Cedar bonsai are quite a rare sighting even though they make excellent bonsai specimens. They can be quite difficult to care for and need an experienced hand to train them. This does, however, make them an excellent challenge to those with some patience.
Cedar trees are tall coniferous trees in the wild. As bonsai, they can be grown into characteristic broad and elegant shapes as they age.
There are four species of Cedar that are often used as bonsai. These four species are known as Cedrus atlantica, Cedrus deodara, Cedrus libani, and Cedrus brevifolia.
Cedrus atlantica, also known as Blue Atlas, is native to North Africa and can be told apart from the rest by its stunning bluish-grey needles and light grey bark. This species is among the most prized bonsai out there. The trunk of this tree is easy to form into different shapes making it a great tree to modify and train into different styles.
Cedrus deodara on the other hand has longer needles than atlantica. It also has the quickest growing time of all the Cedar species available. This bonsai has stunning green needles that add to its appearance. If you’re new to growing Cedar trees, this is the best option but take care to prune this tree properly. Incorrect pruning can cause bare patches that will ruin the appearance of your bonsai.
Cedrus libani, also known as Lebanon Cedar, is native to Lebanon and the Mediterranean coast and can be told apart by its dark green needles and greyish brown bark. This tree makes an excellent bonsai due to the length of its needles. These needles tend to stay short for as long as the tree lives. You also don’t need to go all out while pruning since this tree grows very slowly.
Cedrus brevifolia, better known as the Cyprus Cedar, with its bluish-green needles, dense canopy, and horizontal branches is endemic to the country of Cyprus and is often considered to be a subspecies of Cedrus libani. It is easily the most beautiful of the Cedar species due to the color of its needles.
Unfortunately, this tree takes a long time to grow and an even longer time to shape.
Cedars can easily be confused with the larch bonsai (Larix) due to growing its needles in a similar fashion to the larch. Both species grow their needles in clusters along the branch. The only real difference is Cedars are evergreen where larches are not.
If you don’t like the look of these four Cedar species, you can also consider a variety of cultivars with different growth patterns and foliage characteristics.
Care Guidelines For Cedar Bonsai
Many believe Cedar bonsai are difficult to care for. This is true to some extent since they have some special requirements, but if you do your research it can be a fun challenge to grow these little trees. Let’s take a look at the care Cedar bonsai require.
Cedar trees do best when placed in a location with at least 6 hours of direct sun every day. Any less than that is detrimental to the health of the tree. Cedar bonsai also needs to be protected against freezing temperatures and cold wind in wintertime. If you have a young tree, it can be especially delicate so take care to place it in the right location.
Cedar bonsai can be grown both indoors and outdoors as long as enough sunlight is provided.
During the growing season, your bonsai needs to be checked daily. Make sure to only water once the soil feels dry, however. Watering too frequently will result in nasty diseases like root rot.
Cedar trees are native to areas that are quite dry so overwatering will negatively affect your plant quite quickly.
Cedar bonsai can be watered much less in winter. Make sure the soil dries out before watering again. A soggy rootball in winter can lead to frost damage to the roots as well as root rot.
If you’re unsure if the soil is wet or dry, simply place your finger about one inch (2.5cm) into the soil. If the soil feels dry, you can thoroughly water your bonsai. If the soil still feels moist, wait another day before watering.
Soil And Fertilizing
Cedar bonsai, like most bonsai, are kept in a shallow pot with very little soil.
For this reason, fertilizing is very important to keep your little tree healthy.
You can use either a solid or liquid fertilizer to feed your Cedar bonsai. If you’re using a solid fertilizer, you can feed your tree every four weeks during the growing season. Once winter starts, do one last feeding on the first official winters day and leave your tree unfertilized during the three months of winter. Only start fertilizing again in spring.
If you’re planning on using a liquid fertilizer, you can fertilize your plant every week during the growing season. Once winter starts, reduce the frequency to once a month.
Make sure to dilute your fertilizer to half strength to prevent unwanted vigorous growth and root damage. Also, make sure the soil is wet before applying fertilizer and water again immediately after fertilizing.
Twigs and new growth can be pruned back in spring. New growth that appears later in the season can also be pinched back regularly. It is best to wait to prune larger branches in autumn, however. Also, make sure to never trim the needles.
Cedar bonsai are very slow growers so you won’t need to do any major pruning regularly. These bonsai also seem to respond better to pinching back new growth rather than doing heavy pruning.
Where possible, avoid doing heavy pruning on your Cedar bonsai.
Cedar trees are a bit tricky to repot. This bonsai really doesn’t like change and will be seriously weakened for a while making it vulnerable to disease.
As a result, only repot your Cedar tree when it’s absolutely necessary.
Cedar bonsai are usually repotted every five years. Young trees may need to be repotted more often so make sure to keep an eye on your tree’s health and growth.
If the growth appears stunted, it might be time to repot.
Make sure to use acidic soil that drains well when you prepare a soil mix for your little tree. Make sure to only do light root pruning and avoid disturbing the root ball if possible.
The best time to repot is in spring before any new growth opens.
The best way to start a Cedar bonsai is by using seeds. Keep in mind that cold stratification is required for your seeds to sprout.
It is possible to also try air layering or cuttings, but these two methods have a rather low success rate in Cedar trees.
Potential Pests And Diseases
Cedar bonsai are quite prone to getting aphids. Other diseases you should look out for are the fungi Sirococcus and Pestalotia, which cause shoot blight and defoliation.
If your Cedar isn’t watered properly or planted in the wrong soil, root rot can also be a common affliction.
To treat any pests and diseases, start by improving the growing conditions of your plant. Identify the specific affliction and treat accordingly with a pest-specific pesticide or fungal treatment. You might also need to repot your plant if the soil has been badly affected by overwatering.
This way it’s possible to get rid of any mold and mildew growing on the soil.
Wiring Your Bonsai
Cedar trees can be styled into any bonsai style you want’ but certain styles work better than others.
If you want a cascading bonsai or an upright version, you will need to wire your little tree to achieve these effects.
Cedar bonsai training can begin during any stage of your little tree’s development. Younger twigs and new growth are easily trained while they are still flexible. Older branches will need to be wired with gay wires to train them over a period of two years. Make sure you don’t damage the sensitive bark while using wires and adjust the wires as the tree grows.
Cedar trees are known for healing very slowly. So, avoid large wounds and rather consider creating deadwood features like little shari or jins.
By making use of these features, you will present placing your tree under unnecessary stress.
When the time comes to remove any wires from your tree, make sure to cut the wire instead of unwinding it. This way there is a lower risk of accidentally breaking a branch. Wires tend to stay on Cedar bonsai for a very long time so make sure to adjust them as the plant grows to prevent any damage to the bark.
Bark damage can take a very long time to heal, if ever.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to training Cedar bonsai trees is to have patience. These trees do take a very long time to grow and don’t like being pruned and repotted often.
It is better to neglect this tree to some extent rather than killing it with kindness and motivation.