Podocarpus bonsai care

Care Styling Pictures

Podocarpus bonsai care

The Chinese yew (or Buddhist pine, Fern pine, botanically Podocarpus macrophyllus) resembles, as the name suggests, the common yew (Taxus baccata). Especially with regard to the needles and fruits, you can quickly confuse Chinese yew and Yew bonsai. Both bonsai tree species are evergreen and slow growing. A Podocarpus bonsai can be maintained in the apartment as an indoor bonsai if the location is bright enough.

Podocarpus bonsai care in a nutshell:

  • Fertilisation: Fertilize fern pine bonsai abundantly in the growing period from March to September with organic bonsai fertilizers (such as Biogold, Hanagokoro, liquid fertilizers)
  • Irrigation: Pour a fern pine moderately, but do not let it dry out (especially in hot midsummer). In winter in the apartment it needs to be watered a little less.
  • Overwintering: Can be overwintered in a cool and very bright as an indoor bonsai or on a cool place like a mediteranean bonsai (down to 0°C in a foil tent, greenhouse)
  • Repotting: Podocarpus bonsai should be repotted into a well-drained bonsai soil every 4-5 years (sometimes longer) at the beginning of spring

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


Young, faster-growing Chinese yews are fertilized in the spring with mineral fertilizer, later with organic fertilizer (for example, with 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.

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


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.


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 substrate. 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.


Chinese yew bonsai styling in a nutshell:

  • Wiring: The branches are very flexible. Therefore the bonsai wire must remain long on a podocarpus bonsai
  • Pruning: Cut the candles in May. Growth control is important. That means the stronger areas (upper part of the crown) have to be cut more to prevent the weak branches from dying

Wiring | Pruning | Styles | Bonsai pots | Flowers, Fruits | Bark, Roots | General


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).


Older, already finished bonsai are cut back or plucked more often. 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.


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 bonsai pots (made for indoor bonsai) are also almost 100% frost-resistant.

Glazed bonsai pots are, with a few exceptions, unsuitable for a Podocarpus bonsai. Most glazes are too conspicuous. For larger trees you can find suitable pots under Large bonsai pots.

For a fern pine with a densely closed, roundish crown, an oval bonsai pot should be considered. For more dramatic styles, rectangular bonsai pots are more suitable. Bonsai pot 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.

Podocarpus bonsai - Pictures

Especially in China you can see many Podocarpus designed as bonsai. Including very interesting specimens. A visit to the Botanical Garden in Shanghai is highly recommended for friends of Chinese yew bonsai.

Buddhist pine bonsai in the Botanical Garden of Shanghai

Many dozens worth seeing Chinese yew (Podocarpus) bonsai can be admired in the Botanical Garden of Shanghai. 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.

Podocarpus on a bonsai market in south china

On bonsai markets in Chinese cities are often to see exceptionally good Podocarpus bonsai. Here are some pictures of a bonsai market near Hong Kong.