Podocarpus Bonsai, also dubbed as Buddhist pine, Chinese yew, Fern pine, and botanically: Podocarpus macrophyllus is a Japanese and Chinese native evergreen bonsai tree. It was originally native to Japan and remained in that county for a long time. It is even the state tree of Chiba prefecture in Japan.
In southern Asia, the Podocarpus is a very common bonsai and is often seen in front of hotels, properties, and parks.
Podocarpus has a dark brown bark that gets furrowed and scaly with age. The branches possess leathery, pointed leaves which are initially light green and turn dark green as they age. They bear purple or green fleshy fruits with an aril covering each seed.
The bonsai has an average height of 50-70 centimeters and a span of 18 inches (45.72 centimeters) to two feet. They bloom during spring and early summer. The bonsai is self-pollinating, it has both male and female flowers in the same plant. The male flowers are in cones and female flowers are in cylindrical thickened scales. These visual features make the Podocarpus bonsai deliver a grandiose look with their elegance.
(Image source: Pexels)
Types of Podocarpus Bonsai
There are about 107 variants of Podocarpus bonsai. Some major varieties are:
Podocarpus macrophyllus bonsai
This is the most common variant. It is indigenous to South China and Japan. The fruits of this variant are edible. These variants can be easily grown in a coastal region.
Podocarpus falcatus bonsai
This variant is native to African countries. The bonsai’s skin is waxy to the touch.
Podocarpus maki bonsai
This is a narrow-shaped variant of Podocarpus bonsai. It grows relatively slowly.
Podocarpus latifolius bonsai
This is also known as Yellowwood and is native to South Africa.
Podocarpus nivalis bonsai
This is the only variant that is geographically restricted to a single country, New Zealand. It can handle temperatures as low as -13 °F (-10.56 °C).
Dwarf podocarpus bonsai
This is a thick shrub with dark green foliage. Due to its thick patterns, it can be easily shaped and used as a small hedge. Dwarf podocarpus grows at a very slow pace, because of its slow growth it is easy to maintain.
How Long Does It Take To Grow Podocarpus Bonsai?
The podocarpus bonsai tree is slow-growing. The time duration growth depends on multiple external factors such as:
- Temperature – Podocarpus grows well in slightly warmer environments with 68° F (20 °C) being the optimal temperature.
- Light conditions – Ample sunlight is important for the bonsai’s growth.
- Fertilizers – Fertilizers provide additional nutrients which facilitate growth.
- Variety of Podocarpus bonsai – The variety of your Podocarpus also determines its growth time.
The bonsai can to grow quickly if current surroundings similar to its natural habitat.
Low sunlight and a cooler environment, makes the tree to grow slowly. It may take as much as double its natural growth time.
If the bonsai receives a good amount of direct sunlight and lives in a slightly warmer environment, it’ll grow fast and also strong.
Applying fertilizers also ensures speedy growth.
How to Plant and Grow Podocarpus Bonsai
Before you plant your Podocarpus bonsai, we must consider these requirements:
It is recommended to pot Podocarpus bonsai in handmade un-glazed bonsai pots since they can tolerate temperatures down to 0 °C. Glazed pots should be avoided as they grab attention and overshadow the bonsai. For podocarpus with a dense and roundish crown, an oval bonsai pot should be considered.
Rectangular pots are suitable if you’re going for a more dramatic look. A drip tray is necessary if you’re keeping the bonsai indoors. Make sure that the bonsai pot is equipped with proper drainage holes and wiring. If the pot doesn’t have proper drainage arrangement, the excess water can cause the tree to rot.
The podocarpus bonsai likes slightly acidic or neutral soil with a pH value of five to six. Avoid planting on soil with pH over seven. The soil should also contain enough magnesium and iron.
Use a well-draining soil mix and if the tree is in grey soil with which it is imported, remove it carefully without damaging the roots.
As it is a tropical plant, the Podocarpus is not frost-hardy and needs a warm place all year round. Temperatures around 68° F (20 °C) are optimal for Podocarpus’s growth. This temperature is close to its natural habitat. Frost during winter and early spring will damage the bonsai.
Podocarpus can be kept indoors all year round, but it benefits from being outside during the summer in a semi-shaded place. If you’re placing it outdoors, make sure that there is no frost.
It is better to place it outdoors during spring and summer and indoors during winter. Make sure to water the plant sufficiently when it is outdoors.
Keep Away From Pets
The leaves of the podocarpus bonsai tree contain some unknown toxins that can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea to pets whenever ingested. While the pollen isn’t toxic, it can cause both pets and to sneeze frequently.
Fill the pot halfway with dry soil and transfer the bonsai into it. Cover the roots with soil and gently press on the soil with your fingers. Water the bonsai lightly using a spray bottle.
How to Care For Your Podocarpus Bonsai
After planting your Podocarpus bonsai, you need to take care of it. Here are a few tips to help you take care of your bonsai and make it grow healthy.
The main aim is to keep the soil moist but not too wet. Water the well-drained soil and keep the substrate moderately moist during the bonsai’s growing period. As a general rule of thumb, a podocarpus bonsai tree should be watered every 24 hours during the initial 60 days of its cultivation. Watering it is often necessary to make it grow faster and have enhanced roots. You can reduce the frequency of watering during monsoon as there will be a lot of moisture in the air which can tackle the needs of bonsai soil to some extent. Leaves of Podocarpus bonsai can hold water inside their tissues for a long time.
It is better to water the bonsai with a spray bottle. A spray bottle will not only allow you to water in the most appropriate amount but also prevent spills. Just point the spray nozzle to the soil and spray until the soil looks wet. Calcareous water should be avoided while watering the bonsai.
Podocarpus plants tend to grow straight up, with no side branching. It responds well to pruning and trimming which stimulates ramification. The best time to prune is when the branches are about four centimeters in length.
To prune, hold the shoot and pull it with your thumb and finger, this will take it out from its weakest point without causing any issues. If you can’t prune the shoots and branches with your bare hands, use scissors. Make sure to avoid cutting through the leaves while using scissors.
Wiring is used to shape the branches. It can be done at any time of the year. It is recommended to allow young shoots to harden a bit before wiring them. Guy Wires can be used for shaping strong branches.
Podocarpus grow well when they’re given fertilizer cakes and fish emulsion. Liquid bonsai fertilizer can be used for indoor growers.
Fertilize the bonsai with mineral fertilizer in the spring. Organic fertilizers can be used every 4-6 weeks after spring.
The Liquid bonsai fertilizers are easy to use and recommended if you’re keeping the bonsai indoors.
Also, apply a dose of chelated iron twice yearly. To prevent magnesium deficiency, use two to three applications of Epsom salts (1 tablespoon per gallon of water) a year.
Repotting is necessary for the better health of a bonsai tree. Over time, there will be a decrease in the amount of magnesium, nitrogen, iron, and any other nutrients in the soil. Podocarpus bonsais aren’t designed to be confined to a small pot. It is important to replant them on fresh soil every couple of years.
Repot young Podocarpus every 2-3 years and older ones every 4-5 years in spring. If the roots are very dense, prune them by 10-15%.
Podocarpus bonsai can propagate using both cutting and seed.. The best method is to place the cuttings in water until roots form, and then transplant them into a quality bonsai soil with good drainage.
Propagation through seeds requires more attention and is more time-consuming.
Pests And Diseases
Podocarpus bonsai is rarely attacked by pests and diseases. Scale or spider mites can occur. Spraying the plant with a solution of 1 teaspoon dish soap to 1-quart lukewarm water solves the problem.
Leaves are the first indicators of problems with the plant. Brown leaves can be caused by multiple reasons. The common reasons for browning or yellowing of leaves are:
- Underwatering – Underwatering can cause leaves to dry.
- Overwatering – Overwatering can cause the plant to rot. Leaves turn brown as they rot
- Lack of nutrients – If the bonsai doesn’t get enough nutrients, the leaves start to turn brown.
- Too much sunlight – Excess sunlight can cause the leaves to dry.