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White pine bonsai care


When caring for white pine bonsai it is important to ensure a very bright outdoor location, a well-drained bonsai soil, an even watering and a fertilization that is not too rich in nitrogen. Once established in a bonsai pot, the care of a white pine is not complicated. A white pine bonsai cannot be maintained as an indoor bonsai in the apartment.


Fertilization takes place mainly from March to September with common bonsai fertilizers (for example Biogold, Hanagokoro, but also ordinary pine fertilizers) in solid form, which are incorporated into the substrate surface. Fertilization of this tree species can also be done with liquid fertilizer by pouring it at regular intervals. Hereby the following applies: Better to use a lower concentration in older white pines, but fertilize more often. In our bonsai nursery we administer the bonsai fertilizer via a fertilizer doser with each pouring process in low concentration.

White pine bonsai - Botanical garden Shanghai
White pine bonsai in Shanghai

If you give too much fertilizer, especially nitrogen-rich fertilizer, this leads to rapid growth. Above all, the branches and shoots prefers to grow on the top of the crown. The important branches below are then often becomes weaker quickly. If you want to fertilize a lot to accelerate the growth, you have to make sure that the upper shoots do not get too strong. Pay attention that in the upper parts of the crown, the newly forming candles must be shortened early and consistently.


During the growing season, sufficient watering of white pine bonsai is required, but the soil should not be constantly wet. With a permeable substrate, this means that whenever the surface of the earth has dried, give water again.

In winter, the white pine should be kept rather a bit more dry. However, a complete drying out of the root ball is absolutely to be avoided. When hibernating in a plastic tent - no problem. Due to the high humidity, the bonsai soil hardly dries out completely.

White pines love and need high humidity. It is best to pour over the needles.


A bright / sunny outdoor location is very important. The white pine can tolerate frost very well. We overwinter Pinus pentaphylla bonsai in an unheated foil tent. There, the temperatures sometimes fall below -15°C. Without problems for the plants. When the sun is shining the tent is ventilated even at minus temperatures to avoid a strong increase in temperature.


The Japanese white pine is a hardy outdoor bonsai and can resist temperatures below 0°C very well. In the unheated foil tent it withstands temperatures of -10°C in winter. An overwintering outdoors is not recommended. If the bonsai soil is frozen, it can no longer deliver water. This would cause damage to the bonsai due to dryness.


White pine bonsai - Botanical garden Shanghai
White pine bonsai in Shanghai

A well-drained bonsai substrates is extremely important as the pine is very sensitive to waterlogging. Often pure Akadama is used or mixed with other substrates. Akadama is a clay granulate mined in Japan.

Since white pine bonsai, like all other pine trees, are rarely repotted (older white pines about every 4-5 years), when using Akadama we recommend blending substrates with longer dimensional stability, such as the Japanese Kiryu bonsai soil. Kiryu can also be taken pure. It is important that the Bonsai soil is well permeable for water and above all air.

In the spring (end of February - beginning of March) white pine bonsai can be repotted (depending on root-ball development and permeability) every 2 to 5 years. For older white pines bonsai you can possibly wait with repotting even longer. As long as the substrate still allows a good drainage, the risk of potting does not have to be taken.

Imported bonsai of the white pine are held often in the same substrate for many years. This is then completely disintegrated and hardly permeable to water and air. Such bonsai should be repotted in several steps. That in the first year you remove only a small part of the decayed Bonsai soil. If the tree then grows normally in the next growing season, you can possibly remove a little more next spring. Since the root growth of pine trees is slow, you should approach it carefully when repotting.

Diseases, Pests

An infection of our white pine bonsai with pests could not be determined in many years. Also diseases did not occur.


Fresh tree seeds are soaked (in winter) overnight in a glass of water. The seeds that float on the surface are not germinable. The others must be exposed for a long time to low temperatures in order to break an existing germ inhibition. Since the seeds of the pine have a very hard shell, you can easily scratch them before you sow them.

We advise against propagation by seeds. Propagation with tree seeds is not easy and even in specialized companies the success rate is often low. Better is buy a young plant or a pine prebonsai.

We also advise against propagation by grafting. Often there is a lack of a suitable source (eg. a white or black pine plant). In addition, it takes a lot of experience for a grafting succeed. Grafts to insert missing branches in the design is more likely to be considered and is used very often in Japan. If you want to graft, the late winter or the early spring is the best time.


What are the advantages of Japanese white pine for bonsai styling ?

  • The Japanese white pine is a hardy outdoor bonsai. We overwinter Pinus parviflora in an unheated foil tent without problems
  • The white pine is a 5-needle pine tree = Very soft appearance of the needle pads
  • Due to low annual growth little effort in pruning a white pine bonsai. Needle pads can build up well
  • These bonsai trees are hardly affected by pests
  • Branches remain flexible for a long time. As a result even older white pines can be well designed as bonsai
  • If you want to buy a white pine bonsai you can access a wide range in different bonsai shops


Branches of pine trees are very pliable, giving you greater creative freedom during wiring a bonsai of that species than other species. The ends of the shoots should slightly wired upwards. The bonsai wire can often stay on the bonsai for a very long time because the growth of white pine is low. In addition, the branches remain flexible for a long time. That if you unwire the bonsai too early, the branches of the white pine slowly bend back to their original position.


The best time to prune a white pine bonsai is from early April to late May and from early July to late September. In the spring, just before the fresh needles of the new candles stretch, each candle is pinched by about a third or half in rapidly growing crown areas.

When pinching a bonsai tree, you take the young candles between your fingers and remove the tip of the candle by turning and bending with your fingernails.

Or you can cut the shoots to the desired length with a bonsai scissors. A few new buds form in these places, and there will be several shoots instead of just one next spring. By regular pinching you can achieve a fine ramnification.


Most bonsai styles, except the broom style, are quite possible. It is often styled freely upright (Moyogi style), strictly upright (Chokkan style) or inclined (Shakan style). Japanese white pine bonsai varieties with short needles can be designed as smaller bonsai. White pine varieties with longer needles should be better for larger bonsai (> 70-80cm) designs. If you want to buy a Japanese white pine bonsai, make sure that the needles are suitable for the tree size.

Matching bonsai pots

White pines, like most other coniferous bonsai, are preferably potted in unglazed pots. Since they belong to the winter-hardy outdoor bonsai, 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. However, we do not guarantee frost resistance for these pots.

Glazed bonsai pots are, with a few exceptions, unsuitable for white pine bonsai. Most glazes are too conspicuous for a coniferous bonsai.

For white pines with densely closed, roundish crown, oval pots should be considered. For more dramatic designs, rectangular bonsai pots are more suitable. Round pots are especially suitable for white pines in literary style. Bonsai pot drip trays are not needed because white pine bonsai should not be maintained in the apartment.

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

White pine bonsai (Pinus pentaphylla) on Black pine roots - Grafting point is visible
Grafting point is still visible

Bark, Roots

White pines are often grafted onto the stronger rootstock of a Japanese black pine, making them less sensitive to frost, forming strong roots, growing faster, and getting a rough bark. Disadvantage: Most of the grafting points can be recognized.


There are a number of white pine varieties that are particularly suitable for the bonsai design due to their small needles. The white pine varieties Zuisho and Kokonoe are particularly well-known and more frequently on the market.


The white pine (Pinus parviflora, also Pinus pentaphylla, Japanese Hime Komatsu - 姫小松 or Goyo Matsu - 五葉松) is native to Japan. There it grows in mountainous areas of 1200-1800 meters in moist and water-permeable soils. The medium-sized tree is rather conical at a young age, and develops an irregular, wide-spreading crown with age. It has a gray and smooth bark.

This interesting pine is also called Japanese five-needle pine, as the gray-green to blue-green striped needles grow in tufts. It produces numerous small red to purple flowers in spring. If the flowers are fertilized, small cones develop, which can remain on the tree for several years. However, since the white pine put a lot of energy into these cones, they are usually removed (turned off) by bonsai lovers.


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