STARTER KIT FOR THE JUNIPER BONSAI (juniper procumbens “nana")

This dwarf Juniper is the most popular evergreen in the United States. When we think of a traditional bonsai and what it should look like, we think of a "Juniper Procumbens Nana." It is very hardy, long-lived, and tolerates many adverse conditions. Juniperus Procumbens is a low-growing juniper native to southern Japan. The longer prostrate branches tend to intertwine. The leaves are arranged in decussate whorls of three; all the leaves are juvenile form and needle-like with two white stomatal bands on the inner face. It is dioecious, producing cones of only one sex on each plant. Its graceful canopy and impressive bark are another reason everyone should have at least one Juniper in their bonsai collection.


You may begin to shape your bonsai while it is still in the growing container, or you may wait until after it is potted. Do not use scissors to cut the leaves (needles), instead use your thumb and index finger and pinch off the growth in order to shape it. Use a scissor only for branches. The more you pinch, the more compact the foliage will become. In order to shape the branches to their desired location, wrap the annealed wire firmly and carefully around the trunk and then up to the branch at a 45 degree angle, anchoring it first into the soil in the rear of the trunk. When finished wiring the branch, you may bend the branch to its final shape, but bend only once as you may damage the cambium if you bend it back and forth. The following year, you should remove the wire by cutting it at each turn and allowing it to fall off into pieces.

Remove approximately one-half to two-thirds of the soil from the Juniper. You may also remove up to 20% of the roots by cutting them off horizontally across the bottom.

Place the screen (provided) in the bottom of the pot over the drainage holes and then add some soil to cover the bottom up to ½” high. The soil should be a combination of the bonsai soil provided and the soil removed from the Juniper. Next, place the tree in the desired location while spreading the roots in the pot and then add soil to fill the pot. When adding the soil, moisten it and use a pencil to make sure that the soil fills all the air pockets. You may want to add a decorative rock and a figurine. To complete the landscape design, you may also want to add pebbles and/or moss collected from you garden. Water well.

When nightly lows do not dip below 32°F, your bonsai should be placed outside, such as on a patio, balcony, terrace or in a garden. Once outside, your bonsai should be positioned where it will receive sufficient sun. The more sun that you can provide the better. A bonsai can be viewed best when it is placed approximately three to four feet high (eye level), such as on a table, wall or bench.

Once nightly lows begin approaching the freezing mark, it is time to bring your bonsai inside. During the winter months, the tree should be moved to a windowsill location where it will get sufficient sun. The watering schedule is also reduced to approximately every 2 days. In spring, it should be placed outdoors, but once the tree is moved to a location with more light, the watering and feeding schedule should increase accordingly.

The watering of your bonsai must never be neglected. Apply water just before the soil dries out -- never allow the soil to become completely dry. If your bonsai is receiving full sun, it may be necessary to water once a day. This schedule may vary with the size of the and time of the year. Evaluate your tree's water requirements and adjust your watering schedule to accommodate it. It is a good idea to use a moisture meter until you get to know the requirements of your bonsai tree. Watering should be done with a watering can or hose attachment which should dispense the water in a soft enough manner as not to disturb the soil. Water should be applied until it begins running out of the holes in the bottom of your pot. A good rain is usually a sufficient watering.

During the cold months, when your bonsai is inside, we recommend placing it in a shallow tray filled with a layer of gravel with water added. This provides extra moisture around the tree as the water evaporates and reduces the amount of moisture lost to modern heating systems.

Fertilizing is also necessary if your bonsai is to remain healthy and beautiful. Since your bonsai is growing in such a small amount of soil, it is necessary to replenish the soil's supply of nutrients periodically. Any general-purpose liquid fertilizer will do fine and is available at most garden centers. We suggest that fertilizers be used at half their recommended strength. Fertilizer should be applied at least once a month except during the winter. Your bonsai will also respond well to foliar feeding with a water-soluble fertilizer applied every other month as a spray.

Repotting must be performed periodically on all bonsai when their root system has filled the pot. The reasons for repotting are to supply your tree with fresh soil, and to encourage a more compact root system. As a rule, most deciduous trees require repotting every two or three years, while evergreens only need to be repotted every four or five years. Since trees grow at different rates, this schedule will not always hold true, therefore, you should examine your tree's root system each year to determine if it has become pot-bound. In most cases, the potting process is easy and safe if performed properly and at the right time of the year. Repotting should be done in mid-summer. The tree, along with all of its soil, should be removed from the pot. The outer and bottom most fourth of the tree's root mass should be removed. This is done by raking the soil away then pruning back the roots. In most cases it is not good to prune back more than one fourth of the tree's root mass. After this, the tree can be placed back in its original pot or into another. The pot should have screen placed over the drainage holes. Then, a thin layer of small gravel is placed in the bottom of the pot for drainage purposes. On top of this gravel is placed the new fresh soil. Place a layer of well-draining soil which is sufficient enough to elevate the tree to its previous height in the pot. After placing the tree back in the pot, the area left vacant by the pruned root mass should be filled in with fresh soil. This fresh soil should be worked in around and under the root mass in such a manner as to avoid leaving any air pockets. After repotting, your bonsai should be thoroughly watered. This can be achieved by submerging the entire pot in a tub of water. Moss or other ground covers can be used to cover the surface of the pot to help prevent soil erosion when watering.

Since your bonsai is a tree in miniature, it can be treated for insects and diseases the same as any other tree. If you discover any insects or diseases, check out our website or visit your local garden shop where you will be able to obtain the necessary products to eliminate the problem.

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