How to Care and Water a Juniper Bonsai Tree

Juniper bonsai trees need full sun, well drained soil and regular water.

Juniper bonsai trees need full sun, well drained soil and regular water.

Juniper bonsai trees are some of the most common and easy to care for bonsai trees available. Junipers have small needle-like leaves that adapt well to bonsai training and most varieties have ornamental textured bark. Juniper plants can be purchased at most nurseries and home stores or can be started as cuttings. With just a few basic bonsai supplies and some general know-how, almost anyone can enjoy the fulfilling art of bonsai.

Things You’ll Need:

  • Sargent juniper, dwarf Japanese juniper or needle juniper plant
  • Bonsai dish
  • Fast draining bonsai potting mix
  • Bonsai shears
  • Liquid bonsai fertilizer (3-2-1)
  1. Provide juniper bonsai plants with full sun. In hot, dry climates, place juniper bonsai plants in a location where they will receive early morning or late-afternoon sun, but protect plants from intense mid-day sun. In cooler climates, position plants where they will receive at least six to eight hours of sun per day. Juniper bonsai trees are generally cold-hardy, but care should be taken to not let the root ball freeze. In cold climates, protect root ball with mulch or simply move the entire plant to an unheated garage or garden shed if a freeze is expected (do not bring indoors, junipers need cold winter temperatures).

  2. Pot juniper bonsai plants in a fast draining bonsai potting mix. This species will not tolerate water-logged soil, or the roots will suffocate and die. An ideal potting mix for juniper bonsai is composed of 3 parts peat moss, 3 parts perlite, 1 part small bark and 1 part sand. Peat moss will retain moisture, while perlite, bark and sand ensure good drainage.

  3. Repot juniper bonsai plants every two years for trees up to 10 years of age; repot trees over 10 years of age every four to five years. Bonsai trees can be repotted into the same container they were growing in previously (simply prune away one-third to one-half of the root mass). Repot into a larger container to increase the overall size of the bonsai tree.

  4. Water juniper bonsai plants daily from spring to fall. Thoroughly moisten the potting medium until water begins to drain from the bottom of the container. Consistent watering is important for bonsai trees as bonsai dishes limit the amount of soil and available moisture. Water trees less in the winter (every two to four days), but do not allow them to dry out.

  5. Fertilize juniper bonsai trees with a water-soluble 3-2-1 bonsai fertilizer every other week from spring to fall. Mix the fertilizer solution following the manufacturer’s recommendation’s, and apply to pre-moistened soil (never apply to dry soil). Withhold fertilizer in the winter.

  6. Prune juniper bonsai trees lightly during spring and summer. Prune branches to desired shape with bonsai sheers, and pinch new growth tips with your fingers to create dense, compact leaf growth. Remove shoots and leaves from the underside of branches to show off branch and trunk form. Do major pruning in the fall. Common styles for juniper bonsai include: cascade or semi-cascade, upright, slanting, windswept, literati and multiple trunk.

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