The Juniper bonsai is a coniferous plant that belongs to the Cypress family. It is one of the easiest to keep, and over time, the trunk becomes twisted and gnarly, making it unique and attractive.
You can identify the type of your juniper bonsai; one type has leaves that are spiky blue-green needles that have a heady, foresty scent like the Japanese needle juniper, green mound juniper, and the common juniper. The other type of bonsai has scale-type foliage and include the Chinese and California juniper species.
They are one of the most versatile bonsai trees on the market and can be kept by a forgetful or busy owner. They can be pretty forgiving if you overlook watering them for a day or two.
There are more than fifty varieties of juniper bonsai from across the world. The good thing is that the trees are equally as happy inside your home or in a sunny patch of your garden.
The juniper bonsai ages gracefully and forms some breath-taking silhouettes, particularly when in a contemporary sculptural style. The tree’s fruits are a pretty yellow-green hue and, as they age, turn black.
They are ideal for bonsai beginners as they are one of the most straightforward varieties to care for.
Care Guidelines For Juniper Bonsai
Although your juniper bonsai is not typically an indoor plant, it can be housed inside your home as long as it receives ample light and humidity. You’ll need to replicate its dormant winter period through force and care for it somewhere cool and where it receives less light than average. Dormancy is a genetic requirement for the bonsai to survive.
Where possible, it is best to mimic the circadian clock, which means as nature intended. Allow the bonsai to wake up as the sun rises and give it as much morning sunlight as possible to stimulate its daily growth. The juniper bonsai is quite sensitive, so you must ensure that it is in a shaded location during the hottest times of the day; too much exposure will burn the leaves, cause them to pale or drop. If you keep the tree inside, ensure that you place it on the sunny side of your home.
Whilst the juniper bonsai likes to be watered; it does not like being waterlogged. It would prefer to dry out a little, but not entirely, before being watered again. Ensure that you grow the bonsai in the right pot and have adequate drainage, which is essential to prevent waterlog. You’ll soon learn how damp your juniper bonsai should be, either by pushing a chopstick carefully into the soil or by the weight of the pot. Get used to both during your watering programme. Expect to water the bonsai at least every other day, particularly when temperatures are high and daylight hours are long.
There are several methods of watering your juniper bonsai, but the best method is the completely submerge the entire pot in a bucket of water for about one minute. Remove the pot and let the excess water drain away. You can also flood the pot, ensuring that you water the entire surface of the soil. If you have access to rainwater, then use this; it doesn’t contain any intentionally added chemicals which could harm your tree. Your bonsai will also require some humidity, so either use your layered humidity tray or mist the leaves regularly.
Soil And Fertilizing
Juniper bonsai like to be well-fed in the spring and autumn but cut back in the summer months. When it is in its dormant period in the cooler winter months, there is no need to fertilise, this gives it a little break from continual growth. Junipers particularly like slow-release organic fertiliser every month or liquid food during watering once a week. If you want to prompt a growth spurt, sparingly use a nitrogen-rich fertiliser during the spring feeding programme.
If you have recently repotted your juniper bonsai, refrain from feeding it for at least four weeks to avoid it going into shock.
Early spring and just after mid-summer are the best times to prune your juniper bonsai. Your tree will just be emerging from full winter and partial summer dormancy and will be ready to flourish and grow. You can pinch back new shoots when they reach approximately one inch.
A small amount of pruning can result in a denser and bushier bonsai. Juniper’s are quite hardy but should still be treated with care. To prune, take the foliage between your thumb and forefinger and pull gently; the growth tips should easily come away. Hold on to the branch with your other hand so that you don’t snap it. Ensure that you don’t cut the new growth off the tree; this can cause the needles surrounding the pruned area to fall off.
If you want to propagate your bonsai, it’s best to do it early to mid-autumn; your bonsai wood will be hardening, and the tree will be looking forward to some rest in the dormant period in the winter. Ideally, your cutting should still be reasonably green but also have some darker woody looking areas. The most successful propagation of a juniper bonsai is a heal cutting. You will make a tiny cut where the stem meets the main branch. As you pull it away, it will leave a small diamond shaped scar.
You’ll need to prepare your cutting pot. Use relatively fine volcanic sand (pumice) and make sure that it is level and compact enough to support your cutting. Before planting, dip the wound end of the cutting into a rooting hormone which will stimulate root growth. Use a chopstick or correctly named dibble stick to make a hole so that you can insert the cutting without dislodging the rooting hormone. Compact the sand to ensure the cutting is firm.
Try and keep the juniper bonsai cuttings nice and damp either by regular misting and watering or covering with a ‘greenhouse’ cover that will keep in the moisture. You should have healthy roots within a couple of months to start your bonsai training.
Potential Pests And Diseases
Juniper bonsai trees are relatively easy to take care of as long as they are not subjected to too much cold, a frost snap, or overwatering. Although they are quite drought tolerant and resistant to most pests, critters and diseases, they can become infested with insects and other diseases just like any other kind of tree. It is essential to have a proper pruning routine to prevent the cloud-shaped masses of foliage positioned on each branch or the foliage pads from becoming too thick and encouraging pest residency.
Check your juniper bonsai regularly for spider mites, aphids, webworms and needle miners. If you don’t want to use standard insecticide formula, you can try neem oil, a centuries-old solution that is ideal for treating houseplants and bonsai alike. Organic neem oil works on contact with the bonsai and functions as a systemic pesticide, inhibits mating and larval development. The wash off also protects roots from fungal problems.
From scab blights, black spot, caterpillars, red or spider mites, fleas and ticks, powdery mildew, rust, and aphids, if your juniper bonsai has it, the oil will help control it. Even during the dormant winter months, your bonsai’s must still have enough light, and you must remember to regularly check on their condition and maintain your watering routine.
Your juniper bonsai may also be prone to fungal rust diseases. Rust disease is caused by a group of funghi called rust funghi, which affects the tree’s aerial parts. It is common for leaves to be affected, but the rust can occasionally be found on stems, flowers and fruit. The yellow-green plants tend to be more susceptible than the blue-green juniper.
You can repot youthful juniper bonsai trees every couple of years. In contrast, older trees don’t have to be repotted as frequently, around every three to four years. You should plan to repot your juniper in the spring so that you do not subject the bonsai to shock and stress. The important growth period starts during the spring, so repotting before this will give your bonsai time to heal from any damage caused by repotting.
Remember, you are repotting your bonsai so that the roots don’t choke themselves, encourage the compact root system and supply your tree with fresh soil. It is also a great time to give your little tree a health check and make sure it is not rootbound, that the roots are not too thick that it can start displacing nutritious soil or if they are suffering from root rot. Repot into a rich free-draining soil mixture that contains granular pumice or grit and clay granules. You will also need to remove between 20 and 30 per cent of the root mass. Juniper bonsai trees grow well with a dense root ball, but it still needs to be maintained and repotted every couple of years.
Wiring Your Bonsai
Wiring is an integral part of caring for your juniper bonsai. By carefully trimming the tree and wrapping wire around the branches, you can bend them to your liking. Whilst you can wire your bonsai throughout the year, you need to pay attention to the tree, particularly in the growing season when the branches can quickly outgrow the wire, resulting in ugly scarring where the wire has cut into the bark.
Once you have pruned excess foliage, you will need to arrange your desired foliage mass. Each foliage carrying branch will need to be wired and the pad positioned so that it becomes a part of a creative and much larger mass of pads that will give you the unique layered look that will eventually resemble a cloud.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Help!! My Juniper Is Losing Leaves!
A. Juniper is an evergreen bonsai, so it shouldn’t lose its leaves because of the season. If it is shedding its leaves, it is likely that you are watering your tree too often and not offering sufficient drainage or potting it in soil that retains too much water and has led to root rot. Make sure to slightly dry out the pot before watering and use the one-minute soak method. The tree might have pests or disease; this should be visible.
You may be over or under fertilizing your bonsai, which will cause the tree to weaken and shed leaves.
Q. Why Is My Juniper Bonsai So Brittle?
A. If your tree appears brittle and dry, it’s likely that you are not watering it enough. Remember that your bonsai tree should have easily drained soil, meaning that you will have to water it more frequently than other pot plants.
Q. Which Juniper Species Is Best For Beginners?
A. With over 50 species of juniper bonsai, there is a lot to choose from. The Chinese juniper and the Japanese shimpakumare are ideal for beginners and allow for a slight margin of error whilst you master your new bonsai tree skills.
Q. How Frequently Should I Water My Juniper Bonsai?
A. How often you water your bonsai depends on so many factors, the time of year, whether your tree is lying dormant, temperature and ambient humidity. You might have to water your tree daily, or if circumstances dictate, once a week. It’s all about learning about your tree. The most important rule is that you have a properly draining pot.
Q. Can My Juniper Survive Indoors?
A. Yes! You need to make sure that your juniper bonsai has ample sunshine, the right amount of water, humidity and fertilisation. The tree cannot withstand frost or freezing temperatures, ensuring that it is protected well in the winter. The juniper bonsai can withstand drought conditions for a day or so.
Q. Does The Juniper Require Direct Sunlight?
A. Your juniper bonsai loves the sunshine but doesn’t do so well in the midday or scorching sun because it can burn its delicate leaves, causing them to turn yellow and fall.
Q. How Can I Make My Juniper Bonsai Grow Faster?
A. If you would like to encourage growth, you can repot your bonsai tree into a larger pot, giving the roots more space to grow and absorb more nutrients. It’s best to repot just before the growing season in the spring.