Learn how to take care of Juniper Bonsai Trees in this Quick 30 minute Crash Course. Learn how to position, Water, Prune, Fertilise, Wire and choose the right soil.
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Bonsai Care Guide – Caring For a Bonsai Tree
Welcome back to the bonsai and YouTube channel today we’re going to jump into a topic that I probably should have started with on the channel but it’s how to care for juniper bonsai and this is mainly for the people out there that are starting off that maybe get a gift tree that looks something like this you might get it from a big-box retailer or maybe even a blindside nursery there’s a lot of confusion on the internet and there’s a lot of information that makes people confused about how to care for these plants I do have notes with me today but these are just bullet points that I’m gonna be going over I didn’t want to miss anything because there’s a lot of important stuff yes it’s going to be more or less of a crash course it’s not a full in-depth tutorial on how to look after these but it’s gonna have a lot of great information so I suggest sticking around to the end because we’ve got sections on positioning watering pruning fertilizing wire and soil use so let’s get into it so our first point that we’re gonna go over here is positioning this is probably the number one mistake that we see with these plants is people keeping them indoors now the first thing you need to know about junipers is where they get their energy from and how they grow so like most other bonsais junipers get their energy from photosynthesis from the Sun so if they’re inside they don’t get any Sun they don’t get any energy with Jennifers they store a lot of their energy in the foliage mass so what can actually happen in this is what confuses people is if you do put it inside and it doesn’t get any Sun it will look healthy and it’ll look like it’s thriving and just getting along fine but the problem is is it’s slowly depleting that energy that it’s got stored in its foliage and what will happen eventually is the tips will start to turn brown and crispy and it’ll start to die from the outside in and once this is set in it’s probably too late for your tree so with junipers they tend to show the signs that they’ve died eight weeks after the fact so if you’re Juna first showing signs of ill health or death it probably happened eight weeks prior so it’s really hard to tell when your junipers sick and if it does become sick then it’s really hard to get it back from that they can have smaller issues that can be fixed here and now but as for that it’ll kill the plant really quickly so don’t buy them and put them on your bedside table or any living room they need to live outside the other thing is is when you put them outside you want to put them in full Sun now the reason for this is if they’re not in full Sun and don’t really have an example of it here but what will happen is the foliage will actually open right up and it looks very messy so what you want is these nice little tight Tufts of foliage and the more Sun that they get the tighter this foliage is going to get and that’s where you get those really nice-looking pads so it’s really handy to have things in full Sun they can take it as long as you keep up the watering – the amount of heat that’s being generated in the air then you shoot me right they also need to be kept outside during the winter now a lot of people bring these inside fearing that maybe you get snow or Frost and it’s going to kill the plant they’re actually a Himalayan species so they’re used to that they can take a fairly cold frost and snow they actually need to be outside during the winter because that coldness puts them in a state of dormancy and if they don’t have that state of dormancy then they’re going to deplete all their energy so you need to have them outside during winter as well so all year round just keep them outside and you’ll find that they’ll thrive better like that the other bit of information I can give you about positioning for these is it comes down to how often you’re home and a lot of this information I give you today hopefully once you finish watching this video you can make educated decisions on how you look after your plant so before I said the more Sun nests can get the better which is absolutely true but if you’re somebody who maybe works very early and very late so you’re away most of the day and it’s summertime you probably don’t want you’re sitting out in full Sun all day just because of the fact that in that kind of environment you’re probably going to need to water more than once a day you may need to water once or twice so keeping it out in full Sun in an environment like that is probably not good so if you’re somebody who works long hours and you’re away for a long time maybe put them in a position where they get a good amount of Sun during the morning hours and then get shade during the hottest part of the day so for us that’s around two o’clock in the afternoon so if you can watch the Sun pattern in your yard take note of where it gets the most Morning Sun and then take note of where the afternoon shade is and that’s probably where you want to position your tree if you can’t be home all day to keep watering it as you’ll hear later on soil can also affect this so we’ll talk about that as we get further on down so that brings us into section 2 which is watering now this is very important there are bit of us finicky species when it comes to watering they don’t like drying out and they also don’t like being too wet and that can sound scary because you think well how can I not let it dry out but not let it be too wet what I mean by that is you don’t want the soil to get dirt dry because the roots will dry out and then the tree will die but what you also don’t want is for the pot to become waterlogged so having a large amount of water go into the pot is fine that’s not over watering but if you’ve got your drain holes clogged or there’s not enough drainage in the pot and you keep watering it watering it every day and you’re just building and building and building the water up in the pot without it draining that’s too much water and what happens is you get one along the water sits in there and then you get root rot and that will kill the tree pretty quickly as well so how much water generally this comes down to soil and the size of the pot but the first thing we’ll go over is when watering something like this make sure you use a nice soft nozzle on your hose you don’t want anything that’s going to blast your topdressing off or blast the soil out of the pot you want a nice soft stream and what I do is I do a couple of parcels like this with the hose and there moon if the hose away and let them grab any column take effect so let it pull water through the pot and then come back and do another one again let it come through and then do that again another couple of passes over the top and letting the water go through and you want to do that a few times until you see the water coming out at the bottom and the pot like a tap and it should just be running out and then the tree is fully warded you wouldn’t want to that again until the tree needed it so this changes with the weather if you’ve got really hot weather the soil in the plots going to dry out a lot quicker so you’re going to need to water once maybe twice maybe even three times a day depending on what type of soil are using in the winter time that’s got to be less you may be watering two to three times a week rather than a day just depends on how quickly the soil is drying out so you need to give the tree water when it means not on a schedule there’s no way to schedule water there’s a lot of people out there that try to give information say well you should water daily or you should water twice daily this changes throughout the year we’ve only just come in to a season now and Australia where West to water again everyday it’s not consistent depending on the weather our seasons here are starting to fall about a month behind so you can’t even really just say well in springtime you start watering once once a day again or twice a day whatever it might be because our seasons are actually falling behind a little bit so how does soil type affect your watering now there’s generally two types of soil that we will use in bonsai and one is something that’s very heavy draining and one is something that’s not this is called aerobic and anaerobic so something that drains a lot you wanting to water a lot more because it’s going to get rid of that water a lot quicker something that’s not as heavy draining I mean you don’t need to water it as much because it’s gonna hold water for a lot longer and as I said before we in the soil like that you don’t want to keep watering it and then build a water amount up in the pot and then cause worn along which is what can happen with those kinds of soils the other thing that can affect your watering to keep him on is the pot size and this is where people get really confused and they think this is the opposite of what it is so what I mean by that is this pot here believe it or not will hold a lot more water than this pot or this pot so if I wanted this point and that point I would likely have to water these two again before I water this one again now why is that this is because of the gravity column at the pot this pot is a lot shallower so it doesn’t have such a big gravity column where these two pots are taller so they have a much lighter gravity column so when you water the water moves through the pot quicker and out the bottom whereas this one it doesn’t really move that fast because it hasn’t got a big gravity column so the water off seen in this pot a lot longer than the bigger ones will so when it comes to having cascade pots you will need to water them a lot more than you will these ones and that goes with your soil types as well we’ll get back into that later but if you’ve got a cascade what it’s best off not using something as heavy draining as you would put in this pot because it’s just gonna run straight out of the bottom when that gravity column the next thing we’ve got here is practice watch and react and what I mean by that is don’t practice the schedule don’t come home every day and say I’ve got a wart on my buns I’d come home every day and look at your buns eyes and see if they need watering maybe it might have rained during the day while you’re at work and you might not know about it maybe he didn’t have a very hot day maybe it was very overcast and cloudy and the water from the day before still hasn’t really left the pot so you don’t want to if you had a week full of overcast days and you’re watering every day you’re going to cause water log in your pot and your main cause root rot okay so section 3 is pruning so when it comes to Jennifer’s we want to practice strategic pruning and how we do that is we always ask the question why why are we doing this why am I making this cut what am I trying to get from this card if you can’t answer that question then maybe you shouldn’t be doing it find out why you want to make that cut a lot of thing what I see a lot of the times is these elongated shoots people will come in and they’ll just cut them off because I got on that looks ugly it doesn’t suit my tree so I’ve got this particular tree here as sort of a demonstration for this so this whole branch here in this whole branch here is not going to be part of the final design of the tree they’re going to be completely cut off but right now I’ve got these here because they’re feeding energy into the bottom half in this trunk and what that does is it thickens it up so even though I don’t want these in as a part of my final design I’m not gonna get rid of them now because that would be a detriment to what I’m trying to do if I keep them on here we’ve got all this which acts like a solar panel for energy the more foliage we’ve got on the tree the more energy it’s getting the healthier it’s going to be and the quicker it’s going to grow that’s why I’ve still got it in this point as well so we want to keep these branches on to thicken this up so that’s strategic I’m not just going to come in and cut them off I will later but not until they have done what I want them to do the other thing that strategic is these elongating shoots even though they’re not nice and they’re not part of the design what actually happens here is the longer we let things run the thicker our branch is going to become so we don’t really want to cut these off until our branch has reached the thickness that we want and the other thing that you can achieve with the long gating like this is we can wire it down so in the design in this tree we’ve got our first pad and then we’ve got our second pad and then this is the long gating and it could even elongate from here just depends where it’s going to shoot and then we can wire that down we can have a third pad so we can keep stepping down if we want to and it’s the same out here we’ve got these elongated shoots here we can bring these around the Deadwood then we can wire it down and made me come down here somewhere we probably won’t do that as part of this design because we’re going down that side to offset this angle here but that’s just an example of strategic pruning another thing when you’re pruning is like I mentioned before we want to keep as much as the foliage on while we’re developing because the more foliage we have on the tree the more it’s photosynthesizing and the more energy it’s getting and the quicker it’s going to grow if you bought something like this from a nursery and you come home in here swing cut cut cut cut cut cut cut you’ve straightaway just haves the quickness of its growth because you’ve taken all its energy away so this applies to when you’re doing junipers you don’t want to be taking too much of the foliage off because you’re really gonna impact the health of the tree so trying to keep a fair amount of foliage on when you can I’m not saying that you can’t come in and cut it all off as I said all in this is going to cut off when I want it to and that’s a fair amount of Foley but by that time we’re gonna have a hate more on me here and it’ll be okay but the more foliage you can have on this tree the better the other thing we want to do with junipers is we want to clean the interior on them so what I mean by that is when this tree was made it had a whole bunch of girth in here we cleaned all that out and you want to try and get right in the middles of all your branches and clean them out a bit because what happens is only interior growth that’s inside of these all inside in here all that stuff there and gets shaded out so the Sun doesn’t actually get to it so all these top foliage shading out all that interior growth so what you do you should come in and you get your scissors and you just start cleaning all this stuff out in here that you can’t really see and it’s not really giving to the tree because at that point what’s happening is if you think about the photosynthesis what is happening is this stuff on top it’s all taking an energy from the Sun the stuff in the middle it’s not taking an energy from the Sun because it’s not getting any Sun but it is taking energy from the tree and grow so basically you’ve got foliage that’s taking energy away from the tree but it’s not giving anything back whereas all this foliage on top is giving and taking so you want to try and go through and any of the interior buds anything that’s not really used in the design of the tree stuff that’s getting shaded out you want to get rid of it eventually it’ll get rid of itself you’ll notice that it’ll dry up and become crispy and just drop off the tree but if you can maintain that on your maintenance schedule and just go through and check your interiors and cut those little bits out then your tree is really going to thrive from that because it’s just getting all the energy it can and it’s putting it into the places that matter rather than giving it to growth that is not taking anything back from the Sun so that brings us to section 4 which is fertilization so what do we use for fertilization now this is a bit of a gray area but what I generally use for junipers is just and across the board even NPK slow-release fertilizers or something like a 10-10-10 slow-release is good because it doesn’t burn the roots it works every time you water it gets activated from the heat you only have to apply it twice a year because the one we use is a six month fertilizer so every six months you just replace it when would you change your fertilizer this is a good question when you would change your fertilizer is when you are trying to achieve something very specific so what I mean by that is saying you’ve got a tree and it’s roots aren’t very healthy or it hasn’t got a good root system and you want to really grow the roots out you might get a fertilizer and mix it up there’s something that’s high in phosphorus you might just put phosphorus in there and that will help you root growth or maybe you really want these branches here to elongate so you can thicken or you can create more pads so maybe you might want something that’s a little higher in nitrogen so then you can mix up your own fertilizers put them in tea bags or something and give it a bit more of a heavier feed or something I do is I use the slow release and then during spring what I really want their growth to come out and start a long gating in certain spots I use a liquid nitrogen fertilizer the one I use is called nitrous all I’ll use it once a month during the spring growing season and that gets me all this long extra leg in growth that you’re seeing stuff like this that can be made into another pad soon and that’s what I do for my trees anyway there are people out there and that probably have different methods but me personally that’s just what I do so how often would you fertilize as I said before we use a six month slow release fertilizer and use that all year-round Jennifer’s can take it all year-round there’s some trees that you wouldn’t do all year round like black pines you wouldn’t want to be fertilizing heavier just before summer before you’re about to do your candle pruning but we’ve junipers just a slow release all year round even through winter and you’ll find that in spring they will really pump on that will grow hard in summer they’ll still keep growing and autumn they’ll still keep growing in winter not so much but they grow all year round but in spring they just grow the quickest so section 5 which is wiring so when to wire junipers can actually be wide all year round it’s not something that’s a super big deal but I do advise you try not to wire and spring when you can sometimes you can’t help this maybe you want to wire something out but the reason I say try to avoid wiring in spring is because of the growth the rapid growth so you can put wire on one week and then four weeks later you come back and the tree is eating the wire and it’s bitten in so hard that it’s starting to eat the wire and then you’ve got to take the wire off you’ve got scarring on your tree and the wire may not have even been on long enough for the branch to take shape properly what I generally do is let my trees just grow wild through spring just let them grow and then come back and revisit and summer do some pruning do some wiring the best time to why would be winter because they’re not growing as quickly and give us the branches time to set but you can’t you can’t do it during spring but just keep in mind that they gotta be growing rapidly and there’s a big chance your wine I can buy it in now this is going to be one of those situations where it’s kind of do as I say and not do as I do because a lot of the times I put wire on purposely in spring even if I’m not bending the tree because something that I like to do is you can see with this juniper here it’s got very smooth bark and when it’s got very smooth bark it looks like a baby very smooth so what I like to do with my junipers is put wire around I’m gonna let it bite in and then take it off and then put the wire on the opposite way and let it bite in again and then when in all heals and calluses over you have a very nollie bumpy old looking trunk it gives the gives the tree and a lot of age and character pretty quickly and you get rid of this real smooth look so I do put wire on in spring but if you don’t want him to bite or you can’t look after him enough I wouldn’t recommend it so what does happen if the wire bites in it’s not a big issue it’s gonna leave a mark it’s gonna scar but it will count us back over and it will help you’ll still be able to see that the wire been on on the tree but it’s not our biggest deal is if you do that on a maple for example and kind of looks good on the junipers you can probably seen on the cascading one over here and it’s been a bit of wire by adhering a bit here and it’s held up you can see it hasn’t created any big lumps of bumps but it does put a bit of character into the trunk so don’t freak out too much if you take your wire off and there’s a big groove and indent where the wire was that will heal over and it shouldn’t cause your trouble there’s no need to put cut pace or anything in there just let it do its thing it’ll heal over what happens if you break a branch now with Jennifers you’re probably gonna break a branch if you’re not breaking branches you’re not bending so we break branches all the time here at bonsai anon junipers and the thing we find is is it’s not really a huge deal sometimes you’ll snap a branch but like when we do the Shari if you’ve got a live vein at one side so say you’ve got a branch and you snap it and it snaps on the back here as long as this underside is still connected and it’s got a good live vein running on it then the branch will survive so your option there are you can either put some cut paste over the brain just so water and moisture doesn’t seep in there rot it out or you can bend it back with a wire and let it heal that’s up to you how do you want to do that but it’s not super deck detrimental to the tree if a branch does break I suggest for people starting out when you’re wiring in juniper use aluminium wire because copper wire as you bend it it hardens so if you make a wrong coil in your wire then it’s going to be a lot harder to rectify that so if you use aluminium wire it’s easier to bend and it’s easier to fix a mistake if you do it it’s also a lot cheaper so there’s really no reason to be using copper wire unless you’re a professional and you really want to get a big bend in the tree or maybe a trunk or a really thick first branch but other than that just use aluminium so section number six is soil now this is a very wide open topic a lot of people have their own soil mixes none of them are right none of them are wrong it’s just a very neutral kind of system you’ve just got to learn what each component does and why are you doing it if you know why yeah that’s right and that’s why everybody has their own mixes some people use the mixes that may hear up on the internet and that’s fine or you can use your own if you can’t get a hold of stuff like akadama or pumice lava rock all that kind of stuff me personally if you want to know what I use in stuff like this I use a mix of course River sand pine bark and perlite and the mix that I have actually has fly ash in it as well so what this ends up when is a very heavy draining mix the gift trees that we sell sometimes I’ll actually mix in a bit of charcoal in there as well because what charcoal does is then bacteria and fungi from growing in the soil it’s not a silver bullet but it just helps prevent none a little bit more it’s not necessary though as I said if you know what the ingredients for your soil then you can come up with a good mix so what’s what mix should you be looking for if you’ve got your tree growing in something like this it means you’re probably still developing so you’re trying to create thicker branches and all the movement in your tree you’re trying to thicken up the trunk trying to thicken your first branches you’re trying to elongate so if you want to use something that was very heavily draining something that was very coarse something that had a lot of akadama in it perlite pumice lava rock those kinds of things you’re not going to get that because what happens is the root system well actually in the way I’ll put this is the top of the tree mimics the root system so if you’ve got very say water retention soil something that’s not something that’s very anaerobic so it doesn’t carry a lot of oxygen what you’re going to do is you’re going to grow thicker more elongated roots and that’s going to be mimicked on top of the tree you’re going to get thicker more elongated shoots like this and like this like this like this like this and if you go back earlier on you’ll know why these are years for so while you’re developing this is good and that’s the mix that you want to aim for you know pot like this but once you’re ready to refine the train take it out of a pot like this and put it into something like these pots then you’ll want to use something that’s a little more force something that’s a little more aerobic because what happens then is you start growing finer roots once they start hitting the edge of the pot they’ll actually split off and ramify or bifurcate and then what happens then is the finding your roots get the fine and the growth on your tree is going to get and the more that the roots ramify and split into two and split into four the more and that you’re going to get on the top of your trees so that’s why in these containers we want to use something that’s a little bit more like that and also too you want something that’s a little bit more free draining you can keep on top of your watering properly then you know what you’re up against and if you go back you’ll know you can listen to the section and watering and you’ll know what I’m talking about if you know what your soil is then you know how much you can water and you can adjust in the weather your soil type your container type you’ll know exactly how to water then there’s no blanket way of saying you should water once a day twice a day it all comes down to your soil type you can’t a no type and the weather so I hope this clears things up a little bit I hope you took some good information from that and you can start making a bit more of an educated decision on how your watering how your pruning fertilizing wiring all that kind of stuff one of my biggest things in advice I can give you is when you’re looking to go buy trees try not to buy them from big-box retailers so if you’re in say in the United States try not to buy from places like loans if you’re in Australia Bunnings is a big no-no the reason for this is they just they don’t know how to care for bonsai so when you get the tree you’re already six steps back whereas if you go to a place like us or any other blonde sign nursery and that’s near you you’re gonna get a better tree and it’s gonna be half the price and that may shock you because you’re getting a bigger tree you getting a better tree it’s better style it’s healthier but when you buy from a big-box retailer they bought from somebody who bought from somebody else so there’s been a markup then there’s been another markup and then there’s the markup for you so when you go straight to a nursery they may have grown the stock themselves or they may have bought it from a supplier but there’s only really been one market so it’s cheaper and it’s been looked after by somebody who’s an enthusiast or a professional and knows what they’re doing and you’re just going to get a much nicer tree so once again just some quick notes keep them outside all year round make sure you learn how to water it in your soil type to the weather and to the container type make sure you strategically prune your trees don’t just prune them cuz maybe they’re overgrown make sure you know why you’re making that cut and the other thing I should mention too is when you are cutting junipers make sure you cut in between the needles don’t hedge prune them make sure you get in and you move them apart and cut in between the needles otherwise the ends of them will turn brown and you’ll get a bit of die back not detrimental to the tree but it doesn’t look nice fertilize slow release fertilizer all year round unless you’re trying to gain something specific with the tree and then you can learn what each fertilizer ingredient does and how much to give it and when to give it to it wiring try to avoid spring unless you can keep an eye on the wire depending on how quick the tree is growing the wire will bite in so just keep an eye on that and soil make sure you understand the soil types that you’re using and remember there’s no one soil type for any tree just research the ingredients and make sure you’ve got water attention and you’ve got nutrient retention you’ve got even amount of water and oxygen and you should be fine so I hope you can take some information away from this don’t forget to Like and subscribe and share with your friends and until next time I’ll see you later