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Juniper bonsai

Bonsai care

Juniper grow slowly. As a result, the effort of care for Juniper bonsai is low. Juniper bonsai are characterized by a great hardiness and longevity. This species is well suited for dead wood designs and look very nice with their fine needle pads.

Especially the Chinese juniper varieties Shimpaku and Itoigawa are often cared for as a bonsai and are often offered in the bonsai trade.


In the growing season from April to September every 14 days with mineral or organic bonsai fertilizer. After that fertilisation is significantly reduced. Finished juniper bonsai should not be given too much nitrogen. The Chinese juniper responds to much nitrogen with the formation of prickly needles instead of dandruff foliage.

Juniperus bonsai (Juniperus chinensis) on a bonsai market in south china
Juniper bonsai in china

Both Biogold and the Hanagokoro bonsai fertilizer are well suited and easy to use. Liquid fertilizers are used less often, but are of course also suitable. With liquid fertilizers, you can give twice the specified amount during the growth period.


Juniper bonsai tolerate drought quite well, but should still be watered well. However, it is essential to avoid waterlogging when watering. Slight drying of the soil between watering seems beneficial. Brief drying is tolerated. Keep moderately moist in winter. It is important that the substrate is well permeable to water and air, otherwise root damage will occur.


With sufficient watering a sunny summer location is very conducive to the healthy development of a juniper bonsai. Juniperus chinensis tolerates heat well, likes high temperatures and occasional air dryness is tolerated by the Chinese juniper. Partial shade around lunchtime is well tolerated. However, the Chinese juniper bonsai location should not be too shady, otherwise individual branches will become long. In the sun a juniperus bonsai tree grows much more compact but the needle color is in the partial shade darker.


Juniper are hardy outdoor bonsai and tolerate cold very well. Below -10°C juniper should be placed a little sheltered - protected from dehydration when the root ball is frozen. Young plants need protection against strong and constant winds. In winter quarters the juniper bonsai location must be bright.

In the cold season, the needles are usually brownish to redbrown. Probably a protection of the bonsai from the sunlight in the frozen state. This discoloration quickly recedes in the spring with increasing temperature and day length.


Older juniper bonsai need to be repotted only every 4-6 years, depending on the growth rate and pot size. Younger specimens are usually repotted every 2-3 years. The best time to repot is the late spring. Repotting in September is possible, but spring is preferable.

If a juniper bonsai has a flat root ball, such a bonsai can also be potted in a shallow pot, as junipers cope quite well with temporary dryness. A bonsai soil that is well permeable to water and air should be used (e.g. preferably Kiryuzuna or Akadama bonsai soil). Fine, moist soil provokes root damage in winter. Chinese junipers do not like acidic soil. The pH value should therefore be checked from time to time. If the soil reacts acidic, it can be limed.

Mycorrhiza can be mixed with the soil right away because juniper needs mycorrhiza on the one hand and on the other hand they usually have a hard time repotting. Mycorrhiza for bonsai can help to better manage the stress of repotting.

Diseases, Pests

Juniperus prebonsai (Juniperus chinensis) - Japan import 2015. This raw material can quickly make a good juniper bonsai
Juniperus prebonsai

We have not been able to detect infestation of our juniper bonsai with pests in many years. Also, diseases almost never occurred.

Only the infestation with pear rust (also European pear rust) is of importance. The European pear rust can colonize juniper permanently and leads to juniper bonsai to nodular thickening on the branches. An infestation with pear rust can best be seen in the spring. Then some parts of the branches are covered with orange, soft, gelatinous outgrowths. Especially on wet days. For bonsai styling mainly juniper varieties are taken, which are hardly susceptible to the pear rust.


Chinese junipers can be designed throughout the year. If drastic deformations are to be carried out, the late spring is a good time. The juniper can better tolerate the resulting damage in summer.

Juniperus bonsai (Juniperus chinensis) in a japanese export bonsai nursery
Juniperus bonsai in Japan

Juniper bonsai of various species (especially Juniperus chinensis, Juniperus rigida, Juniperus communis) are very commonly used for bonsai styling.

Jin and Shari underline the age of a juniper bonsai.

Juniper tolerate extremely well such deadwood designs. Even large-scale debarking is possible. Juniper can survive well even if only small pathways of living bark connect the roots with the branches. Most varieties used for the bonsai design are with only flaky or needle-only leaves.

What are the benefits of juniper as a bonsai ?

  • Juniper bonsai are extremely frost-tolerant, hardy outdoor bonsai. Overwintering outdoors is possible
  • Once a Juniperus bonsai is established in a bonsai pot the care is easy
  • This tree species is ideal for dramatic deadwood styling with Jin and Shari
  • A Juniper bonsai tolerates even in mid summer a sunny location with high temperatures and short periods of dryness well.
  • Junipers are very long-lived and are only little affected by pests and diseases


Juniper bonsai can be wired all year round. At the end of the summer more attention must be paid to the ingrowth of the bonsai wire. The wire usually has to stay on the tree for 1-2 years otherwise the shoots will bend back to their original position. If the wire starts to press the bark, the tree must be unwired. It is best to rewire immediately afterwards (if the branch is not hold the position).


Juniper bonsai are usually not pruned but pinched. If the new shoots are pinched regularly, a compact shape is obtained. The shoots to be pinched are held between thumb and index finger and the outermost tips are pinched with the other hand.

If Juniper bonsai with scaly leaves are reduced too much in one step, needle-like youthful leaves are increasingly formed. Slow styling over long periods of time is highly recommended. Needle-like leaves in the fine cushions of a Chinese juniper bonsai usually have a disturbing effect. It regresses only slowly, but often remains for years.


Many juniper bonsai are styled freely upright (Moyogi style) or in the literary form. The strictly upright form (Chokkan) is usually not suitable, the inclined form (Shakan) is very good.

Matching bonsai pots

Rectangular bonsai pots are well suited for a dramatic Juniper bonsai designs with Jin and Shari sections, oval are to be preferred for harmonious bonsai trees with a balanced crown. Flat, round pots are suitable for playful literary shapes, especially since juniper can handle flat pots quite well. Bonsai pots with drip trays or drip trays in general are normally not required because juniper cannot be cared for in the apartment.

Juniper bonsai are hardy outdoor bonsai and should therefore be potted in frost-proof pots. The handmade bonsai pots are particularly suitable here, especially if high-quality bonsai are to be repotted.

The inexpensive bonsai pots in our shop normally also withstand frost well. These pots are mainly produced for indoor bonsai and we do not guarantee frost resistance for these pots. According to our experience from 100 pots around 1-2 of these pots shows damages after the 1st winter.

Glaze or unglazed ? As for all coniferous trees, juniper should be potted in unglazed bonsai pots. Darkbrown pots would go well with the dark bark of junipers. Glazed bonsai pots are too striking and dominate the bonsai, i.e. a viewer would look more at the pot than at the bonsai.

Plastic bonsai pots are suitable for prebonsai. The dark brown color of theese pots also goes well with the dark trunk of a Juniper bonsai. The plastic pots are impact-resistant, UV-stable and cheap. For 2-3 year old young trees plastic plant pots are best used.

Bark, Roots

Many junipers, but especially the Common juniper (Juniperus communis) are sensitive if you cut away too many roots when repotting them. If in doubt, you should leave as many roots on the tree as possible and repot especially at the right time of year.

Juniper varieties

Chinese juniperus

Juniperus bonsai (Juniperus chinensis) in a japanese export bonsai nursery
Juniperus bonsai in Japan

Chinese juniper bonsai (Juniperus chinensis), especially the variety Shimpaku, are popular. Chinese juniperus bonsai are extremely hardy, grow slowly (with little care), form fine needle pads and are particularly suitable for deadwood.

This bonsai tree is native to Japan, China and Korea and forms as a bonsai 2 needle shapes: Prickly juvenile leaves, which later turns into dandruff. Cushions with dandruff foliage look very fine.

With sufficient irrigation a sunny location in summer is very conducive. Partial shade around lunchtime is well tolerated. In the sun a Chinese juniper bonsai grows much more compact.

Chinese juniperus bonsai tolerate cold temperatures very well. Below -10°C this species should be placed a little sheltered. In winter the Chinese juniper bonsai must have a bright location.

When watering, waterlogging should be avoided. Do not fertilize nitrogen rich. The Chinese juniper responds to much nitrogen with the formation of prickly needles instead of the dandruff foliage.

China junipers can be styled throughout the year. The new shoots are usually plucked. If dandruff junipers are reduced too much in one step, needle-like foliage is increasingly formed. This bonsai tree species can be wired all year round.

Older Juniper bonsai are repotted every 4-6 years, younger specimens after 2-3 years. The best time to repot is the late spring. Repotting in September is possible, but spring is preferable.

Common juniperus

The Common juniper (Juniperus communis) is rarely offered as a bonsai although it is excellent as a bonsai. Juniperus communis bonsai have only needles (no scales), are extremely hardy, become very old and need little maintenance. The tree needs a lot of light as a bonsai and should stand in the sun.

As a tree, the Common juniper is up to 10m high and occurs in the entire northern hemisphere. It grows mainly in extreme locations on often very low nitrogen soils.

Potted in well-drained bonsai substrate (like Kiryu bonsai soil) this juniper grows very well as a bonsai and does not need to be replanted too often. Fertilize a Juniperus bonsai regular, but not too nitrogen-rich. In contrast to Chinese juniperus bonsai, the common juniper is only styled in the growing season.


Both in Japan and in China, you can admire many very good Juniper bonsai. The following pictures are from our shopping tours through China and Japan.

Juniperus bonsai on a bonsai market in south china

Juniper Bonsai in the Botanical Garden of Shanghai

Juniperus bonsai in different japanese export bonsai nurseries

Frequently asked questions

My juniper bonsai gets prickly needles. What should I do ?

Junipers often have two different types of leaves: scale-like needles and needle-shaped foliage.

The scale-like needles can be seen above all in old, mature juniper bonsai, the needle-shaped foliage mostly occurs in fast-growing, young plants.

When a Juniper bonsai with scaly leaves forms needles at once, there are usually two reasons:

  • The bonsai was pruned too heavily: Juniper bonsai often form needle-shaped foliage after a drastic cut.
  • The tree was fertilized too nitrogen-rich: here too, many junipers react with prickly leaves.

When the causes have been eliminated, Juniper bonsai will develop scaly foliage again after some time. That means give less nitrogen when fertilizing and do not work too drastically when pruning a bonsai. It is better to pinch a juniper.

Is it normal for my juniper bonsai to turn brown in winter ?

Some junipers species (e.g. virgin juniper) naturally get a brown needle color in winter. At first glance, this looks questionable, but is not a problem for a bonsai. The needles turn green again in spring.

Many juniper varieties also become a little browner in winter. As long as the juniper bonsai is well cared for, that's no problem.

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