Bonsai Species: Conifers

These trees are named after their characteristic fruits, or cones. Most of them are evergreens, which gives them a constancy of form, regardless of season. This is not to say that they do not drop their ‘leaves’ – usually needles – although these are replaced at once by new growth, which is why these trees are always green.

Conifers lend themselves particularly well to bonsai treatment. Pines above all submit happily to pruning and their branches and trunks can easily be wired to form arching shapes. They can make spectacular specimens within a short space of time – within just a few years.

Group comprising left a Pinus parvifloru and, right, a Carpinus japonicaConifers are generally hardy and therefore require a minimum of care. For this reason, they are good trees for the beginner to grow. In many cases, all you need do is pinch out the buds and shoots in spring and clear up the dead needles in autumn. They like a sunny position, but take care that the root ball does not dry out. (Most conifers originate from the drier regions of the world and do not need a great deal of water).

The bark of old conifer trees should be regularly scraped, since it often harbours parasites – a common example is overwintering greenfly eggs.






Abies alba (silver fir)

Short, spiky evergreen needles, upright cones

spring, before bud burst

Early summer (two thirds of the shoots)

Cedrus spp. (cedar)

Short, spiky evergreen needles, dark green

spring, before bud burst

Late spring – mid-autumn (two thirds of the shoots)

Chamaecyparis spp. and cvs. (false cypress)

Evergreen, habit varies; slow developer

spring or autumn

All year round (two thirds of the shoots)

Cryptomeria japonica (Japanese cedar)

Slow developing evergreen; green foliage turns red-bronze in autumn


Late spring – early summer (at the third node)

Juniperus chinensis (Chinese juniper)

Leafy evergreen, sea green in colour

spring, autumn

Early spring – early autumn (two thirds of the shoots)

Juniperus rigida var. nipponica (needle juniper)

Narrow, sharply pointed evergreen needles; cones blue, green or reddish


Early spring – early autumn (drastic)

Larix spp. and cvs. (larch)

Deciduous needles, pale green in spring, turning darker in summer and gold in autumn

spring, before bud burst


Picea spp. and cvs. (spruce)

Erect evergreen needles, pendant cones

spring, autumn

Early spring – mid­summer (debud if growth is luxuriant)

Pinus parviflora (Japanese white pine)

Small fine bluish green needles

spring, autumn

Debud in late spring

Pinus thunbergii (Japanese black pine)

Strong, robust dark greyish-green needles

spring, autumn

Summer (remove shoots completely)

Taxus baccata (yew)

Blunt evergreen needles, dark green; bright scarlet ‘berries’ (arils)

spring, before bud burst summer

Late spring – early summer (reduce number of shoots)

24. February 2012 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Bonsai | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Bonsai Species: Conifers


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