Needle Juniper Bonsai Tree

The Needle Juniper Bonsai tree is a beautiful and rewarding bonsai for both beginner bonsai growers and long-standing enthusiasts. Because it is so easy to shape and care for, Juniperus is one of the most popular types of bonsai to grow. The most trouble you’ll have is choosing your favorite from the many species available.

Scientific/Botanical NameJuniperus squamata
DescriptionThe juniper tree is commonly known as Himalayan juniper. It is a fast-growing tree, and different varieties are available in a range of needle and trunk shades. The needles become brown in color when they die, and they tend to linger on the tree for an extended period.
PositionThe trees are grown outdoors in sunny locations that receive a minimum of six hours sunlight each day.
WateringGive the plant a deep drink then allow the soil to become dry between watering. Excessive water will cause root rot. When watering is carried out, it should be applied around the roots, and not on top. The foliage and branches of the needle juniper bonsai tree must be misted on a weekly basis to remove pollen, dust and other types of debris from the plant’s pores. This is necessary for the health of the plant, allowing it to breathe effectively.
FeedingDuring its growing phase, the tree must be watered every two weeks. The plant should be fed with fertilizer that is high in nitrogen from springtime until mid-summer. From mid-summer to mid-winter, the tree should then be fed with a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen. Do not fertilize the tree in wintertime. A supplemental high-acid fertilizer should be applied at two-monthly intervals during the growing phase. It is necessary to water-in each application of fertilizer, ensuring delivery of nutrients to all of the plant’s roots.
Leaf and Branch PruningThe juniper tree may be pruned at any point in the growing season. This is accomplished by pinching-out of the tender, new foliage, and trimming of the older branches and foliage. At least once a year the heavy mass of needles should be thinned out.
Re-potting & Growing MediumNeedle juniper plants are not fond of re-potting, but it is usually necessary after a period of three to five years. Re-potting is best undertaken in mid-spring or late-summer. The roots should not be totally exposed when a tree is re-potted, and about two-thirds of the old soil should be placed in the new container. The leaves should be misted regularly after re-potting because the plant will receive its greatest water intake via the needles, and the loss of water through transpiration will be minimized.
WiringJuniper bonsai trees have pliable branches that are particularly responsive to wiring. Depending on the thickness of the branch and the rate of growth, wired shapes can be set within three months to a year. Furthermore, wiring can be undertaken year-round. Wiring must be monitored in the summer months, however, because rapid thickening of the branches could cause wires to leave deep marks that may persist. Shallower wire marks are only temporary, and are no cause for concern.
NotesEven though junipers are cold-hardy, they will need to be overwintered indoors if freezing temperatures are long-lasting: They should be moved to an unheated garage or similar building, and light and water should be withheld until they are returned to their outdoor locations in the spring.

Species Of Needle Juniper

Juniper trees have two types of foliage: needle and scale. The needle-type foliage of a Juniper is the juvenile form of the mature scales. Certain species of Juniperus retain most of their juvenile leaves throughout their lifetime. Others develop mature leaves. Some hybrid varieties feature a combination of both mature scales and juvenile needles.

If you want to grow a needle Juniper bonsai tree, you have to choose your species carefully. Here are some of the best needle Juniper bonsai tree species that are readily available in a number of locations:

Juniperus rigida

This is a popular species of needle Juniper bonsai tree that produces bright green needles and dense foliage. It is one of the most common and popular needle juniper bonsais because it requires minimal care to create a dense, attractive shape.

Juniperus chinensis, the “San Jose” Juniper

The San Jose is ideal for bonsai growers looking for something a little different. It produces striking blue-green needles on dusky red bark.

Juniperus commonus

This is another beautiful species of needle Juniper bonsai. It’s dense needle type foliage grows on pale, almost white bark when it is mature. But this is not a bonsai species for the novice. Juniperus commonus has a nasty habit of suddenly dying when it is two to three years old without careful and attentive management.

Juniperus squamata, also known as the Himalayan Juniper

Enthusiasts love this species because it is one of the fastest-growing in Juniperus. And Himalayan Juniper is also available in a variety of trunk and needle shades. However, some cultivators do not like this species because it retains its dead needles long after they turn brown. This does not harm the tree but many find this quirk aesthetically displeasing.

Outdoor Cultivation

Needle Juniper bonsai trees are outdoor plants. This bonsai prefers a sunny spot where it will receive full sun: at least six hours per day. Never attempt to cultivate them indoors. They may look like they are thriving, but looks can be deceiving. The high levels of humidity and heat indoors will quickly kill a Juniper bonsai. However, its foliage will remain green for weeks or months after it dies.

General Care

The needle Juniper bonsai tree grows best in poor soil. Look for inorganic, clay-based potting soil labeled for use on Juniper bonsai trees. If you cannot find soil labeled as such, ask the clerk for a structured, dense clay soil. Do not purchase low-fired clay-based soil like Adadama.

This friable soil loses its structure after a few years and crumbles from the bonsai’s roots when you’re repotting. Never plant a needle Juniper bonsai tree in garden soil. Pack the soil tightly around the Juniper bonsai’s roots. It likes cramped quarters.

Junipers don’t like a lot of water. Overwatering will cause the Juniper to develop root rot. Only water when the top third of the soil is quite dry. Then water deeply around but not on top of the roots.

Once weekly, mist the needle Juniper bonsai’s branches and foliage. This will clear away any dust, pollen or debris that settles on the plants. If you do not regularly clear the Juniper’s pores in this fashion, the bonsai will not be able to breathe properly.

Juniper bonsai trees must be fertilized twice monthly during the growing season. From spring until the middle of summer, fertilize your Juniper with a high-nitrogen plant fertilizer. In the middle of summer, switch to a low-nitrogen fertilizer. Continue to use the low-nitrogen fertilizer until winter.

Once every two months, replace the usual high- or low-nitrogen fertilizer dose with a high-acid fertilizer. Do not fertilize in winter. Resume in spring. Always follow the fertilizer’s instructions for application methods and amounts based on your bonsai’s size.

Water the bonsai thoroughly after each fertilizer application. The water will carry the fertilizer down to the bonsai’s deepest roots.


Junipers respond well to wiring and even thick branches are supple enough to be shaped easily. Generally, juniper branches take three months to one year to hold their wired shape. The thicker the branch, the longer it will take to set. Actively growing branches set more quickly than dormant or slow-growing ones.

Juniper branches may be wired at any time of year including winter. But do not attempt to wire sharp bends in the trunk or branches when the weather drops below freezing. In summer, Juniper branches thicken rapidly. Watch for deep wire marks. They may become permanent. Shallow wire marks will disappear in a matter of months.

Winter Care

Junipers are cold hardy plants. They only need protection from low winter temperatures when the weather dips below -10 degrees Celsius. Otherwise there is no need to overwinter them indoors.

However, if temperatures in your area dip below -10 degrees Celsius for prolonged periods in the winter, you must overwinter your bonsai indoors. Place it in a dark, unheated outdoor building. Provide it with no light or water throughout the winter to encourage it to enter a dormant state. Recommence regular watering and care as soon as temperatures begin to warm again in spring.


Needle Juniper bonsai trees respond well to pruning. Pinch soft, young foliage and trim older growth at any time during the growing season. Thin dense needle masses once or twice annually to make sure that light reaches the lower branches.


Needle Juniper bonsai trees generally need repotting once every three to five years. Needle Junipers do not generally enjoy repotting so you must take care. Never completely expose your needle Juniper’s roots. Always retain two-thirds of the original soil when moving your Juniper bonsai to a new pot.

The best time to repot a needle Juniper bonsai tree is during warm, humid weather. Ideally, re-pot your Juniper in mid-spring. If you miss that mark, pick one of the cooler days in late summer, around August.

After you re-pot, mist your Juniper’s leaves regularly. While the Juniper’s roots are re-establishing themselves, the tree will absorb much of its water through its needles. The constant moisture also prevents excessive water loss during transpiration.