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Buddhist pine bonsai care


The care of chinese yew bonsai (or Buddhist pine, Fern pine, botanically Podocarpus) is undemanding: Fertilize: From March to August, Water: Keep moderately moist. Under no circumstances should you allow it to dry out. Overwintering: Keep the room as bright and cool as possible; in a green house, slightly sub-zero temperatures are tolerated. Repotting: In early spring with light root pruning.

Buddhist pines are popular because they can also be kept indoors as conifers. Since Buddhist pines tolerate temperatures slightly below zero, they can also be cared for like a mediterranean bonsai.


Buddhist pine bonsai (Podocarpus) on a bonsai market in south china

Young, faster-growing Chinese yews bonsai are fertilized in the spring with mineral fertilizer, later with organic bonsai fertilizer (for example Biogold or Hanagokoro) every 4-6 weeks to about September. Older Chinese yews Bonsai get a little less. The liquid bonsai fertilizer offered in the shop are well suited too and easy to use. In case of liquid fertilizers, you can also give twice as much you can read on the bottle during the growing season.


Water well in well-drained soil and keep the substrate moderately moist during the growing period. Short-term dryness they tolerate quite well, but should be avoided. In the room must be poured much less. It depends strongly on the temperature and the air movement in the room. In the summer in the apartment about every 1-2 days to be poured. In winter it may be that only once a week must be poured.

In our experience, a ball shower is well suited for watering chinese yews that are maintained as indoor bonsai. Dipping the entire root ball also works very well. Unfortunately, water then drips through the water drainage holes onto the window sill and makes it dirty. This can be easily avoided using a saucer (which is often included with indoor bonsai).


Podocarpus bonsai (as one of the few conifers) can be kept in the room all year long. Here a very bright and sunny location at the window is necessary.

Nevertheless, an outdoor location is preferable from spring to autumn. There it can stay until the frost line. If you get adapt the Buddhist pine to the sun outdoors in the spring then this should happen gently (otherwise a sunburn can happen). Simply put outdoors for 14 days, but partially shaded. Thereafter, the Buddhist pine can be placed in a full sun.

Buddhist pine bonsai (Podocarpus) on a bonsai market in south china


Although Chinese yews in the mountains can reach a height of up to 1000m, Podocarpus bonsai are not absolutely hardy, but can withstand temperatures below freezing for a short time. Held as an indoor bonsai, they must be placed bright and cool in winter. 10-15°C are acceptable, cooler is better.


Young plants of Buddhist pine are repotted every 2-3 years. They tolerate a moderate root incision. For older Chinese yew bonsai you can wait longer, depending on the size of the root growth. 4-5 years without repotting is then not unusual.

Podocarpus need a well-drained bonsai soil. Akadama is well suited to repot Chinese yew bonsai. Many Podocarpus bonsai are still left in a clay soil after being bought, in which they were potted before being imported. This should be replaced gently by new substrate next spring.

Diseases, Pests

In the last 20 years we have never seen in our bonsai nursery any infestation with pests. Even illnesses never occurred. As long as Podocarpus bonsai is well maintained and has enough light, a higher temperature in sommer and enought water, it grows slowly but steadily without any problems.


Cuttings propagation is possible. Condition: ground temperature should be high. Sowing out is possible. For this purpose, the seed after harvesting either immediately or after stratification in the refrigerator (over the winter) applied.



Due to the slow growth, the risk of ingrowth of the wire after wiring a bonsai is low. For young branches normal, brown anodized bonsai wire can be taken. Older and stronger branches should either guyed or aligned with copper wire (much more dimensionally stable than aluminum wire).

Since fern pines are evergreen and keep their needles all year round, the season doesn't play a big role when wiring. Spring is recommended. Injuries caused by wiring and shaping can heal much more quickly.


Older, already finished bonsai are pruned more frequently with sharp bonsai scissors. As a result a lot of new shoots you can see after 4 weeks and thus a finer branching is achieved. In young bonsai, which should gain some strength, the branches, especially the lower, are left longer. Let it grow to 10-20cm and then cut back to the desired length. Growing larger sacrificial branches to obtain a broader trunk is not necessarily recommended. The later interfaces of such large sacrificial branches do not close so easily. In general, when cutting branches, bonsai wound sealant should be applied to improve wound healing.

Buddhist pine bonsai (Podocarpus) on a bonsai market in south china


It can be styled freely upright (Moyogi style), strictly upright (Chokkan style) or inclined (Shakan style), as a multi-stem or group. A Podocarpus tree is suitable for small to large bonsai. However, you should stay with a Chinese yew in a bonsai pot at the existing size, as Podocarpus grows slowly.

Matching bonsai pots

Chinese yew bonsai, like other coniferous bonsai, are preferably potted in unglazed bonsai pots. Since they can tolerate temperatures down to 0°C, a frost-proof, handmade bonsai pot should be selected if possible. In our experience, the inexpensive pots (made for indoor bonsai) are also almost 100% frost-resistant. Glazed pots are, with a few exceptions, unsuitable for a Podocarpus bonsai. Most glazes are too conspicuous.

For a fern pine with a densely closed, roundish crown, an oval bonsai pot should be considered. For more dramatic styles, rectangular pots are more suitable. Drip trays you need if the trees is maintained as an indoor bonsai in the apartment.

For Podocarpus prebonsai our darkbrown plastic bonsai pots are fine. Theese pots are resistant against deep temperatures and stable for UV-light.

Flowers, Fruits

The Chinese yew blooms with conspicuous inflorescences in May-June. It belongs to the dioecious plants, ie. male and female flowers occur on different plants. If you want the nice looking, dark blue fruits on your Podocarpus bonsai tree you need at least 1 female and 1 male specimen.

Bark, Roots

The dark brown bark of the Buddhist pine rather insignificant for the bonsai design. Likewise their roots. Only in China are Podocarpus bonsai with conspicuous roots to see more frequently. They are more appreciated by Chinese bonsai friends and are almost never exported to Europe.


The Chinese yew is one of over 100 species of the genus Podocarpus. The information given here refers to the large-leaved Chinese yew (Podocarpus macrophyllus and the smaller-leaved variety Podocarpus microphyllus). Podocarpus macrophyllus is found in nature in China and Japan. It grows in the mountains up to a height of 1000m. There the tree also withstands light frosts. As a tree, it is up to 20m high, but usually remains smaller.


Especially in China you can see many Podocarpus designed as bonsai. Including very interesting specimens.

Buddhist pine bonsai (Podocarpus) on a bonsai market in china
Buddhist pine bonsai (Podocarpus) on a bonsai market in china
Buddhist pine bonsai (Podocarpus) on a bonsai market in china
Buddhist pine bonsai (Podocarpus) on a bonsai market in china
Buddhist pine bonsai (Podocarpus) on a bonsai market in china
Buddhist pine bonsai (Podocarpus) on a bonsai market in china

A visit to the Botanical Garden in Shanghai is highly recommended for friends of Chinese yew bonsai. Many dozens worth seeing Chinese yew (Podocarpus) bonsai can be admired there. Here you can see pictures of a small selection of the Buddhist pine bonsai.

The largest botanical garden in China is located in Shanghai. It is located in the southwest of the city and is 2km long and 0.5km wide. The Botanical Garden in Shanghai was founded in 1974 and was initially called Longhua Nursery.

In addition to exhibitions of medicinal plants and orchids, the Botanical Garden in Shanghai also houses a very large exhibition of penjing, the Chinese variant of bonsai. Penjing has become increasingly popular over the last few decades. It is estimated that today in China about 10 million people are styling Penjing, many organized in clubs.

The Penjing collection has developed rapidly since 1974 and shows on 4ha area about 2000 bonsai designed from 200 different tree species. Among the bonsai are many masterpieces, including donations from Japan. The Penjing collection is maintained by 20 full-time gardeners and visited annually by about 200000 bonsai friends. More trees (several hundred) are in an enclosed area in work. Furthermore, you can admire 30 Stone penjing or you can get information in a museum about the history of Penjing.

Buddhist pine bonsai (Podocarpus) in Shanghai
Buddhist pine bonsai (Podocarpus) in Shanghai
Buddhist pine bonsai (Podocarpus) in Shanghai
Buddhist pine bonsai (Podocarpus) in Shanghai
Buddhist pine bonsai (Podocarpus) in Shanghai
Buddhist pine bonsai (Podocarpus) in Shanghai

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