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when to plant baby Pine Trees into Bonsai environment?

Posted: Wed Feb 19, 2014 10:02 pm
by jcartabiano
I live in Santa Cruz, California overlooking the San Lorenzo River, about 1 1/2 miles from the ocean. I know very little about the Pines that grow along the river here, except that they may be Bishop or Pondarosa along with our Redwood Trees, but moreover, I love walking through them and watch how my view of them changes from my third floor window, just about everyday.

2 years ago I gathered several pine cones not minding which pines dropped them. I brought them into my house where they dropped seeds. I planted the seeds and forgot about them on my outdoor balcony. Lo and behold 2 years later, there were three tiny pine trees about a half inch high.

They are now only 3 inches high and I decided I'd like to try and include them in one outdoor Bonsai presentation. Right now they each look like one thin stem with needles growing from the stem, with no branches to speak of.

I can't seem to find a video or photo of pines this young. Most Bonsai info. is dealing with larger trees, which already have branches etc..

I have the basic materials to begin transplanting them into a proper container but is it too early? Is there work to be done when they're this young?

Can someone please tell me how to proceed?

I would appreciate any of your educated comments and suggestions.

Many thanks for the opportunity to learn from your experience-

Re: when to plant baby Pine Trees into Bonsai environment?

Posted: Thu Feb 20, 2014 4:58 am
by Gnome

Hello and welcome. Pines are a challenging choice especially from seed and more so for a beginner. Pines will need to be grown out for years before you will achieve anything resembling bonsai. For the foreseeable future you should just grow them out while preserving low shoots.

The first step will be to transition them to a free draining medium, ideally they would have been started in such a medium. Read this to learn about bonsai soils and re-potting. I used 5" pond baskets for my Pine seedling project then later colanders.


Re: when to plant baby Pine Trees into Bonsai environment?

Posted: Thu Feb 20, 2014 7:25 am
by tomc
These seedlings are 2 to 4 years away from much candle pinching, and 20 plus (years) away from bonsai styling.

They will do best with soil made primarily of inert granite (or lava) bits and sifted pine bark mulch. Because the root mass is so tiny I would not use semi-soluble soil amendments like akadama. You are too likely to over-water their tiny feet.

Over potting (using a too large pot) will encourage faster growth, but its peril is soil kept too wet. Norms advice of using a pond basket (and mine of a low soluble mix) are all trying to promote growth while optimizing drainage.

Use soluble fertilizer of your choice at about 1/4 of the directed rate of application May through October.

Read up on and or look for photos of pinching candles, which will become most of your top pruning for the foreseable future. Root prune lightly after rinsing soil off roots first.

Re: when to plant baby Pine Trees into Bonsai environment?

Posted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 1:41 am
by jcartabiano
Thank you so much for the information I so badly needed.

I have all the time in the world before I begin transplanting, pinching, pruning and someday rafia binding! In the meantime, I will look for a proper container as you both suggested, and continue spending time with my "triplets", keeping them from harm.

I also thought to find a more mature plant to begin learning, while the "babies" grow a bit more. Can you suggest a plant or tree which is similar to working with pines and that I can use as my first real project? I have a rectangular container for Bonsai, that is approx. 12"x 9 x 4"deep. ?????

Again, so pleased to know their are generous people like yourselves to help me navigate these first steps and get started.

As a side-bar, I'm a visual artist, and have always LOVED to prune plants and trees of all kinds. So I won't be surprised if the Bonsai Bug bites. It is truly quite an Art.

Special Thanks-


Re: when to plant baby Pine Trees into Bonsai environment?

Posted: Sat Feb 22, 2014 6:01 pm
by tomc
This is gonna sound like a veering topic (but I think not).

One dog fancier favors a poodle for his freindlyness and hunting skills. Another fancies a pulik for all the same reasons .

The only difference to my non-dog fancier eyes is how either human grooms the coat. I promise if you took both dogs to the groomer and gave them both a buzz-cut, after grooming you could not pick one from the other.

How we evoke age and serenity (in a tree) is the same kind of grooming for a tree. it hurts nothing. And if you falter due to age or disinterest, your tree baby can be emptied out of his pot and go on with his life no worse for the wear.