When it comes to the Juniperus Bonsai, or simply the Juniper Bonsai, there is no one specific type.
As the Juniperus genus has quite a few variants, it is no surprise several varieties are used for the art of bonsai. That being said, there is no one set botanical name for these miniature trees.
Although there are many Juniper variants, there are only two foliage variations. The two types of foliage available are needle-like and scale-like.
Junipers with scale-like foliage can be seen with new growth or juvenile foliage in the needle-like form. As the plant grows, this foliage will mature to its scale-like form.
As the Juniper Bonsai is a broad term and does not refer to just one variant, in particular, there is no exact origin. Some variants, such and the Chinese Juniper, originate from the mountains of Japan.
Others, like The Savin Juniper, can be found in regions such as North Africa, the southern parts of Europe, and even a few parts of Asia.
Similarly, depending on the Juniperus variant you choose to use for your bonsai will determine its appearance.
However, the care guidelines, regardless of the variant, will be fairly similar. One of the reasons Juniper trees are popularly used for bonsai is because of their ease of care.
Having an idea in mind of how you would like your bonsai to look will aid in the decision on which Juniper variant to go with. Some variants of the Juniperus species are ground-covering shrubs. These variants would make for beautiful cascading bonsais.
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Juniperus Bonsai Care
Being smaller in size does not alter the Juniperus genus’ preferences. Juniper Bonsai need well-draining soil and should only be watered once the top layer has dried slightly. These little trees are not houseplants, they need to be grown outdoors in full sun.
You should feed your bonsai every other week during its growing season. Fertilize monthly as autumn approaches and then stop altogether in the winter.
Juniperus Bonsais should be kept in soil that is well-draining. Junipers enjoy a bit of moisture in their soil but do not like for their roots to be constantly wet. A soil mix that is specific to bonsai trees is great. These mixes are well-draining while still allowing sufficient water and air to get to the Junipers’ roots.
You will know the drainage of your soil is not good enough is when you water your Juniper Bonsai and water pools at the surface of the soil. It is best that you change your plant’s soil for one with a higher percentage of arrogates. This will ensure the water flows more quickly.
These trees, regardless of their size, prefer only to be watered once their soil has dried slightly. As bonsais are typically planted in shallower pots, the soil is likely to dry out quicker than you may usually expect. Therefore, your Juniper Bonsai will require watering on a more regular basis.
It is essential that you do not overwater your Juniper. Problems will begin to arise if your Juniper Bonsai is left in waterlogged soil.
It is always best to check your bonsai’s soil before you water it. Allowing the soil to dry out slightly and then giving your bonsai a deep watering is ideal.
It should also be noted that you should avoid letting your Juniper’s soil dry out completely.
At this point, watering may seem like a treacherous area of care, but it just takes a little bit of getting used to.
The best way to go about it is to get into a routine. Check your Juniper Bonsai’s soil daily for moisture. When you feel the top layer of soil has dried, it is time to give your bonsai some water.
With bonsais, the best way to water them is to completely submerge them in water for about a minute. Then remove it and allow some time for the excess water to drain out. This method ensures that the soil gets evenly moist.
As a guideline, you should expect to water your Juniperus Bonsai every other day.
A common mistake made with growers that are new to the art of bonsai is thinking that fertilizing a Juniper Bonsai is not necessary. This is incorrect as the way to grow a bonsai is not by stunting its growth. Juniper Bonsais need to be fed just like any other plant.
Due to bonsais being in shallow pots with such small amounts of soil, the nutrients in the soil need to be replenished periodically.
Fertilizing your Juniper is necessary to promote healthy growth. The best time to fertilizer your Juniperus Bonsai is during its season of growth.
A fortnightly feeding with a fertilizer that has been diluted to half the recommended strength is ideal. This should begin once your miniature Juniper starts showing new growth.
Reduce the frequency of fertilizing to once a month when autumn arrives and your tree’s growth begins to slow. And finally, stop feeding altogether as soon as the winter months begin. This is when your Juniperus Bonsai will enter a phase of dormancy.
Juniper Bonsais are not suited as indoor plants. They would much rather be grown outdoors all year round. The Juniperus genus is incredibly hardy but not tolerant to indoor environments. They are capable of withstanding temperatures as low as -12°C (10°F) and are frost-tolerant.
In cases where winter temperatures drop below -12°C (10°F), you should ensure your Juniper Bonsai is protected from the wind and frost. Doing so will aid your bonsai in overwintering outdoors.
Light & Location
These tiny trees need a lot of sunlight, this is why they are better situated outside in a bright spot. Juniper Bonsais are not houseplants. Exposure to full direct sun for most of the day is what this bonsai likes best. But, these plants are meant to be enjoyed so be sure to keep your Juniper at eye-level at about 0.9m (3 ft) off the ground.
On special occasions, you could even bring your bonsai inside and place it in a prominent place to be displayed. Your Juniper Bonsai will love the attention and will not mind being indoors for a day or two. Just remember to put it back outside again!
To maintain healthy foliage on your Juniperus Bonsai, frequent pruning is necessary. This is part art, part science. The good news is that it is a lot easier than most people think.
Aggressive pruning can be tolerated by Junipers. However, it is best to keep in mind that once cut bare, a Juniper’s branch will not be able to bud again. Always take care to leave some foliage on your tree’s branches. This will ensure that growth will be ongoing.
The ideal time you should prune your Juniper Bonsai is during its season of growth. Your miniature Juniper will experience its growing season during the spring to summer months.
As these trees are kept confined in shallow pots, you will need to prune their roots every other spring.
To do this, simply take your bonsai out of its pot gently. Remove excess soil around the bonsai’s root ball and cut off one-third of the roots. Cut the roots all the way around, from the bottom up.
Once this pruning is done, replant your Juniperus Bonsai in its pot with fresh soil. Remember to use soil that is porous and well-draining. Water your bonsai once it has been repotted.
Aside from pruning your bonsai for its leaf and branch health, it is also needed to keep your miniature tree in tip-top shape. As this is a growing art form, regular maintenance is required to keep it looking its best. The following terms relate to the pruning and maintenance of your bonsai.
Pinching is the preferred method of pruning your Juniperus Bonsai. This process involves pinching the buds you are wanting to remove in between your forefinger and thumb. Then twist it a little bit until the bud pops off.
The pinching method for pruning is preferred over cutting back what needs to be pruned. Cutting back can result in the needles surrounding the cut dying off.
Not only can pinching be done at the top of your bonsai tree, but it can also be done right up against the Juniper’s trunk and branches. Pinching new growth at the top of your Juniper Bonsai is done to maintain your preferred shape.
The process of trimming should be coupled with the pinching of your tiny tree. Never trim your bonsai like a hedge. This may result in your removing all of the branch’s growing tips. In turn, the cut will result in the tree’s needles turning brown. Trimming your bonsai incorrectly may even weaken your tree.
Pinching your Juniperus Bonsai should be done first. Followed by light trimming if and where it is needed.
Shaping your Juniper is a large part of the bonsai art form. The ideal is to keep your miniature tree looking natural. This is done through careful pruning and maintenance to keep the bonsai in proportion.
When your Juniper is growing vigorously and sprouting a lot of new growth, pruning is done to maintain your desired shape.
This may sound like a simple task, but there is more to it than just “poodle-cutting” the tiny tree.
There are methods used by seasoned bonsai growers to perfect their desired tree shape. These methods include training the Juniper Bonsai tree with a process called wiring.
Training and wiring
Wiring is done when a Juniper tree is young in order to train it to stay in the desired shape. It is the practice of wrapping the tree’s branches with wire so that they may be repositioned into the grower’s desired shape. The wiring needs to be done carefully and slowly so that no harm is caused to the Juniper’s branches.
The best time to wire a Juniper Bonsai is during its dormant period in the winter. Once you are satisfied that your bonsai’s branches have set in their shape, simply remove the wire. Wire cutters should be used with care so no damage comes to your little tree.
This process of training is best left to the professionals. Otherwise, a thorough understanding is required. Most bonsais that are purchased are already established and have been trained. All that is then needing to be done is pruning and maintenance.
Juniperus Bonsais need to be repotted every once in a while. Repotting does not only refer to the changing of the plant’s pot, there is more to it. Other reasons for repotting may be to manage the tree’s roots through pruning or allowing refreshing of your Juniper’s soil. After a time, soils lose their nutrients and it is likely that due to fertilizing there is a build-up of excess materials such as salt.
You may not want to change your tree’s pot at all! However, unpotting your bonsai every two or so years is necessary to change out the old soil. You should also take this time to check that your Juniperus Bonsai roots do not need a trim.
Heavy root trimming is not recommended though. Just a small clean-up will do as you do not want to shock your tree. Older trees can go longer between repotting periods. Usually, these older bonsais will only need to be repotted every four to five years.
Pests and diseases
Juniper Bonsais that are maintained and kept healthy are rather resistant to diseases as well as pests. But, this does not mean you should turn a blind eye. Always check your bonsai signs of things such as spider mites, Juniper webworms, Juniper aphids, and even fungal rust diseases.
Spraying your Juniper monthly with a household plant insecticide will do well. This will aid in reducing the risk of mite infestations. Fungus can occur if your miniature tree has been kept in a darker or cooler spot. Although this can be avoided with proper care, if your bonsai does experience fungus issues, simply spray it with a mild fungicide.
Frequently asked questions about the Juniperus Bonsai
What is bonsai and why are Juniper trees used?
Growing ornamental miniature trees in containers is the Japanese art form known as bonsai. These trees may even be artificially dwarfed. Juniper trees are popularly used for bonsai due to their variable form and beautiful foliage.
No matter what kind of Juniper you have for your bonsai, with the proper care and maintenance you are guaranteed to have a magnificent piece of growing art. Junipers are easy to care for once you have established a routine and the reward of an amazing miniature tree is truly worth it!
Daniel has been a plant enthusiast for over 20 years. He owns hundreds of houseplants and prepares for the chili growing seasons yearly with great anticipation. His favorite plants are plant species in the Araceae family, such as Monstera, Philodendron, and Anthurium. He also loves gardening and is growing hot peppers, tomatoes, and many more vegetables.