Podocarpus is an ancient genus of evergreen trees that are widely grown in humid, warmer areas and found throughout Australia and eastern Asia.
Common species include the Buddhist pine and Japanese yew, although they Podocarpus is not in the yew family. The trees are versatile and make ideal specimen trees.
They are also widely grown as hedges throughout eastern Asia.
Podocarpus make stunning container plants, and large concrete pots of Podocarpus frequently grace the entrance of buildings in southern Asia.
Given their beauty, it is not surprising that these plants make excellent bonsai trees enjoyed by people throughout the world.
Care Guidelines For Podocarpus Bonsai
Ideally, Podocarpus bonsai trees should be grown in a sunny spot where they are protected from intense sunlight. They do not tolerate frost, which makes them perfect for a sunny porch or conservatory. They will also tolerate semi-shade. However, long elongated needles are a sign that your tree is not getting enough light.
If you grow these bonsai trees outside, protect them from strong wind. Since Podocarpus prefers humid conditions, grow indoor bonsai trees on a humidity tray. Make sure that the level of the water is below the pot, or the plant may develop root rot.
The placement of your plant over the winter will vary depending on the amount of light it gets. Podocarpus bonsai trees in full sun should be kept around 20ºC (68ºF). However, if you can’t provide much light, keep the tree cooler, ideally 10-15ºC (50-59ºF). Try to keep your tree away from dry heat.
Podocarpus is drought tolerant, but the plants grow best with regular watering. Make sure that you provide adequate drainage. The plants should be watered daily in the summer. Keep the soil moist for the rest of the year. If the needles lose their colour, that is a sign that you are overwatering your Podocarpus bonsai tree.
Soil And Fertilizing
Apply solid organic fertilizer monthly from spring to autumn or apply a liquid fertilizer weekly during this period. Podocarpus bonsai trees often need extra iron and sulphur. Apply chelated iron once or twice a year. To keep the plants from becoming deficient in magnesium, apply Epsom salts two or three times a year. Mix one tablespoon per gallon of water.
You can tell when your Podocarpus is growing because the foliage is lighter green. Let them grow to be 10 cm (4 inches) and then cut or pinch them back to a few new leaves. This will cause the plant to grow more tightly. Remove old, yellow leaves. If you want to let light into the interior of the canopy, you can also cut older green leaves off with scissors. Make sure to leave a little stub.
You can propagate Podocarpus by taking stem cuttings in the summer. Leave just a few leaves at the tip of the stem. Dip the tip into rooting hormone. Plant your cutting in well-draining, light soil. An ideal mix to use is one part perlite and one part of peat. Make sure to keep the soil most while the cutting is rooting. The cuttings are more likely to root if the soil is warm.
You can also grow Podocarpus from the seeds found in berries, although it can take two months for them to sprout. Soak 2 cups of sphagnum moss in water and then squeeze the extra water out of it. Wrap the seeds in the moist sphagnum moss, and then put them in sealable plastic bag in your refrigerator. Leave them there until the seeds send out roots. Keep the sphagnum moss wet using a spray bottle. Carefully transplant them to 4” pots with the roots spread out. The base of the stem should be even with the soil surface. Heavily mist the seedlings after you have transplanted them. Keep the top inch of the soil saturated with water until the seedlings have become established. Grow them at temperatures around 20ºC (68ºF).
Potential Pests And Diseases
Healthy Podocarpus trees are rarely attacked by diseases and pests. However, plants that are not in optimal conditions are vulnerable to scale insects, spider mites and aphids. Inadequate light is a common reason why Podocarpus trees are attacked by insects. These pests can extensively damage the leaves, but you can control them by spraying them with insecticidal soap. You can make your own by adding 1 teaspoon of dishwashing detergent to 1 quart of lukewarm water. Spray the whole plant until the solution drips off it. Overwatered trees can develop root rot, which is typically fatal.
Since these trees grow slowly, you only need to repot them every 3-4 years. Leave most of the roots, and take care to only remove about 10-20% of the root ball. If the tree is still in loamy grey soil, remove as much as you can without damaging the roots and plant it in a general soil mix for bonsai trees. These plants prefer slightly acidic soil that has a pH of 5 to 6. The soil pH should not be higher than 7.
Wiring Your Bonsai
You can easily wire younger trees, but older ones can be brittle. These plants can be wired any time of the year. Wait until the young shoots have hardened before you wire them, and be careful not to crush any leaves. Remove the wire after 2-3 months. You can use guywires to shape strong branches.