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Japanese Black Pine

Pinus thunbergii

Japanese Black Pines habitat is frost-free, warm, temperate, humid, coastal hills and mountains at low elevation, 50 to 1000 meters. Native to Coastal Eastern China, Korea and Japan, it has attractive, deeply fissured black bark, white candles and has 2 needles per fascicles and can grow to 40 meters tall. In Japan, it is cultivated as an ornamental plant and used in Japanese Gardens. In Japan and Korea, it is grown for its timber which is used for general carpentry purposes.

Japanese Black, Pinus thunbergii, Bonsai, Mrs Kale Collection
Japanese Black, Pinus thunbergii, Bonsai, Mrs Kale Collection

Styles and Sizes: Many dwarf cultivars of Japanese Black Pine, have been adapted for Bonsai and Japanese Gardens, and they make small to large-sized bonsai in almost any style of bonsai. There are many old Black Pine specimens in existence today, in Japan and around the world.

Position: It thrives in a full sun aspect, and is not shade tolerant. If you are looking for a well-rounded bonsai with branches on its lower trunk, then grow it in a full-sun aspect.

Watering: Pine prefers a dry soil because of its symbiotic relationship with its mycorrhizal fungi. Water thoroughly in the early morning to allow for the bonsai to use the water during the daytime and ensure that the soil has no standing water in it over the night.

Feeding: Fertilise every two weeks from spring to autumn, using a balanced organic liquid fertiliser. During the hottest of summer months discontinue feeding. Supplement with a liquid seaweed + iron tonic a few times a year.

Repotting: It's not too fussy about its soil type, but need it on the dryer side and well-draining. Younger bonsai may be repotted every year, older bonsai repot when soil shows signs of depleting or bonsai growth has slowed. After repotting best to pace out of direct sunlight, soil surface dries out. Use a well-draining soil mix, 1 part loam, and 2 parts sharp sand. Alternatively, use 1 part Akadema and 1 part Pumice use grain size between 6-9 mm.

Pruning: Prune between early to mid-spring. New candles are pruned when they are 3-5 cm long, leaving only 3 of the smallest candles per clusters. In autumn prune all terminal stems, leaving only two of the current year’s shoots, by cutting away the thickest of them.

Wiring: Wire between late autumn and winter. Remove wire when growth gets vigorous again in summer.

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