Juniper bonsai care

Care Styling Advantages Pictures Frequently asked questions

Juniper bonsai care

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

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

Juniperus bonsai care in a nutshell:

  • Fertilisation: Junipers are supplied with organic bonsai fertilizers during the growing season. With high nitrogen levels, some junipers species form prickly leaves
  • Irrigation: Juniper trees grow best when watered evenly. In midsummer they can withstand temporary dryness quite well
  • Overwintering: Junipers are extremely hardy outdoor bonsai and can even be hibernated outdoors under certain conditions
  • Repotting: You should be very careful when repotting. Many junipers are sensitive if they are repotted at the wrong time or too drastically

Fertilize | Watering | Location | Overwintering | Repot | Diseases, Pests |

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


In the growing season from April to September every 14 days with mineral or organic bonsai fertilizer (for example Biogold, Hanagokoro) in solid form, which are incorporated into the substrate surface. Fertilization of this bonsai tree species can also be done with liquid fertilizer by pouring it at regular intervals.

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.


Juniper bonsai tolerates short periods of dryness well, but should be watered well. It is essential to avoid waterlogging. A slight drying of the earth between watering seems to be beneficial. Keep moderately moist in winter. It is important that the bonsai substrate is well permeable to water and air otherwise it will cause root damage.


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 grows much more compact but the needle color is in the partial shade darker.


Juniper bonsai are hardy 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 a bonsai is the late spring. Repotting in September is possible, but spring is preferable.

Use a well water- and air-permeable substrate (eg Akadama, better is Kiryu). Fine, damp soils provoke root damage in winter. Chinese Juniper bonsai do not like sour bonsai soils. From time to time, the pH should be checked. If the soil reacts acidly, lime can be added.

Diseases, Pests

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.

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

Juniper bonsai styling

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.

Juniper prebonsai, Japan import 2015. This raw material can quickly make a good juniper bonsai.

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.

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

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 bonsai 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.
  • These bonsai trees are very long-lived and are only little affected by pests and diseases

Juniperus bonsai styling in a nutshell:

  • Wiring: The bonsai wire usually has to stay on the tree for 1-2 years, otherwise the styled branches bend back into the starting position
  • Pruning: Juniper bonsai can be cut with a bonsai scissors. They tolerate drastic pruning well, but then sometimes form prickly leaves. Therefore finished bonsai tree should be pinched better

Wiring | Pruning | Styles | Bonsai pots | Roots | Varieties


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.

Pruning, Pinching

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.


Juniperus species can be designed in almost all bonsai styles. Many Juniper bonsai are styled Informal upright (Moyogi style).

Matching bonsai pots

Rectangular bonsai pots are well suited for a dramatic Juniper bonsai designs with Jin and Shari sections, oval bonsai pots are to be preferred for harmonious bonsai trees with a balanced crown. Flat, round bonsai pots are suitable for playful literary shapes, especially since juniper can handle flat pots quite well. Bonsai pots with drip trays or drip trays for bonsai pots 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 from Japan are to be repotted. For larger trees you will find suitable pots under: Large bonsai pots.

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 bonsai 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 bonsai 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 bonsai | Common juniperus bonsai

Chinese juniperus (Juniperus chinensis)

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 (Juniperus communis)

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.

Juniperus bonsai - Pictures

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 - Pictures from the Botanical Garden 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 bonsai 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 a bonsai and do not work too drastically when cutting a Juniper bonsai. It is better to pinch the bonsai.

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 tree. 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.