Pine Tree Care

Pine trees are one of wild trees which could grow out of control, there is an interesting article in the book called “Totally Bonsai” by “Craig Coussins”. Presenting some helpful hints from the book for the users.


Pines need semi-dry conditions in the winter and the soil kept slightly damp in the growing season. Pine bonsai do not like very wet conditions. Spray the needles only from summer to early fall, but in both the morning and late evening.

Needle reduction

To reduce needles on established trees, start to withhold water as the buds develop. This makes the needles smaller. When the buds have set and the needles open, resume normal watering. This is not appropriate for young trees, as they need vigor to develop.

Pests and diseases

  • Aphids, adelgids, mealy bug, red spider mite, and Lophodermium pinastre (pine-needle cast).
  • if pests arrive, treat with systemic insecticide.
  • Lopho is a fungus identified lateral yellow stripes on the needle and is treated weakly with a copper fungicide for five or six weeks. When using any fungicide on a pine, do not allow the fungicide to get onto the soil because it will damage the beneficial mycelium that helps the pine roots to grow. Cover it with a polythene sheet or plastic bag and then a towel.
  • Adelgids look like a woolly fluff between the needles. Systemic insecticide will kill the insect but use a concentrated hose spray to wash away the fluff.


Always use bought fertilizers at half strength.

  • For young trees in the spring, feed with a high- nitrogen fertilizer; in summer, with a balanced fertilizer, and in early autumn, with a low nitrogen fertilizer. Feed every three weeks at the beginning of the season and every four weeks by early summer through to the end of autumn.
  • On established trees, using fertilizers at full strength is particularly dangerous, because the roots are very tender and may suffer from being fed. You do not want lush juvenile growth, so feed until early summer with low-nitrogen fertilizer, Give balanced feed in summer and in the fall feed with low-nitrogen fertilizer again.
  • Feed mature trees about every five weeks using slow-release fertilizers pellets. Such as Bio Gold. Mature trees need just enough feed to replace lost nutrients in the soil. Feeding trace elements to all bonsai is necessary, but, since most proprietary food have these in the formula, it is unnecessary to add more. Check the pack.


  • Every three years, prune the two-year-old needles on young trees, and three-year-old     needles on mature trees at the rear of each bud needle cluster. Do not trim the needles nearest the new buds. Cut the needles above the tiny sheath. Doing this encourages new buds to develop on the older wood.
  • Leave only two or three buds at each tip, depending on the health of the tree.

If you wish to develop young inner buds along the branch, then prune out some of the leading tips that are not required.

Start cutting candles (buds) from the top of the tree by half to two-thirds, each week. Work your way down until you reach the bottom layer of branches (White pine only).

The strongest bud at the top of the tree will grow.

Do not prune all the buds on the tree at the same time, because this will exhaust the tree.

Every three years it is better to pull the soft new needles the following year.

Two-needle pines

Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris ). When these trees are either collected or bought in garden centres, they invariably have long branches with little or no twig structure. The technique for back budding in order to develop twigs is quite straightforward.

  • From mid-spring the tree grows candles. Starting at the bottom of the tree, or the weaker lower branches, pluck out 50 percent of the candle with your fingers by holding the bottom of the candle to stop it from being broken off the tree, and pull the rest with your other hand. Leave all obviously weak until they have swollen. However, if this has not occurred by late spring, then simply proceed with the other branches.
  • A week later, pluck the next layer of branches in the same way and work your way up to what will be by now a vigorous top area. Using both hands, hold the base of the bud and pluck off 50 percent of the candle bud.

 Soil type

  • A free-draining soil is important for all pines and should be five parts of grit to three parts organic, such as a mixture of peat, leaf mold, or composted bark.
  • Speak to the seller of the bonsai or to other growers in your area and they will advise you on the best soil component for your climate.
  • Trees in hotter climates may need a little more organic matter to retain moisture than do trees in colder or wetter climates.
  • If you have access to Japanese soils, you can mix 50 percent kureyu pine soil for fast drainage to avoid sudden conditions.
  • Repot every three years for young trees and every five years for mature trees.
  • Use rust, brown, gray, or deep-blue pots for pines.

Light/shade requirements

  • Pines like some shade for part of the day in the summer.
  • A light area free from winter climatic problems during the cold months.
  • Full sun will make the tree more yellow in most cases, while full shade (not advised) will force the glaucous, blue-green color to come out.
  • Blend the light requirements and you will have a healthy tree.
  • The reason you pluck off the candles in stage, from the base upward is that the stronger growth is at the top the tree. Should you start to pluck from the top, all the tree’s energy would be needed to repair the damage and would bypass weaker areas. This could result in eventual loss within the weaker areas.
  • The next thing to look out for is the formation of twin buds.
  • Pluck the longer bud and wait until the smaller bud has grown longer than the plucked bud.
  • then remove the first bud and
  • reduce the new bud by half but in the same weekly regime.
  • At no time lave more than two buds on any growth point.
  • You must reduce this multiple growth to the one or two buds if they are important to your overall plan.
  • After these new buds have developed, keep the end of that branch short, or else the sap will bypass the new bud to feed the stronger bud.
  • You can remove the entire leader bud if you have strong back buds but be very careful; if these buds are weak, you will lose the entire branch or twig if you remove the leader.

This method differs from that for the White pine, with which you begin at the top and work your way down. The tree is less likely to abort its weaker, lower branches. The white pine has a very specialized series of auxin channels (auxin is a plant growth hormone) that require the stronger buds to be trimmed first.

The new growth is much softer than in the case of two-needle pines. Unlike these, the five- needle pines can be pruned back quite hard after the needles have broken. If you feel the difference between the needle varieties, you will see what I mean.

Established trees

If you have established the tree and reduced the needles, then you can remove 75 percent of the candles to maintain and build dense pads. This also applies to white pine (Pine parviflora). You will see that your tree starts to shape up over the next three or four years.

  • Look at the inner buds on each branch and, when bud plucking starts, pluck the inner buds first.
  • Five days later do the outer buds.
  • Start on the next upper layer a week later.
  • Although this does increase the actual plucking time by 75 percent, you will soon see the difference.
  • Maintenance pruning of buds is done when the tree has been relatively completed. This means reverting to the basic plucking procedure. Work on one layer of branches at a time, covering all the buds at the same time on each layer, and progressing each week upward.