Japanese Black Pine Bonsai
Copyright © 2004
by Erik A. Olsen
When it comes to the perfect plant for Bonsai, this is it. Elegant, powerful, and distinguished, the japanese black pine bonsai is a beautiful specimen. Just remember that for this tree to reach maturity, making the perfect Bonsai, it takes several years. Therefore, you need to be prepared to dedicated time and effort when growing this tree, although the results will be worth it.
Keep in mind that using the Japanese Black Pine for Bonsai is not necessarily an easy thing. Because of this tree’s growth characteristics, they tend to develop leggy branches, which can show up in whorls from the trunk, which is also leggy.
Each of the branches will produce foliage at the tips, making it appear as a dense lollipop. Since this particular tree is apical dominant, this means the branches at the upper portion will generally receive most of the energy. Because of this, the branches located at the lower portion are generally weak.
You need to make sure the soil is well drained and a 50/50 mixture of pumice and akadama. If the Bonsai is young, then add a little more grit whereas a mature tree typically likes more akadama. This soil mixture is important to help eliminate problems with root rot. Additionally, this specific mixture helps oxygen to reach the roots.
The soil should be kept moist but not overly damp. In fact, the Japanese Black Pine prefers to be a little on the dry side and is known for tolerating slight draughts. Always water evenly and thoroughly. The pH level also needs to range between 5.5 and 6.5. While they can survive outside of this range, they will thrive when in the correct range.
This tree loves sun all day. However, for regions where temperatures reach 100 or more, then the tree will need to be provided with shade during the hottest part of the day. If you notice the leaves turning a yellow/green, then you know it is receiving too much sun.
When compared to other trees used for Bonsai, the Japanese Black Pine is quite limber. The branches can be wired and trained in a number of different shapes, again making this a wonderful option for Bonsai. Typically, this tree should be repotted from December to March, and about every four years.
The Japanese Black Pine needs good surface root structure. With bent wire, you can hold the bowed up roots down. Then with stones or chopsticks, raise and separate the ones needing to be repositioned. Over time, the roots will correct themselves.
Once you have completed the repotting process, you should place the tree in a location with bright shade for about two weeks. Additionally, ensure the soil does not completely dry out and that the tree is protected from harsh winds and temperatures.
· During the spring, you will need to do significant pruning
· In the late fall and winter months, pruning of the branches will help cut back on sap bleeding. Once the branch has been cut off, cut around the edges with a sharp knife since they will not do well with the sap. Then, you want to seal the wound with putty cut paste.
· Removing larger branches in the spring is best, as the larger wounds actually heal faster
· When reducing the Japanese Black Pine, this should be done over a period of years since drastic pruning causes stress and ultimately, damage
· Once the tree has been pruned, make sure it is kept in partial shade and extreme temperatures for four weeks
· If you plan to wire this tree, you want to do it in the winter
· When repotting, you need to take your time so the roots can be rearranged carefully
· Excessive heat can actually cause the roots of the tree to bake
· This type of tree does not tolerate fertilizer quickly but they do like organics in late spring through early fall, coupled with chelated iron and vitamin supplements
· Wiring the Japanese Black Pine anytime other than late winter will cause the sap to flow, damaging and possibly killing the branch
· Never wire a stressed pine
· Never let a wired pine freeze
· Root removal during repotting is not tolerated very well so be careful with the feeder channels of the trunk while trimming
· Roots feeding into larger, lower branches should not be trimmed much
· Prone to red spider mites, you need to keep your Bonsai healthy and strong, which is when they are attacked most. For the best protection, check your Bonsai every week, looking for any sign of weakness. If you think you see spider mites, you can take a white piece of paper and while holding it underneath one of the leaves, tap the leaf to see if mites fall onto the paper. If so, use a mitacide to eliminate them.
· Mealy bugs and aphids are also common problems but they can be controlled easily with a pesticide