Pinus Ponderosa pine tree is a very large pine tree that can grow up to 60-125 ft. Its straight trunk is covered by a small crown. These evergreen pines are found in abundance in the mountainous terrains of North American regions. When cultivated, these perennial trees can grow up to 60 feet. They do not need much care when grown outdoors but require good care when grown for bonsai. You will find more information about its growing and care in this Pinus Ponderosa bonsai tree care guide.

How Long Does It Take to Grow Pinus Ponderosa Pine Bonsai Tree?

It can take 2-3 years to grow this tree as a bonsai. The time it takes will depend on the growing medium and conditions. The first bonsai container should be large enough to hold the strange shape of roots, but it does not have to be too large or deep. Initial years of sufficient watering will result in long needles but this extra growth can be restricted in later years by supplying less water. The roots require some cooling during the summer months. You will need to supply a little more water during this time to compensate higher evaporation of water due to hot environment.

Pine trees are very responsive to the bonsai form. You will want to develop thick branches and long needles in your bonsai. It is challenging but not a difficult task. The goal of most bonsai project is to develop a miniature of a massive tree. Different species of trees give different results. Pinus Ponderosa is perfect for growing as a bonsai. You have to use right growing and styling techniques to get smaller needles and thick and bigger branches. You can style its branches in various ways. Make sure you give it the right balance so it grows to become a highly prized bonsai. Most people want to reduce the needles. They try to do so by limiting the water and nutrients. However, you can ensure shorter needles by ensuring robust health of the tree.

Select the Right Soil

Ponderosa pine tree is capable of growing in both acidic and alkaline soils. The pH can range from 4.9-9.1. It can grow on a variety of soil types and textures. The amount of water this tree will consume will depend on the condition of the soil. Its roots must get suitable medium to grow well. You will need medium to coarse textured soils to grow Ponderosa pine tree as a bonsai. The fine clay soils will not work for it. Roots cannot grow deeper than 3 feet in clay soils. A well-drained soil allows roots to grow up to 6 feet and deeper. Clay soil can give it waterlogging problems because there will be poor drainage.


Bonsai trees of this species require several hours of daily sunlight. The tree needles will be more compact and shorter when they receive more light. If you start seeing elongated needles on your pine bonsai, it indicates the tree is in need of more sunlight. Place it at a location where it will receive bright sunlight throughout the day. Several years of shade can worsen the tree health. However, shading for some time will benefit when the tree undergoes some stress after wiring, pruning of needles, repotting and shipping, among other events. Misting and some shade for 1-2 weeks will help the tree during these stressful conditions.


This pine tree grows better in a dry environment. The roots must be getting sufficient water. Use free draining coarse soil mixture in your bonsai container. It will prevent waterlogging. If the soil appears dry, your bonsai container is in need of some watering. However, if the top of the soil appears wet, avoid watering, or the container will get more than necessary water. You can water the container in the evening or spray some water in the morning. You do not have to worry if you miss one or two watering schedule. The tree is hardy and can take this much stress easily. Frequent watering is needed if the container is small. A larger pot is capable of retaining more water so you will need less frequent watering if the pine bonsai is growing in a large pot.

Regular deep watering will be needed during the seedling stage of Ponderosa pine tree. This time lasts about three years of the pine tree’s life. The young plants have to develop deep roots during this time so they can anchor well. In the case of a bonsai, the roots will spread wider in the soil and will be closer to the surface. Take into account natural precipitation during the months when the environment has more moisture in the air. A rule of thumb is to let the top layer of the soil dry out before you water this bonsai again.


Use a mild fertilizer and avoid overusing it. Here you will be taking care of a small plant like tree. Use a slow releasing fertilizer. Lots of budding can be seen when fertilizer is applied during the end of summer and fall. Applying fertilizer during the spring time can cause excessive growth of needles. Use organic fertilizer if available. It will give you better results. Excessive use of nitrogen fertilizer can lead to tree death because it tries to remove the weak growth faster than the bonsai can handle. April to June is the right time for fertilizer feeding. This is the time when conifers grow actively.

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How to Plant and Grow Pinus Ponderosa Pine Bonsai?

The easiest option is to buy an already grown Pinus Ponderosa bonsai from an online bonsai store. However, it will cost you a lot. The older the bonsai, the more it will cost. A more affordable option is to buy a pre-bonsai stock from a bonsai or nursery store. The cheapest but slowest approach is to grow it from a seed or cutting. Buy a bonsai starter kit that includes most of the items needed to grow a bonsai. If you start with a seed or cutting, it will take the tree 3-5 years to reach the level where it can be styled in the bonsai form. Once the tree is cultivated, you can start styling and shaping it.


The young branches of the Pinus Ponderosa are highly flexible and can be shaped easily by wiring. You can carry out wiring at any time of the year. There is no issue of scarring the tree because it grows slowly. In fact, the wire will not damage the tree even when left for several years. Bend a branch carefully and do not apply more than necessary force or you will break it. You can do this over several days to make a bend.

Make sure any bending will not disrupt the water flow from the roots. Use a strong wire that can hold the branch in its place and will not break. You will get help if you soak the bark before wiring. Leave a wet towel overnight around the branch you want to bend. Break away the deadwood branches carefully so you do not damage the ones you want to retain.


Repotting Pinus Ponderosa is not that difficult because it can grow in minimum amount of soil. You can carry out repotting 2-5 years. The roots of these trees are quite hardy and can withstand low temperatures of winter. It means you do not have to provide any extra protection which is needed for other bonsai trees. Do not forget watering Pinus Ponderosa bonsai tree during the winter to prevent its drying.

How to Care for Your Pinus Ponderosa Bonsai Tree?

To reduce needle growth, strive to build a compact design. Spring and fall are the right seasons to carry out this project. The goal is to bring all branches to medium-size. The candles should be allowed to elongate to 1 inch or longer during the springtime. Break and remove them once they reach that length. The candles will reappear in a month and they should be left to mature. This time you will have shorter and smaller needles. New buds in the underside areas of branches will appear. Selective candle removal is recommended on all stronger and larger branches. The perfect time to do this is in the middle of May. Reduce the needles and leave them only on 4-5 bunches of a branch. Do not thin out or remove candles from weak branches to ensure their healthy growth.

Once the needles are mature, they can be removed selectively to ensure dense budding in the interior of the branches. Needles 1-2 years old can be cut to half or one third size. It will allow the branches to receive more sunshine and lead to growth of new buds. Those needles will brown and fall in 2-3 weeks. You can remove candles in the next year during May. Candles can be removed from middle and large sized branches. Avoid bleeding of the tree when breaking branches. The tree releases a sticky sap at the broken joint. Leave a stub when pruning the branch. The leftover stub will fall out or become deadwood as the tree heals slowly. Carry out pruning only once a year because Pinus Ponderosa does not grow vigorously. It has a short growing season compared to other pines.

  • Use right type of soil
  • Apply pesticide when signs of fungal disease, mites or root rot appear
  • Ensure timely supply of water
  • The bonsai must receive adequate sunlight
  • Use organic fertilizer where possible

Pinus Ponderosa is an ideal tree for making a bonsai. Follow appropriate horticultural practices to ensure its needles remain 1-2 inches long. Both seedlings and the trunk specimen collected from wild give good results. Bonsai grown from the trunk specimen may have weak roots. Ensure good air circulation, low humidity and full sunlight to get a healthy Pinus Ponderosa Bonsai. This pine tree is easy to style and train because of its flexible growing habits and branches. It adjusts easily to a small container culture.