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Juniperus chinensis

Versatile and full of character: Juniperus chinensis

The juniper is one of the most popular choices for bonsai. Many species are available with various price tags. There are two types, scale and needle junipers, which have a different growth and cultivation needs. Foliage is the driving force of the tree, so don’t remove to much in one time. When grown and cared for correctly, junipers develop rapidly and can be made into stunning bonsai. Deadwood is one of the most characteristic items seen on junipers. It symbolizes the struggle in the harsh and wild environment.

Juniperus chinensis 'itoigawa, Mauro Stemberger. Height: 70 cm.
Juniperus sabina, Carlos van der Vaart 40cm.

JUNIPER - HUSBANDRY

Propagating:

Seedlings and cuttings are excellent and easy sources of material. Cuttings can be taken in spring from last year’s wood. Use a good rooting hormone.

Air layering:

This is another rich resource. Ordinary nursery stock can often be improved by airlayering. Apply layers in early spring. Sometimes it is best to wait two seasons before detaching the layer in order to gain strong rooting.

Placement:

Grow in good light all year round, but avoid harsh sunlight if pots are shallow and keep out of prolonged frost.

Watering:

They can withstand some degree of drought. Avoid overwatering, but keep moist year round. The rigida variety is very thirsty and does not like to dry out. In comparison with the chinensis, it cannot withstand long periods of drought.

Pruning:

Branches and trunks of junipers are quite flexible and they can withstand some damage. Allow growth to grow a little before cutting the central stem of the most vigorous shoot. This can only be done if there are enough green shoots. The so-called juvenile growth mostly occurs when too much is being pruned. The branches of rigida variety are not as flexible as the other juniper varieties. Allow growth of new shoots before pinching.

Repotting:

Juniper roots are very fine so use a small particle soil mix like Akadama 50% and Kiryu 50% for good drainage. Adding some charcoal to the mix can soften the water.

Wiring:

Wire in autumn through winter, avoid spring because sap stream is very strong and the bark can easily be damaged. Use aluminium or copper wire. For the rigida variety: To avoid dropping branches you need to wire it. But wire very carefully as the foliage, although prickly, is very delicate.

Juniperus chinensis, Sergio Del Mese. Height: 80 cm.
Juniperus squamata, Bruno Beltrame. Height: 72 cm.

There are a variety of possible styles for juniper like cascade, forest or a simple multiple trunk

Juniperus chinensis 'itoigawa'. Patrick De Waele. Height: 45 cm.

JUNIPER - SPECIES

  • Common name:  Juniper
  • Genus: Juniperus (chinensis)
  • Higher taxon: Cupressaceae
  • Species: Sargent’s juniper (J. chinensis var. sargentii). Rocky mountain juniper (J. scopulorum). Western juniper (J. occidentalis). Ibuki juniper (J. procumbens). Western prickly juniper (J. oxycedrus). Common juniper (J. communis).
    Savin juniper (J. sabina)
  • Skill level: From beginner to advanced.
  • Soil type: Well-draining, small particle soil mix.
  • Flower and fruit: Males yellow, females small and purple/green in small clusters show at the tips on separate plants in spring. Berry-like glaucous cone to 8mm long.
  • Foliage: Scale-like, very small with blunt tips.
  • Bark: Red brown peeling in vertical strips.
Juniperus chinensis
Foliage of the rigida variety.
Foliage of the chinensis variety.
Juniperus rigida, Taikan Ten
Juniperus chinensis Masayuki Fujikawa.

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