How to Plant Japanese Pine Bonsai


The Japanese word "bonsai" translates literally as "tray planting." Bonsai is the art of creating the visual effect of a full sized, old tree in miniature. Although bonsai is strongly associated with Japan, it originated in China and is becoming more popular in modern China. Popular trees for bonsai are the various types of Japanese pines. Although you can grow many types of pines from seed, the easiest way to plant young bonsai is from very young, small trees.

Step 1

Begin removing branches from your young tree while the tree is still in its nursery pot. Most young trees from the nursery are overgrown for bonsai purposes.

Step 2

Thin out the branches on your tree until it has the overall feel of a full grown pine tree. Try not to remove more than 60 percent of the tree's green surface area to avoid causing too much trauma to the tree. You can always remove more material once the roots have re-established themselves. Scissors and bonsai pruners work well. For smaller areas, fingernail clippers are excellent for bonsai pruning.

Step 3

Cover the holes in the bottom of the bonsai pot with screen to keep the soil inside the pot. If you don't have screen, a carefully placed rock can allow drainage while keeping the soil in the pot. If you use rocks, you may have to periodically adjust them to facilitate proper drainage.

Step 4

Remove the tree from the plastic pot and trim the roots to the depth of your bonsai pot using scissors. Fill in the rest of the pot with potting soil.

Step 5

Use bonsai wire to guide the limbs of your miniature tree. Initially, the branches of your tree will likely be growing up. Try wiring the tree and forcing the growth of the branches down to simulate the effects of gravity on heavy tree branches. Once wired, leave the wires on for between two and three months. If you take the wires off and the branches spring back into place, they haven't been on the tree long enough. Replace the wires and try again in another month.

Step 6

Cover the top of the soil with rocks or moss. This is both aesthetic and acts as a mulch.

Step 7

Mix fish emulsion to half strength for house plants and thoroughly soak the new planting. Water the tree every day or two with the half strength fish emulsion. Make sure the soil is always damp; don't allow your tree to dry out.

Things You'll Need

  • Young Japanese pine
  • Scissors or bonsai pruners
  • Fingernail clippers
  • Potting soil
  • Rocks or moss
  • Bonsai wire
  • Fish emulsion


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Keywords: Japanes pine bonsai, bonsai planting, japanese art

About this Author

Christopher Earle is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colo. He has been writing since 1987 and has written for NPR, The Associated Press, the Boeing Company, Ford New Holland, Microsoft, Active Voice, RAHCO International and Umax Data Systems. He studied creative writing at Mankato State University in Minnesota.