What is Pine Bonsai & Care GuideLearn all about Pine Bonsai Trees and how to take care of them.
|Scientific/Botanical Name||Pinus sp.|
|Description||The genus Pinus is extensive, having about 120 species. While the majority of the species are amenable to the art of bonsai, some are more popular than others. The species that are used above all others are: Pinus thunbergii|
This species is otherwise referred to as Japanese Black Pine. In Japan, Pinus thunbergii and bonsai artistry are inextricably-linked. By virtue of its lofty pedigree, many self-respecting bonsai enthusiasts feel honor-bound to undertake the growing of this revered bonsai tree. It is nevertheless a challenging tree to grow, due in part to its long needles and slow growth.
Pinus mugo also goes by the name of Mountain Pine. Its hardy nature has earned the tree a special appeal among bonsai enthusiasts. Pinus mugo takes inclement weather and temperature extremes in its stride without a change in its gorgeous color or the drop of a needle. It also produces exquisite purple blooms.
Also called Scots Pine, Pinus sylvestris is well-mannered and easy-to-please. Where other trees may sulk, rebel or otherwise cause their growers undue grief, Scots Pine obligingly assumes any shape asked of it by the grower, and all while keeping its lovely canopy.
Pinus parviflora, or Japanese White Pine, is sought out for its unusual and utterly unique white needles.
|Position||Pines need plentiful sunlight during the spring, summer and fall seasons. When deprived of sufficient light, the tree will develop elongated needles and experience die-back of the branches that are exposed to shade. The tree is hardy in winter, but freezing winds can be a threat while their roots remain frozen.|
|Watering||Water pines to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Under no circumstances should the plant be allowed to become completely dry. A regular schedule of misting benefits the plant greatly.|
|Feeding||Two or three times each year, replace the usual fertilizer with Miracid.|
|Leaf and Branch Pruning||The pruning of pine bonsai trees is a slow and patient undertaking. Bonsai enthusiasts must resist the urge to remove too much foliage or growth. Any heavy pruning of the branch or trunk should be carried out in the fall to minimize sap loss. All wounds can be sealed with petroleum jelly.|
|Re-potting & Growing Medium||The extent of the trees root development will dictate when it should be re-potted. On average, re-potting becomes necessary after two to five years. Re-potting should be carried out in mid-spring just as new growth begins. Mugo pine, however, responds more favorably to being re-potted in the summer months. Pine should be re-potted in soil that is highly free-draining. The roots should not be washed, and some of the old soil should be incorporated into the new soil because it will contain Micorrhiza. Micorrhiza are fungi that help to maintain the health of the plant.|
|Wiring||The tree responds to wiring, but it must be approached in the same way as pruning: Just a little at a time.|
|Notes||Pine bonsai trees, while beautiful, are not for the uninitiated. The trees are highly challenging, and beginner bonsai enthusiasts should gain experience with other species of trees before attempting to train pine trees.|
Pine is one of the most popular species of bonsai tree. Bonsai growers love this genus because it is evergreen and creates the classic Japanese Bonsai aesthetic. But while popular, pine Bonsai trees are not for beginner growers.
Popular Pine Species
Pine is a sizable genus that has roughly 120 species. Most of them can be grown as bonsai trees. However, certain species have gained popularity for one reason or another.
Also known as the Japanese Black Pine, Pinus thunbergii is widely regarded as the quintessential bonsai species, the species you are most likely to see classically cultivated in Japan itself. Bonsai enthusiasts often grow at least one of these beauties as an homage to the origins of this ancient art. This species is prized for the thick, pitted bark it develops with age. However, it is slow growing, has long needles and is notoriously difficult to work with.
Also known as the Mountain Pine, Pinus mugo is prized as a bonsai tree because it is one of the hardiest species available. It will weather freezing temperatures and scorching summers with little effect to the plant at all. When well cared for, Pinus mugo produces dense, bushy growth that can be pruned out and shaped in different styles. And this hardy species is beautifully colored. Young wood starts its life with a purplish hue. And when in bloom it produces beautifully delicate purple flowers.
Also known as the Scots Pine, Pinus Sylvestris is a great pine bonsai species because it naturally takes on the shape that bonsai cultivators must work hard to create in other trees. As Pinus sylvestris ages, it drops it’s lower branches. This gives the tree a beautiful canopied shape with little effort on the cultivator’s part.
Also known as the Japanese White Pine, Pinus parviflora is prized for its white needles which are fairly unique among pine species.
There are a number of individual pine species. But these varied members of the genus require relatively the same care across the board.
A pine bonsai is happiest where it will receive full, direct sunlight. A pine that’s not getting enough sun will grow long, spindly needles, drop branches and thin out. To keep your pine thick and healthy, look for the sunniest spot on a sill, shelf or patio, set the bonsai securely in place and let it live out the warm months.
Watering a pine bonsai is an art. To gauge your pine bonsai’s water needs, feel the soil once or twice daily. When the soil is barely moist, on the verge of drying out completely, give your bonsai a long drink. Do not water when your bonsai does not need it. Pine trees do not like wet feet and they may develop root rot. They also dislike dry soil. Your bonsai may take some time to recover from bone dry soil from a skipped watering.
Bonsai pine trees must be fed minimally. Most pine species are prone to growing long pine needles. This looks beautiful on full-size pine trees but makes pruning bonsai pine trees difficult. By limiting your pine tree’s food supply you can limit the size of its needles.
Start your bonsai tree off with a 0-10-10 fertilizer. Apply one feeding in early spring as soon as the season’s growth starts. Apply a second feeding at the end of spring. Then fertilize the pine bonsai with a 12-10-10 fertilizer once every two weeks until the start of fall. Stop fertilizing the bonsai altogether in winter, then start up again in early spring. Follow the fertilizer’s instructions for application methods and amounts. Follow with a long drink of water after each fertilizer application.
Pine is a cold hardy genus. But when grown in pots with limited soil, as bonsais are, their roots have little of the insulation that larger trees enjoy in the wild. When snow settles around and freezes your bonsai pine’s roots, its branches are susceptible to damage from freezing winds. Move the bonsai tree to a wind shelter or loosely cover its branches with landscape fabric during windy periods.
Bonsai pines are notoriously difficult to prune. Pruning a pine bonsai is no different than pruning any other bonsai species. But every change to a pine’s environment, foliage or pot must be accomplished slowly. Consequently, there are lots of “dont’s” that cultivators must follow to prevent harming or stunting the tree.
Hard prunes like trunk and large branch prunes must only be taken on in the fall when the bonsai stops its growth for the year. Only when it just begins to enter its dormancy can a pine bonsai tolerate a hard prune.
Never leave a large pruning cut exposed. Bonsai pine trees bleed sap profusely after they are cut. To stop the bleeding, coat pruning cuts made on the trunk or main branch with a layer of petroleum jelly. This will help the pine tree heal and protect it from disease or decay while it recovers during the dormant period.
Leave stumps left behind by pruning to dry for one full year before pruning them completely off and flush with their point of origin.
Never prune more than half of a pine’s top growth in one year. Pruning a bonsai pine takes time and is best accomplished in small stages. Your pine may not bounce back from severe trunk cuts.
Pine trees over 30 years old can only handle “one insult” per year. That means if you transplant one year, you must wait until the next year for hard pruning, wiring or any other invasive work. Two of these “insults” per year weaken the tree and may stunt or damage it. Younger pines can handle more than one insult per year but they don’t like it.
Bonsai pine trees are tough to handle. Pruning and shaping must be handled slowly as the tree grows and matures. But mature bonsai require much less fuss. With patience and expertise, pine bonsai grow into beautiful stately trees that are worth the extra care and attention.