Beginner bonsai artists should all grow a Juniper in their early days of practice. They must be one of the most popular choices for bonsai around the world and can be purchased easily in supermarkets and garden centers without needing a specialist supplier.
All about Juniper bonsai
Juniper trees can be found right across the globe, through Asian and Europe, into the Mediterranean and in America as well. As an evergreen, Juniper trees are green all year around, giving you time to structure and sculpt them. This also means that plants like the Juniper tend to be slower growing than deciduous trees, which often have a growth spurt after a period of dormancy in winter.
Types of Juniper Trees
Many different Juniper cultivars are available and all are suitable for bonsai. Some of these are dwarf varieties which make for a great choice, though you really can’t go wrong with any of the forms you can find in nurseries or online. Nowadays grafting occurs between plants to get the most commonly desired features such as a wide truck and a better density in shrubbery. Look out for:
● Californica (California Juniper)
● Communis (common Juniper)
● Chinensis (Chinese Juniper or Shimpaku)
● Conferta (shore Juniper)
● Rigarda (needle Juniper, temple Juniper or Tosho)
● Squamata (flaky Juniper)
Appearance of Juniper Trees
Junipers have prickly needles that come in two main shapes, and in deep and dark greens, through lighter greens to gold. In most forms, each Juniper plant will provide berries; however, only the female plants will produce these berries. The berries become a shiny black. Juniper plants have an impressive and often two-toned bark which can range from brown to red and grey. An interesting effect can be achieved with types such as the California Juniper, which often has multiple, thick branches. If one of these main branches dies, it can be left on the plant to become part of the bonsai design. The deadwood will remain hard and durable as long as it doesn’t rot and there are products available that when applied, can act like a sealant to prevent water from entering.
Juniper trees as bonsai
When used as a bonsai, Junipers will produce cones comparable in size to those grown in the wild, and it is a good idea to not keep too many cones on the tree. This is because it will cause the plant to get stressed. Junipers can be grown in a sculptural style or can be nicely done in a group. If you want to begin a bonsai with an infant plant, these can be raised from Juniper cuttings, but they can also be grown from seed.
Juniper bonsai likes and dislikes
With regard to preferred temperatures, it does depend on which variety you have acquired. Most prefer a spot in the full sun. They prefer slightly alkaline soil, so use equal parts loam and compost or organic matter to make half of your mixture, and use sand for the other half.
Watering Juniper bonsai
Where possible, water daily from early spring through late summer, and increase this to twice a day in cases of heat waves. The leaves’ surface area is small, so they lose less moisture than plants with larger leaves. They should be able to survive for a couple of days if you forget to water them, but give them a good soaking to catch up when you do remember. Avoid over-watering during winter as the Juniper can’t tolerate a soggy base. A slightly moist but never dry soil is ideal.
Repotting a Juniper bonsai
Repot Juniper bonsai on a cycle as required when the roots are extended fully to the pot’s edges. Repotting should only be done in the spring time. Remove the plant from its pot and give the roots a clean and trim- but remove only a third of the entire roots system.
If you notice a yellow or brown tint on the leaves, it is likely to be a result of frost burn. Some bonsai gardeners keep the Juniper in a shade house, greenhouse or under netting during winter to avoid this discoloration. This discoloration does not actually damage the plant and will usually disappear once the warmer weather arrives.
Bugs, pests and problems
Juniper trees are very prone to aphid infestation, and also red spider mites and scale insects. If you have caught an infestation in the early days, you will likely be able to remove them with a strong spray of water. But if the problem has become serious, it is worth using an insecticide to ensure the situation is taken care of and completely eradicated.
Juniper bonsai timeline
● Spring- feed with a high nitrogen fertilizer and prune towards the end of the season
● Summer- use a general fertilizer every 4-6 weeks
● Autumn- maintain the shape by using a pinching technique not he shoots you wish to remove
● Winter – provide humidity through evaporation if possible
Tips to help your Juniper bonsai
Junipers are fairly easy to train and can handle wire. Often growers use a cascading style, but some varieties suit upright just as well. Wire can be applied at any time of the year but should not be left on for more than a calendar year. The mindful not to trap any leaves under the wire, and make sure your wire placement will give equal amounts of sun across the plant. This is because any parts that have been denied adequate sunshine will get discolored and more likely to die back.
Advice for growing a Juniper bonsai
To keep a pleasant shape and from, it is best to prune during spring, making a good clean cut into a woody growth section. Remove vigorous extensions which might have an impact on bonsai form. Where you aren’t sure, look for junctions with two strong viable secondary shoots and remove one. Shoots will continue to grow so be prepared to revisit sites multiple times over the year. Junipers can struggle to recover when too much foliage is removed at one time. It may be wise to conduct heavy pruning over a couple of months to avoid the plant becoming stressed.
The bottom line- With gorgeous, green foliage all year round, Juniper couldn’t come more highly recommended for bonsai.