The first thing that you need to do when it comes to pruning your junipers is to determine if they are overgrown or not. If they are overgrown then there is no point in cutting them down. They may look pretty but they won’t produce any fruit and you’ll have wasted time and energy.
If they aren’t overgrown then you’re going to want to cut them down anyway because their branches are too long and you don’t want to get tangled up in all those branches. Cutting them down will allow space for new growth so that you can eventually harvest the fruits from these bushes.
What To Do With A Juniper Bush That Has Been Cut Down?
You can either replant the bush elsewhere (if you have enough room) or you can let it go to waste. If you decide to let it go to waste, then just leave it alone and don’t bother coming back again. Don’t worry about making sure that the bush doesn’t grow back. There’s nothing wrong with that since after all, you’re only doing what nature intended for this tree!
How To Prune A Juniper Tree?
You’re going to want to prune off everything that has been dead since your last cut. That’s the first thing that you need to do and it’s pretty easy to see what needs to be cut away. Just cut back all of the dead wood and whatever else seems to be on its way out.
After removing the dead wood, you’re going to want to thin out the inside of the tree. This means that you want to cut through any crossing or overlapping branches in your juniper. You want all of the branches to be spread out so that sunlight has access to the inside of the tree and the air is able to circulate properly.
It is important that you do not over crowd your tree. You don’t want it to become overweight or for it to be unable to support itself. This will ruin the look of your juniper and it probably won’t grow properly either. Always make sure that you’re not hindering the growth of your tree, even if you have your own personal preferences on how you want it to look.
Once you’ve got the inside of the tree thinned out, you can then move on to shaping your tree. Just like with pruning dead wood and branches that are overlapping, you’re going to want to cut off any spindly or crossing branches that aren’t contributing to the shape of your tree. You can also remove whole branches if you think that it would improve the look of your tree.
After this, you should lightly trim the tips off of every other branch. This will promote branching and it will also create a fuller look for your juniper. Just be careful not to remove too many branches or cut them too short, otherwise your tree might end up looking like a mushroom since it won’t have a tip!
How To Prune An Overgrown Juniper?
An overgrown juniper is just like any other juniper, the only difference is that it has a lot more branches and crossing branches. In order to make this juniper look more like a tree and less like a bush you’re going to want to do the same thing that you did for a regular juniper.
The only difference is you’re going to have a lot more pruning to do! You’re going to have to thin out the inside of the tree, cut off spindly or crossing branches, trim the tips of every other branch, and cut out overlapping branches.
You should also remove any branches that are growing towards the center of the tree. You want sun to be able to reach the inside of the tree so you shouldn’t have any branches blocking that sunlight. By doing this, your juniper should turn out looking more like an umbrella than a bush.
Just remember, when pruning an overgrown juniper, take it slowly. You don’t want to cut out too much since you can’t put it back!
When To Prune A Juniper
Traditionally, people prune junipers in the early spring but it really doesn’t matter when you do it. It’s just that this is when people normally prune their plants. You can do it whenever you want to as long as you have enough time for the cuts to heal before winter.
You definitely don’t want to prune your tree right before a snowstorm, even if you’re in a mild climate. All of those open wounds on the branches are going to collect ice which will cause your juniper tree a lot of damage in the spring.
If you’re growing your juniper indoors, then you should prune your tree during its dormancy period which is typically during the winter or early spring. Always remember that you want to give your tree enough time to heal so don’t rush into things!
How To Prune A Juniper Bonsai Tree
Pruning a juniper bonsai tree is very different than pruning a regular juniper tree. While you should trim your regular tree during the spring and summer, you need to trim your bonsai tree during its dormancy period.
Trimming a juniper bonsai tree is known as “pine needle pruning.” To do this, you’re going to remove the growing tips of your branches. This forces the energy that the tree would have used to grow upward, it instead goes inward which thins out the branches. Just be sure not to trim too many of these tips or your tree will end up looking like a mushroom because all of the growth will be concentrated near the top.
You should also remove any crossing or extra branches because they’ll just end up getting in the way. You can leave one or two on the bottom though since these will help support the tree as it gets heavier from all of the pine needles.
Now, if you’re wondering when to do all of this, then the answer is simple. Do it right after your juniper finishes shedding its needles. This is the time when the tree is going to be resting and it won’t be losing any energy worrying about growing. After a few years, you’ll have a beautiful bonsai tree that you can show off to your friends (and enemies).
Repotting A Juniper Bonsai Tree
As with all bonsai trees, you’ll eventually have to repot your tree. This is a very delicate operation since you could kill your tree if you’re not careful. The goal of repotting is to put your tree in a bigger pot but keep the roots the same size so that they don’t have room to grow.
Why do this?
Because as your tree grows, the roots will fill up the pot and suffocate the tree. This will cause your tree to look sickly and eventually die. By keeping this from happening, you keep your tree healthy and green.
Do I need to repot my juniper bonsai tree?
If your tree is in a regular nursery container, then you’ll need to repot it. If the roots are coming out of the holes in the bottom of the pot, then it’s time to be repotted.
You’ll also need to repot your juniper bonsai if it’s in a regular pot every 2-3 years. You’ll need to do it more often if you’ve got a small container or less often if you’ve got a big container. It all depends on how fast your tree is growing.
If you’re not sure when the last time you repotted your tree was, then here’s a quick guide that you can follow. If it’s been more than ____ months/years, then you need to go ahead and repot.
6 months – 1 year, repot every 6 months
1 year – 2 years, repot every year
How do I know if it’s time to repot?
The most obvious sign that it’s time to repot is if the tree is coming out of the pot. There will be a gap between the soil and the side of the pot. If you turn the pot over, then you’ll see the roots coming out of the holes in the bottom.
You can also take off the top layer of soil and remove some of the dirt. If you see fresh roots, then it’s definitely time to repot. Don’t worry, these roots won’t hurt your tree and in fact they’ll help it grow better.
What you want to do is slightly bigger pot that will allow you to put some fast-draining soil in there. I like to use a mix of half regular potting soil and half sand because it drains really well. If you want, you can also use a mix of one part each of pine bark and sand.
Is There A Right Time Of Year To Repot?
There’s not a right time of the year to repot your trees but there are certain times that are better than others. I like to do it in the spring or early summer. This way, the tree has all summer to grow and get used to its new home.
You don’t want to do it right before winter because the tree won’t have enough time to develop strong roots. If you’re going on vacation or something like that, then you can have someone else do it or wait until you get back.
The other thing that you don’t want to do is repotting it in the same pot for several years in a row. This restricts the growth of your roots and can cause health problems for your tree. Repot every two or three years.
I’ve Got A Deciduous Tree.
Do I Still Need To Repot Every Two Or Three Years?
Yes, this rule applies to deciduous trees as well. Many people assume that because they shed their leaves in the winter that they won’t need to be repotted as often, but this simply isn’t true.
Repot your trees every two or three years whether they are evergreen or deciduous.
How To Repot Your Tree
Once you’ve decided that it’s time to repot, the next step is to get everything you need. In addition to your pot and soil, you’ll need a trowel or knife to cut away the roots, a small bucket, and some newspaper to put the tree in while you’re working.
Also, if you haven’t already done so, water the tree the day before you’re planning to do this to make the soil a little easier to remove.
Now it’s time to get started. First, put some of the fast-draining soil in the bottom of your pot. Don’t put in too much because you don’t want it coming up over the top when you put your tree in.
Now take your tree out of its pot and look at the roots. Using your trowel or knife, gently cut away the soil from around the roots. Try not to cut any of the roots themselves.
Once you’ve got a nice pile of dirt and roots next to the pot, hold your tree over the pot and gently slide it in. Gently firm the soil around the roots to secure it in place.
Add more soil to the pot until it’s about an inch or so below the lip. Use your finger to comb through the soil and make room for the roots to settle in. This is also a good time to add a small amount of fertilizer.
Now add more soil, filling in around the tree until the pot is almost full and the base of the trunk has several inches of soil surrounding it. Again, take some time to make sure the roots are well covered and separated. Use the remaining soil to fill in around the top of the soil, leaving space for a little water. Water well and add a thorough soaking.
Time To Water
Many people, especially beginners, assume that their trees need a lot of water. While this is certainly true, it’s also important not to over water.
Always wait until the top inch or two of soil is dry before watering thoroughly.
How Often Should I Water My Tree?
The simple answer is as often as it needs it. However, most trees like to be watered once a week whether they need it or not. This helps keep the soil from drying out too much which could kill your tree.
Remember, you don’t have to drown it every time you water it. Just make sure that the topsoil is damp and that it doesn’t dry out for long periods of time.
Watering a tree is a bit of a balancing act. You don’t want to drown it, but you also don’t want it to be in dry soil for too long.
How To Water A Tree
Always wait until the top couple of inches of soil are dry before watering. This may take anywhere from a couple of days to a week or so. Use your finger to test the soil. DO NOT stick your whole hand into the pot and shove it around looking for wet spots.
This will damage your tree.
Once you are ready to water, remove the drain plug if you have a large (drained) container to catch the excess water, or open up a tap and get a smaller bowl or bucket to collect the runoff water. If you’re caught with no place for the water to go, just water a smaller amount of soil to make sure you don’t wind up with a soggy mess (and rot).
Use tepid water (water temperature should be between 60-80 degrees F). This is also a good time to check your fertilizer if you’re using it.
How Do I Know When And How To Water My Tree?
The best way to tell is with your finger. Stick it into the soil and get a feel for the moisture level. It should feel dry about an inch down and no wetter than the bottom of the pot.
When To Water
You don’t want to water your tree too much, but you also don’t want it to dry out and get “thirsty”. If your soil is “dragging” a lot when you lift the pot, then you should probably water it soon. If there is very little drag, then you can probably wait a little longer before watering again.
The best way to tell is to stick your finger into the soil. You are looking for the soil to be dry about an inch down and no wetter than the bottom of the pot. You can also do the “pinch and pull” technique on the soil. Take a pinch of the topsoil and pull it through your fingers.
If it breaks apart easily, it probably needs water. If it stays in a clump, you’re good for a while.
If your tree is in a large container (5 gal. pot or larger), you should be watering it with a tepid water about once a week. This means that the water should be warm, but not hot. A good way to gauge this is to run the water into your pot and stick your hand in the running water for a few seconds to get it to the right temperature before filling your pot.
Using cold water will shock the roots of your bonsai and could cause damage or even death.
If your tree is in a smaller container, you should be watering it with tepid water about once every two to three days. This will probably involve watering it early in the morning so that the water has time to seep into the soil and drain before night. If there is any water left over in your pot at night, the roots will remain wet and this can lead to problems.
You’ll need to keep an eye on your tree. You’ll be able to see whether it is drinking a lot more than usual or refusing to drink at all.
Your tree will also tell you when it needs water by dropping leaves. This is completely normal and should not be a cause for alarm unless you don’t see new growth later on. This typically means that your tree has given up on life.
How Often Should I Be RepOTTing?
You should only need to repot once every two years. This is especially important for trees in small containers. The roots are growing around the container and becoming “root-bound”. When this happens, the roots can no longer absorb as much nutrients and water as it could before. It also makes it much harder for the roots to uptake these nutrients. Repotting could save your tree’s life if this occurs.
Fertilizing Your Tree
Using a fertilizer once every two weeks or so should keep your tree healthy. An all-purpose 10-10-10 fertilizer is usually good for all trees, but it’s completely up to you what kind of fertilizer you want to get. You can get anything from blossom booster to tomato feed. It’s all up to you.
Just don’t forget to feed your tree 🙂
Weeding and Pest Control
The best way to keep weeds away is to make sure that your soil does not contain any. To do this, you’ll need to mix your soil with peat and vermiculite before you plant. This will also help with water and nutrient retention.
Keeping pests away should never be a problem as long as you quarantine any new plants before adding them to your collection. The most common pests are mealy bugs and scale insects. Both are easy to identify, easily treated with a strong spray of water (make sure to hit the undersides of the leaves too), and easily avoided by keeping them away from your trees.
Vermin, like slugs and snails, can be harder to get rid of. You can use store-bought traps or you could try home-made remedies like coffee grounds, crushed eggshells, or copper strips.
When having pests is a serious problem, there’s nothing wrong with calling an exterminator. Most should be able to help you without charging too much.
The POTTING SOIL Recipe
1 part peat moss
1 part garden soil (or dirt)
1 part compost
1/2 part limestone (chipped or crushed)
The mixture is not that important as long as it has the above ingredients in these proportions. Vermiculite or perlite can be used in place of the peat moss.
If you have any special ingredients that you like to add to your soil, you can add them after step 4.
Here’s a short video that explains the potting soil mix:
How To Repot
This short video explains the basics of repotting:
Other Common Problems
“My tree is Wilting!”
Wilting in plants basically means that the leaves, stems, or roots are drying out. Leaves and stems can wilt from too much sun or not enough water. Roots can wilt from being in a container that is too small, or because of poor drainage.
Often the problem is minor and the tree will recover if watered immediately. If the tree continues to wilt, then unwatered roots may be the problem.
If you repotted recently, then the tree might just need time to adjust to it’s new pot. Keep an eye on it for a few days and water it immediately if it looks like it needs it.
“My tree has yellow leaves!”
It sounds like your tree might be getting too much sun or not enough water. If the soil is dry, then water it right away.
If the soil is moist and the leaves are still turning yellow, then it might need more nutrients. Try giving it a dose of fast-acting fertilizer to give it a quick nutrient boost. If that doesn’t work, you can also try a more slow-acting chemical fertilizer or organic plant food.
“My tree has brown leaves!”
Brown leaves can be caused by underwatering or overwatering, but they can also be a sign of too much or too little light. This might mean that you need to adjust the position of your tree in its pot (higher light) or give it some sun (most trees like afternoon sun and prefer some shade in the morning).
Flower and Fruit Problems
Once your tree is tall and healthy enough to bloom, it might surprise you with a flower. This can be a welcome sign that your tree is happy, or a disturbing sign that something is wrong. Either way, it’s good to know how to make it happen.
If you pruned your tree during the growing season, then it might surprise you with flowers the following spring. This is because trees need to first grow some branches before they can produce flowers.
Flowers are often (but not always) a sign that your tree is male and capable of making seeds. If you want to harvest seeds, then be sure to collect a few before they are shed or you may miss your chance.
Finally, if you startle a female tree into producing flowers, it might never produce fruit. This is nature’s way of preventing inbreeding.
If your tree is producing fruit, then congratulations! Your hard work has paid off. If not, it may still do so in the future.
Sources & references used in this article:
Pruning evergreens by D Whiting, J Bousselot, R Cox… – … series. Colorado master …, 2004 – mountainscholar.org
Bow staves harvested from Juniper trees by Indians of nevada by PJ Wilke – Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology, 1988 – JSTOR
Pruning landscape trees and shrubs by EF Gilman, RJ Black – 2005 – iphoa.com
Pruning by DA Rakow, R Weir III – 2005 – ecommons.cornell.edu
The Complete Guide to Pruning Trees and Bushes: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply by KO Morgan – 2011 – books.google.com
Pruning shrubs by JR Feucht – Gardening series. Trees and shrubs; no. 7.206, 1992 – mountainscholar.org