Juniper bonsai is one of the most recognized species used to create these “little trees.”
Although used for centuries by bonsai artists and hobbyists, it was made
popular with the general public through a movie. Junipers quickly
became known as "The Karate Kid" bonsai.
Pines have been venerated for hundreds of years in the Orient. Junipers resemble the look of pine trees. It's not so surprising, many people throughout the world have them as their first bonsai tree.
There are so many varieties of juniper available, it is most likely one will be appropriate for your climate.
When I lived in South Florida, one of the more popular and easiest to grow was the shimpaku juniper.
It was a rampant grower and relatively pest free, even in the sub-tropics.
The procumbens juniper bonsai shown to the left was begun from nursery stock by an experienced Florida stylist.
The temporary wire tie-downs assist positioning of the branches. The jins (dead wood) were purposely created to give a natural appearance of age.
This bonsai is proof they don't have to be big to be beautiful. (Height under 12 inches.)
If you’ve decided to create your own juniper bonsai, the easiest way to get started is by using a plant from your local nursery.
Experiment trimming the branches and foliage, but leave the roots
alone until you get some advice about how much and the time of year in
You can learn on your own; however, hands-on lessons will more likely get you started in the right direction.
My first lesson was at a local adult education class.
To be honest the teacher was no expert, but then I knew very little, so I did learn some basics.
The class peaked my interest enough to buy some books, check out clubs in the area and start a passionate journey with bonsai.
This is an "after" picture of the nursery juniper above. It's now in a training container. Look closely to see the wire and notice the nicely shaped jins created by designer David Chauvin. When the season is right, it will go into a bonsai pot.
Want to see the entire process by another David?
David Cutchin created this time-lapse photography of his juniper procumbens juniper from its beginning as a nursery plant. It was shown at the Appleton Museum, Ocala, Florida in 2014 as part of an amazing exhibit.
Don't miss the ongoing efforts of one bonsai artist to perfect a wonderful juniper bonsai. It all started with a juniper in a nursery pot!
See another "Juniper Styling from the Beginning"
The Japanese words tanuki bonsai are used to describe what many refer to as phoenix graft and sometimes "phoney bonsai."
It's not a style, but a unique technique for making bonsai look much older than they are!
Consider juniper bonsai as an outdoors only tree. Growing them indoors is possible, but unlikely and definitely more complicated. (I only know of one person who has been successful with the challenge.)
If you have plants, you will have pests. One of the most insidious is the red spider mite ... and it loves junipers. The first clue of mites is usually a grayish cast to the needles. A more advanced clue is dense cobwebs.
Since mites are almost invisible to the naked eye, a simple way to check is with a white piece of paper. Place the paper under a branch, tap the branch and look closely.
If you see something red, tiny and crawling around on the paper, you have a problem. There are many pesticides to use – organic and chemical miticides.
Mites can easily spread to other plants. Treat the problem immediately!
Thinking of a first bonsai? Be sure to read How to Buy a Bonsai.
Or you may want to read 10 Reasons Not to Buy one!
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