using cultivation techniques to mimic the shape and scale of full-sized trees.

Juniper trees are an especially popular choice for bonsai due to their easy care requirements and attractive foliage. Native to Europe, Asia, and North America, junipers have a naturally compact growth habit which makes them well-suited to bonsai growing techniques. They have evergreen, needle-like foliage that ranges from dark green to steely blue. Most juniper varietals will grow at a steady pace, adding between 6 and 12 inches of height per year. Because some juniper species are low-lying ground cover shrubs, they also make fantastic cascading bonsai due to their natural downward growth habit.

Common Name Juniper Bonsai
Botanical Name Juniperus 
Family Cupressaceae
Plant Type Evergreen conifer
Mature Size 3–6 ft. tall, 1–3 ft. wide (or as desired)
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Well-draining, bonsai soil
Soil pH Neutral to acidic
Hardiness Zones Varies by species, 3–11, USDA
Native Area Europe, Asia, North America

Juniper Bonsai Care

Generally, juniper bonsai trees are easy to care for. They make perfect beginner bonsai trees for inexperienced gardeners because they are forgiving, easily shaped, and well-suited to bonsai growing techniques. 

As with most species chosen for bonsai, juniper trees take well to wiring, although it should be done slowly and carefully. Wiring is the practice of wrapping a wire around the branches of the bonsai tree in order to bend and reposition the branches to achieve the desired shape. It is best to wire a juniper bonsai during the winter months when the tree is dormant. Once the branches have set in their new shape, carefully remove the wire with wire cutters so you don't damage the tree.

There are two main categories of juniper trees—trees with scale-like foliage and trees with needle-like foliage. Identifying which type of juniper bonsai you have will help to determine how to care for it properly. Juniper trees with scale-like foliage include the Chinese juniper and the California juniper, while juniper trees with needle-like foliage include the Japanese needle juniper, green mound juniper, and the common juniper.  

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Light

Juniper bonsai require bright, direct sunlight, at least six to eight hours of full sunlight daily. For this reason, most species of juniper bonsai are best-suited to being grown outdoors year-round.

Soil

Use a commercially available bonsai soil mix for juniper trees for the best results. Bonsai soil mixes are well-draining—allowing both air and water to reach the roots—and are typically a combination of akadama (clay granulate from Japan), organic potting compost, pumice, and fine gravel or grit. They can be found at most garden centers or plant stores, or online from specialty bonsai retailers. 

Water

As with most bonsai, juniper bonsai require regular watering to keep the soil consistently moist. However, they cannot tolerate being waterlogged. As a general rule, allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings (but avoid letting it dry out completely), then water deeply. Additionally, ensuring that the bonsai has adequate drainage is imperative to prevent the soil from becoming waterlogged. 

Temperature and Humidity

Juniper bonsai trees should be grown outdoors year-round and cannot tolerate growing indoors. They are hardy, frost-tolerant trees that can withstand temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit without protection. When extreme winter temperatures dip below that temperature, provide your juniper bonsais with moderate protection from wind and frost to help them overwinter outdoors. 

Fertilizer

Juniper bonsai appreciate regular feeding during the growing season to promote strong growth. However, do not fertilize them during the winter months.

Use slow-release organic fertilizer once a month during the growing season, or a liquid fertilizer every week when watering. If vigorous growth is desired, a nitrogen-rich fertilizer is recommended—but only in the spring months. To avoid shocking the roots, don’t fertilize a juniper bonsai for at least a month after it has been repotted.

Types of Juniper for Bonsai

The Juniperus genus contains between 50-70 species of trees and low-lying shrubs. The most popular juniper varieties for bonsai include:

  • Chinese juniper (Juniperus chinensis): Also known as Hollywood juniper, this species has scale-like leaves and creates a twisting form as it matures.
  • Common juniper (Juniperus communis): Found throughout the world, this varietal has needle-like leaves and is adaptable to many different locations, including especially windy sites.
  • California juniper (Juniperus californica): Typically grown as a shrub, this juniper species is primarily found in the Southwest and is prominent in drought-tolerant gardening.

Pruning

Proper and regular pruning is essential to the aesthetic and health of a bonsai tree. For juniper bonsai, pinching back growth rather than cutting it back is recommended, as cutting can cause the surrounding needles to die off.

Juniper trees can withstand aggressive pruning well but keep in mind that they cannot bud again from any bare tree parts. Always leave some foliage on the branches to ensure ongoing growth. It is best to prune juniper bonsai in the early spring and summer during their active growing period.

Propagating Juniper for Bonsai

Growing your plant collection through cuttings—also known as "Sashiki" in Japanese—is very common among bonsai enthusiasts, especially if they've found a varietal that takes very well to the shaping and grooming that bonsai requires. Juniper plants are also relatively easy to grow from cuttings, and propagating methods are best done in the late spring and summer months. Here's how:

  1. Using a pair of sterilized garden shears or pruners, take a cutting from a mature juniper plant that has been well-established and growing for three to five years. The cutting should be between two to four inches in length.
  2. In a well-draining container, place a mixture of bonsai soil that has been pre-moistened.
  3. Re-cut the end of your trimmings at a 45-degree angle, then place the cut end an inch deep into the prepared soil.
  4. Place outdoors in a sunny and warm spot. Keep the soil slightly moist—cuttings should establish their roots and start to grow within a few weeks.
  5. After several months, cuttings will be large enough to be transplanted into individual containers. Allow them to grow for at least a year or two until they're ready for pruning and shaping.

Potting and Repotting Juniper for Bonsai

In general, bonsai trees do not need to be repotted very often, including the juniper varieties. Young trees can be repotted every two years at the most, and older trees can go as long as five years without being repotted. For juniper bonsai, avoid heavy root pruning at the time of repotting to prevent shocking the plant. 

When choosing a vessel for your juniper bonsai, focus on those made of natural materials like clay or terracotta, which can help wick away excess moisture from the soil.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Juniper plants are not affected by a large number of pests, but they often have issues with one in particular: the spruce spider mite. Typically unable to be seen by the naked eye, the spruce spider mite will suck on the sap of the plant, which results in browning and dropping of the needles. A particularly heavy infestation can be recognized by fine webbing on the plant, but smaller populations of mites can go unnoticed if not for damage to the plant. To control the pest, periodically blast your plant with strong water. Insecticides can be used to kill large infestations.

Juniper plants can also contend with various fungal diseases, like blight and rust, which are both characterized by the browning and dropping of branches and needles. Most of these issues are brought about due to improper planting, like locating your juniper in a spot that is shaded or poorly drained. If necessary, fungicides can protect your plant from these issues.

Article Sources

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  1. “The Only Juniper Bonsai Tree Guide You’ll Ever Need.” Bonsai Tree Resource Center | Bonsai Tree Care Tips, Tools, and Products Including The Best Bonsai Tree Fertilizer on Amazon, 28 Jan. 2021, https://bonsairesourcecenter.com/the-only-juniper-bonsai-tree-guide-youll-ever-need/

Juniper bonsai care tips

Juniper bonsai care tips

The genus Juniperus, a member of the cypress family, includes about 50 - 70 species. Junipers are evergreen coniferous trees or shrubs widely used in bonsai.

The most popular species among them are Chinese juniper (Juniperus chinensis) and its Japanese variety - shimpaku (Juniperus chinensis var. sargentii), hard juniper (Juniperus rigida) and two types of juniper growing in Central Europe: Cossack juniper (Juniperus sabina) and common juniper (Juniperus communis). Also suitable for bonsai are other types and varieties of juniper originating from different regions of the world and available in nurseries.

Juniper needles, varying in color from dark blue-green to light green, may be either scale-like or needle-shaped. When young, scaly junipers usually have needle-like needles (the so-called juvenile needles) and their characteristic scaly needles appear with age. After severe pruning or bending, overflow or other stress, they often begin to grow needle-shaped needles again. This may continue for several years until a sufficient amount of scaly needles has grown and the juvenile needles can be removed.

If you need help identifying your tree, try our tree qualifier.

Juniper Bonsai Care Instructions

Placement : Keep your Juniper Bonsai in an open, sunny location all year round. Juniper should not be kept indoors. In winter, the juniper needs additional protection if the temperature drops below minus 10 degrees. After exposure to negative temperatures, some types of juniper change the color of the needles to brown-violet, which is associated with the functioning of their protective mechanisms. In the spring they turn green again.

Watering : Do not water the juniper too often, as its root system does not like high soil moisture. Before the next watering, the soil should dry well. Juniper can be sprayed regularly, especially after transplantation, since the humidity of the air is useful to it.

Fertilizer : During the growing season, feed your junipers monthly with regular granular organic fertilizer or liquid fertilizer once a week. If accelerated growth is needed, the proportion of nitrogen in the fertilizer can be increased in the spring.

Pruning : To form the characteristic coniferous "pillows", throughout the growing season it is necessary to pinch or cut at the base of long shoots that extend beyond the silhouette of the crown. Do not prune your juniper as a "hedge" because regular removal of all growing shoots will weaken the tree and turn brown needles where pruned. When coniferous "pillows" become too thick, they must be thinned out by cutting out individual shoots with sharp scissors at the base. Juniper is a strong tree that tolerates drastic pruning well. However, it does not develop dormant buds on completely bare parts of the tree, so when pruning, it is necessary to leave some needles on those branches that are needed alive.

Wired : Junipers shaped like bonsai are carefully wired, in most cases at a young age. Juniper bonsai are very popular, with their trunks twisted dramatically, reminiscent of natural forms that could be seen in the mountains of Japan in the past. Juniper wood can be heavily bent, if necessary, pre-wrapped with raffia or tape to protect the bark, but care must be taken with parts of the tree that include dead wood. In such a place, they can easily break. For larger and older specimens, the dead wood can be stripped off to be bent into a more flexible live vein.

Transplant : once every two years, very old trees less often, using a basic potting mix (but somewhat less moisture intensive). Juniper roots should not be cut too drastically.

Propagation : by seeds or cuttings.

For more information on these techniques, see our Bonsai care section.

An example of bonsai from Cossack juniper "Femina"

Care of bonsai » Bonsai Juniper care

Bonsai Juniper

Bonsai juniper (lat. Juniperus) is considered one of the most interesting representatives of Chinese art. The coniferous tree exists in various options, but they are united by majestic beauty. Bonsai juniper has a very dense crown with a unique silhouette. It is formed from strong branches, abundantly covered with dark green needle-shaped or scaly needles. The tree trunk is powerful and graceful, it can be straight or curved, sometimes supplemented by a rock. Juniper needles do not fall off, keeping a fresh appearance all year round. The symbolic meaning of bonsai is eternal life.

Juniper - botanical characteristic

Juniper belongs to the Cypress family. Such a plant prefers a temperate climate, but is also found in the subtropics. Juniper grows in Central Asia, North America and Europe, chooses mountainous regions. The tree forms independent small forests, and its maximum height reaches fifteen meters. Alternative names for juniper are juniper or veres. The plant exists not only in the form of a tree, but also as a shrub. The juniper is characterized by a long and branched root system, a trunk develops from its base. The bark of the tree endures age-related transformations: in young specimens it is brown and smooth, but over time it darkens, becomes more dense in structure and cracks. Juniper has a dense crown, composed of numerous spreading branches. The green needles of the tree reach five centimeters in length, attached to the shoots by the base. Adult junipers gradually change needle needles to scaly ones. Male and female spikelets are formed in the axils of the leaves. Males consist of paired stamens and anthers, females take a special form, depending on the specific species. In spring, cones appear on the tree, containing up to ten seeds inside.

Juniper bonsai care

Temperature:

Juniper bonsai are grown in temperate climates. The air temperature should fit within the framework of 17 to 23 degrees Celsius. I must say that this coniferous tree does not like heat and dry air, so it is important to ventilate the room often. In winter, the juniper will need a cool regime, so the temperature is slowly reduced to 5-15 degrees Celsius.

Light:

Indoor juniper does not like direct sunlight. The tree is more suitable for bright diffused lighting. In autumn and winter, there is less natural light, so we recommend using phytolamps. It is better to place juniper bonsai on the east or west side. It will be too hot in the south, and very dark in the north.

Watering:

Juniper bonsai is watered two to three times a week, as the topsoil dries out. Between procedures, the top layer of soil should dry out. The tree will respond well to spraying the crown, in spring and summer they are carried out daily, and then stopped when the temperature of the content changes. For the period of cold wintering, watering should be reduced, otherwise the root system of the juniper will suffer.

Fertilizers:

Indoor juniper is fed in spring. Fertilizers for conifers and bonsai are suitable for the tree. Granular or liquid mixtures are applied once a month. Fertilizers are not used in summer, autumn and winter

Repotting:

Early spring is a good time to repot the tree. Young trees (up to 3-4 years old) are best transplanted every year, bonsai aged 5-9 years can do without transplantation for 2-3 years, trees over 10 years old are transplanted every 5-6 years, and adult bonsai, whose age exceeds several decades , are transplanted every 10-15 years.


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