There are over 50 species of the evergreen juniper. Typically found in dry forests and mountainous regions, the juniper in the wild can live for 200 years, although junipers, when turned into bonsais, only live for two or three years. Junipers are a coniferous shrub with needle-like and scaly leaves. The foliage ranges from a light green and silver to a beautiful blue-green.
There are a few varieties of juniper that make excellent choices for bonsai. One of these is the Juniperus X, a natural hybrid species. It is a popular bonsai in Japan.
The juniper does not thrive in extremes; it grows best in sunshine, but does not do well in very hot midday sunlight. Extreme temperatures, both cold and hot, will kill the juniper bonsai. If the juniper bonsai is kept indoors, dry conditions and poor lighting will kill it, and over watering will cause its root to rot. Misting is an excellent strategy to keep the juniper bonsai moist and keep its leaves dust-free.
A juniper bonsai should be re-potted during the spring once every two years until it is about 10. The soil should be free draining and include grit or stone to avoid harmful alkaline deposits. A juniper bonsai should be given high nitrogen fertilizer every two weeks from spring to mid-summer, but then given low nitrogen fertilizer until winter. Every now and again, for excellent results, an acidic fertilizer like Miracid should be given to a juniper bonsai.
Shaping the juniper bonsai can be done throughout the growing season by careful pinching it with the fingers. Scissors should not be used on the juniper bonsai because the ends may turn brown. It is important to leave a sufficient amount of foliage to avoid branch withering. Pinching should be occasional, gradual and gentle. All shaping should be avoided when the first leaves of the juniper bonsai are sprouting.
As a point of interest, junipers keep an attractive, natural shape even after they have been dead for several weeks. This may make it difficult to know if the juniper bonsai is still alive!