Black Pine Bonsai Tree Care guide

Introduction

The Black Pine is a native tree of Japan. In the wild it is a tough tree that grows in poor stony soil and at high altitudes. It a widely grown as bonsai in Japan. Not so often seen in the UK, large or high quality bonsai can be very expensive. here is our information on Black pine bonsai tree care.

Location

Outdoor

Site outdoors in full sun. A sunny location helps to reduce needle size – the needles on Black Pine are naturally larger than White Pine. Wild Black Pines are very frost hardy. As bonsai, winter protection may be beneficial – more to stop them being wet all winter than protection from cold/

Indoor

Cannot be grown indoors.

Watering

Not especially thirsty. Allow to dry a little between watering. You’ll probably still be watering daily in hot summer weather. Much less in winter. Please do not read this and kill your tree by underwatering however!

As with other pine species, lots of water will make the coming needles larger. Holding off from watering (along with pruning) is a key factor in getting the naturally long needles to reduce down in size.

Pruning

Some pine trees only put out one flush of new growth per year. Black Pines are two-flush pines. This means that you get one candle of new growth from early spring to midsummer, and a second candle which grows from midsummer and hardens off before winter.

Candle pruning

Many experienced growers will remove most of the first crop of candles from the tree. They will leave the weaker shoots to grow in order to strengthen these areas and keep them alive. They leave the second flush, which is usually smaller and tighter, to grow.

A possible timetable for this process:

July – Prune the lower third of candles first. Remove the entire candle right back to last year’s growth.

7-10 days later – prune the middle third of the tree. Remove the entire candle right back to last year’s growth.

7-10 days later – Prune the top third of the tree. Again, remove the entire candle right back to last year’s growth.

Pruning the lower parts of the tree first, before the top, pushes sap down into the lower areas of the tree. To me, this seems counterintuitive but it is widely written.

Black Pine Bonsai Tree Buds
Very small buds forming in autumn from the second flush of growth

Needle Cutting

Needles are cut from stronger area of the tree with sharp scissors. You snip them off at the base of the needles, leaving a short stub – perhaps a couple of millimetres. We do this to reduce the energy that that branch has – more needles equal more photosynthesis equal a more vigorous branches with bigger needles. Cut more needles in stronger areas – the top and outside of the tree, to reduce energy in these areas and encourage the tree to put effort into the weaker areas. It’s a matter of balancing the growth in order to make stop the tree being top-heavy. By doing this, you are also allowing light and fresh air into the centre of the tree, which helps keep this area healthy and encourages buds in the centre and lower down.

Feeding

Feed from spring to autumn. A weak, slow release fertiliser is recommended. Black Pine bonsai do not require large amounts of fertiliser.

Repotting

Repot every two to five years. The normal advice is to do this in early spring. People also repot them in midsummer. It is considered unwise to bareroot pines when repotting, although Black Pines are stronger than White Pines.