Black japanese pine tree

Pinus thunbergii ‘Thunderhead’ / Thunderhead Japanese black pine

Pinus thunbergii ‘Thunderhead’ is an attractive, vigorous, broadly pyramidal selection of Japanese black pine with densely packed, long, brooding, dark-green needles and distinctive silver-white candles that are most attractive in late winter/early spring. After 10 years of growth, a mature specimen will measure 12 to 15 feet (4 – 5 m) tall and 20 feet (6 m) wide, an annual growth rate of 12 to 15 inches (30 – 37 cm). Like all cultivars in this species, specimens can be easily aesthetically pruned to control a plant’s size and form.

As is true with most Pinus thunbergii, ‘Thunderhead’ is hardy to USDA Zone 5 although the needles could burn at temperatures of -10 to -15ºF (-23 to -26ºC). Plants are especially vulnerable during times of wide and rapid temperature fluctuation. If possible, winter protection from the effects of wind chill could greatly increase your odds of successfully maintaining this plant in your garden.

This cultivar originated as a seedling selected around 1987 by Angelica Nurseries, Massachusetts, USA. It was originally released under the provisional name, and at some point the cultivar name became shortened into its present form.

One must note that in 1981, Dr. Sidney Waxman of University of Connecticut selected and named a Pinus resinosa under the name ‘Thunderhead.’ Under the rules of botanical nomenclature, a cultivar name can only be used once within a genus, leaving P. thunbergii ‘Thunderhead’ as an illegitimate cultivar name because P. resinosa ‘Thunderhead’ was named first. I would be most appropriate if ‘Angelica’s Thunderhead’ was re-adopted as a cultivar name for this conifer.

Japanese Black Pine Care Guide

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General Information:

Pinus thunbergii is considered a classic bonsai tree. It is native to – and common in – Japan, and can grow upwards of 100 feet tall in ideal conditions. In most cases, however, it may reach a height of 20-25 feet, achieving a spread of 20-35 feet wide. In its native land the Japanese Black Pine is often used as an ornamental in parks and gardens.

Tree’s Attributes:

The branches of this conical pine have a unique, horizontal growing pattern, resulting in a layered look. The needles are dark green, grow in pairs, and are considerably long at three to five inches. One of the most attractive features of this tree for bonsai purposes is the bark – it is grayish to gray-black with irregular fissured plates, giving it a lovely textured look of age.


It is possible to grow Pinus thunbergii in warmer climates, however it does not prefer extreme heat and is happiest in fairly cool zones. It will, however, require protection if temperatures dip unusually low. This tree enjoys being grown outside in full sun with good air circulation.


Japanese Black Pine is hardy and drought-tolerant. It may be allowed to dry out between waterings, and may also benefit from the use of a humidity tray or daily spritzing with water, particularly in the heat of summer.


Feed an acid-based fertilizer about once a month. A balanced mixture may be used every one to two weeks during the growing season, typically spring to fall.


Styles – Japanese Black Pine may be shaped into most bonsai forms except cascade. This species is most conducive to informal and formal upright. The trunk often develops a natural sideways lean which may lend itself to slanting.

Pruning should be done in early spring, with pinching taking place in late spring after the buds have developed. Start with pinching the weakest undesired buds, then wait a week and pinch off the strongest undesired ones. Once this first round is complete, identify the weakest areas of growth and remove the weakest buds. In the stronger areas of foliage, remove the strongest buds, leaving the weakest.

If shaping is desired for a more distinct silhouette, plucking may be carried out by removing needles from the tops and bottoms of the branches and leaving the lateral ones.

As long as the bonsai is healthy, remove new candles every other year in the spring. This will stimulate the production of new buds on those sites when autumn comes. This method helps to reduce the length of the needles and encourages the foliage to become dense. The Black Pine does take well to wiring as the branches are very flexible, just be careful when wrapping and bending to avoid cracking the bark. Because of the malleability of the branches, wire may need to be left on longer than normal.


Pinus thunbergii may be propagated from seed, grafting, or cuttings. To propagate from seed (which should be done in April) soak the seeds in water for two days prior to sowing in sand. Throw away any seeds that float in the water.


Repot your Japanese Black Pine bonsai in spring, before swelling of buds. This can be done every two to three years for younger trees and every four to six in older specimens. This species prefers a larger pot to allow enough room for the feeder roots to thrive. Pines should not be root-pruned too aggressively, although the Black Pine is a bit more tolerant than most and can probably handle the removal of up to a third of its root system.

Many plants, particularly evergreens, rely on a symbiotic relationship with a fungus called Mycorrhiza. This organism lives in the root system of the tree and assists the roots in absorbing nutrients, thus pines should never be bare-root because you want to maintain this beneficial relationship even between pots. The soil should be very well-draining – 75% aggregate with 25% organic (such as pine bark) works well. As with most bonsai, place the pot in a shady location after transplanting, and keep moist while the roots take hold in their new home.

Insects/Pests & Diseases:

This tree is vulnerable to a number of common bonsai pests such as aphids, sawfly, mealy bugs, and borers. If insects are visible a systemic insecticide may be necessary.

While Japanese Black Pine is resistant to most diseases, it can fall prey to that enemy fungus of all pines, needle cast. The tips of the needles may turn brown and sometimes rings of discoloration appear up the shaft of the needle. While the problem can be treated with fungicide, the needles will not be restored to their normal color. The best course of action to avoid needle cast in Japanese Black Pine and most other pine bonsai is to use a preventative spray regimen.

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Care of Japanese Black Pine

Posted by Eric Schrader on Mar 1, 2019 | 6 Comments

I’m reposting this article that I originally wrote for the BSSF website about the arc of development of Japanese Black pine. Enjoy!

It’s likely that the confusion that sometimes surrounds black pine care is due to the different work needed during different phases of a tree’s life. Different care is also needed for trees that are growing slowly versus trees that are growing vigorously. Carefully examine your tree and try to determine how vigorous it is and what type of work is needed based on it’s age and shape.

Pine work is different for trees in different states of development. The tree on the left is 4-5 years old from seed. Middle tree 7-9 years old but not well-developed. Shohin Medium or large mature trees are usually at least 20-25 years old.

Here is an outline of the basic care cycle detailed for Mature, semi-mature and young pines.

    Mature Trees

Starting in November– Thin the prior year growth to two buds at each decandling site and pull old needles from the tree. Some old needles can remain either to keep the tree full for show or to balance weaker branches with stronger ones. Aim to balance the entire tree by removing more needles from the stronger parts to reduce the vigor to match that of the weaker parts. Ignore tiny buds and very weak areas. You can either leave or remove small buds that are along the branches; consider if they are needed for further branch refinement or replacement of a leggy branch.

December through February – repot if needed, do not bare-root more than 50% of the rootball of a mature pine. Mature pines can go 3-5 years between repottings. If you live in a climate where frost or freezing temperatures occur protect repotted trees from colder temperatures until spring.

March-May – As the new candles begin to elongate you can twist off the top half of a few if they are much stronger than the rest of the candles. Hold the candle with one hand and twist off half the needles with the other. This is not decandling, this is another technique for equalizing growth. Fertilize heavily during spring growth to prepare for decandling in summer.

Spring growth on Japanese Black Pine will tell a lot about how vigorous the tree is.

June-July – Decandle from June 1st through mid-July. The timing of decandling depends on heat, fertilizer routine and the health of the tree. Only healthy, vigorous trees should be decandled. In my yard in San Francisco I decandle starting on June 1st which is what I recommend for the eastern half of San Francisco. If you live in the western half decandle in the last week of May. Experiment with your conditions and adapt the date of decandling after assessing whether the needles were the correct length the previous year. If your needles were too short decandle earlier or use more fertilizer, if they are too long decandle later or reduce fertilizer after decandling. Decandle larger pines first and smaller ones later.

After the candles are removed thin old needles to control the relative vigor of the buds. Count the needle pairs left on each branch; leave more needles on lower and weaker branches and fewer needles on strong branches. 8-10 pair on strong areas, 10-12 on middle and 12-14 on weak areas.

    Semi-mature trees

Semi-mature trees are ones where the trunk is not being developed further but where branching is still sparse. The cycle is basically the same as above if the tree is healthy. Adjust decandling times to allow for slightly longer needles to maintain health of the tree. With trees that are weak do not pull old needles or decandle. A weak black pine can take 2 or 3 years to regain normal growth cycle, watch your tree carefully and do minimal work until the tree is healthy.

November – Assess strength – on strong trees prune long branches, thin shoots to two per terminal, select for equal strength, position and angle relative to the other bud. Consider design – if the branches need to be longer do not prune them. On weak trees thin only the strongest areas; leave all needles and buds in weaker areas.

December-February – Repotting is often the single-most important thing that will allow a pine to regain vigor and grow well. Do not bare-root an entire pine. If the tree is weak bare-root one-third or half of the rootball and feed heavily in the following season to get the tree healthy. One year later bare-root the other half or two-thirds of the tree to complete the repotting.

March-May – Fertilize, fertilize, fertilize. Use organic and chemical fertilizer. Do not remove new growth.

June-July – Consider decandling – on a weak tree decandling will be counter-productive. For strong trees follow the instructions above. Decandling of some branches, like the top half of the tree can radically shift the relative health of branches. If lower branches are weak and top branches are vigorous decandle selectively to try to re-balance the tree.

    Trees in development

With trees in development the challenge is to balance vigor between the sacrifice branch and the finished branches. Sacrifice branches are the only way to significantly increase the size and/or taper of the trunk. Consider using a well-placed branch on older and under-developed material to increase girth and taper. It is possible to maintain mature branching while simultaneously increasing trunk girth on black pine. 4-5 years of growth of a sacrifice branch done simultaneously with branch development can greatly increase the quality of many pines.

November – Wire young branches. Leave small buds on the trunk unwired unless they are the size of a chopstick and 4-5 inches in length. Reduce old needles only to maintain finished branches if they are dense. If branching is sparse leave old needles. If any branches were decandled perform the normal bud selection as with a mature tree on those branches.

Reduction of the sacrifice branch can be done at this time – anytime a sacrifice branch is reduced it will greatly increase the vigor of the lower branching. Cut up to 75% of the sacrifice branch off at one time but not all of it. Consider leaving the first side branch on the sacrifice as a new sacrifice.

A typical bud developing from the trunk of a young pine. Allow the bud to grow until it sends out a vigorous year of growth before considering decandling. After the branch attains about pencil size, usually after three years, wire and start controlling new growth according to the normal pine cycle.

December-February – 2-4 year old seedling pines can be completely bare-rooted. 1-3 years after the seedling cutting technique is used remove all soil and carefully spread the roots out to form the start of the nebari on the tree. Do not wire the roots or use wire to secure the tree in the pot. Use guy wires from the wire wrapped around the trunk to the container to secure the tree.

For pines growing in colanders (air-pruning the roots) in year 4-5 do not double-pot them as suggested in Bonsai Today #20 article. Slip the trees out of smaller containers and repot without root work into larger ones. This type of change can be done at any time during the year, not just during dormancy. Scrape topsoil that is clogged with organic fertilizer remnants off. Examine the surface roots for undesirable crossing roots and roots that wrap around the trunk, cut them off or gently reposition them. Refill the top with a thin layer of fresh soil. Significant root work on young pines that are growing vigorously will greatly reduce wood production on the trunk the following year, minimize root work to only correct drainage and improve the nebari.

March-May – Fertilize heavily. For trees in development more fertilizer will lead to faster growth and development. Remove female cones by gently twisting them off of the tips of the strong branches.

June-July – Consider the development of your tree. If the finished branches are weak or short do not decandle. Decandle to shorten nodes or selectively weaken branches. For small trees – shohin and kifu size – consider decandling behind the node to cause needle-buds which allow more compact growth. Sacrifice branches can be reduced at this time. Reduce no more than 75% of a large sacrifice. Removal of a strong sacrifice during this time can lead to excessive budding at the cut point which can cause reverse-taper. Plan ahead and reduce in stages.

On a black pine there is a ring of dormant buds at the node and there are dormant buds at the base of each pair of needles. At decandling time if you cut back to 1/8″ in front of the node you get a normal decandling reaction with adventitious buds sprouting from the node. Decandling behind the node can result in more compact growth due to the development of needle buds.

September-October – Watch the development of the strong apical buds on 2-5 year old pines. On a strongly-growing young tree the terminal bud whorl will be too strong to keep as a part of the final design – there will be a bulge from the numerous buds. If you want to keep this part of the trunk as part of the design reduce the whorl to the central leading bud and one side bud. Use scissors to remove the buds.

On vigorously growing young pines the whorl of buds can cause reverse taper. In September or October remove all but the center bud and one side bud.

    Pines from Seed

I find it quite enjoyable to develop black pine from seed in root air-pruning containers. Shohin trees can be grown from seed in 10 years with good branching, medium size trees will take 10-15 and larger trees will take 20 years or more. Many of my pines have a girth of 3 inches at age 8 with a basal root spread of 6-8 inches. With proper care the results are superior to nearly all nursery-grown material.

Pine from seed. At 2-3 years old wire the trunk. Reexamine design after 4 or 5 growing seasons. Trim lower branching during the summer of the 5th year. Trunk should reach good size for a medium tree in 10 years.

    Further Resources

Or, I highly recommend a few hours of reading on Bonsai Tonight which thoroughly covers many black-pine topics. Here are a few links:

Planting Pine Seeds
Seedling Cutting Technique
Pine Seedlings
One Year Old Pine Seedlings
Wiring Three year old black pine
Repotting Young Pines
Repotting Young Pines part 2
Developing Young Pines
Thinning Japanese Black Pine
Pulling Needles on Black Pine
Pine Cutback basics

Fall Care for Japanese Black Pine

When Katsuoki Kawahara, was asked how long it takes to produce a pine tree that appears to be 100 years old, he replied,”One hundred years!”

So many needles, so little time!

It is true, training pines takes many years to learn, and many more to produce a beautiful tree. However, there are techniques for maintaining pines for Japanese-style gardens to help them appear more graceful and mature. Here are a few basics to start:

Balance: As a pine tree ages, interior and low branches die off from lack of light and energy. Removing needles can reveal the graceful limbs and trunk of the tree and allow light and air to penetrate to the center of the tree and lower branches. Although this may remove up to 75% of food-producing leaf surface, light is able to reach 100% of the remaining foliage, providing even food production and energy throughout the tree. As a result, the tree is able to maintain interior and lower branch health.

The strongest growing parts of a pine are usually the top-most sections receiving the most light. By removing more foliage from these sections and leaving more healthy foliage in areas where more energy is desired, you can direct growth energy where it is needed most.

When: Remove old pine needles in fall, when days and nights start getting cooler and sun on newly exposed branches will be minimum. In southern Texas, we start in mid November and continue through December if needed. Spreading tarps on the ground below and over other plants makes cleanup very easy. Begin at the top of the tree and work down, removing fallen needles as you go.

Prune broken, rubbing or damaged branches as you work. Remove all pine cones as well. Grab all the needles and pull back using the thumbs to “rub” them off at the branch. We will discuss branch selection later in this article.

In Kyoto, Japanese Black pine after removing all but 13 pairs of needles.

Where: In Japan and other places were this pine thrives, and on a mature tree in sections of strong growth, we would leave at least 12 or 13 pairs of needles on each shoot. Areas of medium strength or areas where you wish to channel more energy can keep most or all of this years needles. Weaker areas and areas needing the most energy may need to keep all healthy needles. In areas where this pine does not grow so vigorously, leave more pairs accordingly. If in doubt, err on the cautious side.

On smaller or stressed trees, leave all the current year’s needles in strong areas, and leave second year healthy needles as well on weaker growth areas. Do not disturb the small buds along and in the old needles as these will be valuable in next years development.

Cleaning Up: After “needling” the entire tree, the shape of branches and trunk can be more easily seen. Remove upward growing shoots except those needed for your training strategy, and leave side and down facing shoots. Whenever there is an upper branch shading a lower branch, one must be removed or redirected so that the other will not be shaded out.

Branch Selection: The results of the Spring “candling” should be evident the following Fall. As the weather cools, it is time to select the new branching that will produce next year’s growth. Carefully consider the ultimate shape and size you have decided on before removing any branching. Remember that upper branches may eventually shade out branching directly below.

If side branching is desired, choose these shoots first. Then select what will become the terminals that produce candles in the spring. Look for right angles between branches of similar length. Select two for lateral and horizontal branching, and select three for apex and crown growth. Remember that the branching should become shorter closer to the ends of the branches and top of the tree.

For tips on spring maintenance, check out Pine Care – Spring Training.

Along the coastal beaches and low mountains of Japan lives a stout and elegant pine species, Pinus thunbergii. This iconic Japanese tree is known for its beauty as a garden specimen, as a bonsai subject, and also a protector of coastline communities throughout the country. It also is well known the world over as Japanese black pine, a versatile and resistant tree, but also a plant with disease issues. It is a lovely tree regardless, and Japan’s gardens and coastlines wouldn’t be the same without its resolute presence.

Japanese black pine seedlings planted by the thousands are a common sight along Japan’s seashores.

Pinus thunbergii is a large coniferous tree growing to 40 meters under good conditions, but is usually much smaller, particularly when growing on beach dunes, a common habitat for this tree. Specimens found at some Japanese shrines can be even taller with the tallest on record being an incredible 66 meters! This tree often sports a broad dome shaped crown on very old specimens. The bark is silvery to black and deeply fissured. The evergreen needles come two per fascicle (or bundle), are a dark green and up to 12 cm long. Healthy trees are densely needled and bushy looking, especially when young. Pollen cones appear in early spring, are conical and elongate and orange-yellow in color. The seed cones initiate at the same time starting out a rich magenta, and grow in size as they mature over the summer and are nearly round at maturity. Seed is released in winter.

This tree is widespread on or near the coasts of the warmer parts of Japan on Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu islands. It is also found in South Korea. It grows most commonly along seashores starting just behind the newest line of dunes and extending inland for a kilometer or more forming the bulk of the canopy of such forests. More inland it prefers rock outcrops and dry ridge-lines in the mountains up to a 1000 meters or more elevation. On occasion it occurs on dry rock barrens in the mountains. Where this species is found in mixed stands with Japanese red pine, Pinus densiflora, the unusual hybrid called akakuromatsu (red-black pine) sometimes results (known under the Latin name, P. x densi-thunbergii). These hybrids have the red bark of P. densiflora while retaining the darker, more stout needles of P. thunbergii.

Pinus thunbergii growing on the tops of dunes are typically shaped by the persistent winds.

This is the famous Japanese black pine tree that has been planted throughout much of the temperate world. Historically it was an important lumber species, but these days forests are highly diminished in size, so they are rarely used for building material anymore. It’s wood was traditionally used to build shrines in Korea in particular.

This tree is remarkably resistant to harsh conditions whether it be cold winter winds, salt spray, drought, and or low nutrient soils. For centuries Japanese black pine has been used to make bonsai and to this day amazing examples exist not only in Japan, but anywhere enthusiasts grow them. It is also a common garden subject in Japan where it is invariably pruned into dwarf forms much like bonsai, but on a much larger scale. Due to the tree’s naturally long needles, dwarfed trees need have their needles pruned and thinned on an annual basis to reduce their overall length, thus insuring a more natural proportion between them and the trunk and branches. The beauty of a well pruned tree is beyond words.

The cones of Pinus thunbergii – the male pollen cones on the left and immature female seed cones the right.

The coastal forests this tree occupies have been long recognized as an important aid in keeping beach erosion in check as well as acting as a buffer to strong winds and tidal surge from the sea including typhoons that haunt these shorelines in summer and early fall. In the low coastal mountains it is found in loose groves usually near rock outcrops or on rocky ridges where drainage is excellent. I have also found it growing in rocky barrens in the mountains where the soil is little more than highly weathered rock. The growth rate of such trees is slow and a typical specimen in these places is rarely much more than a couple meters tall, much like the trees of some mountain populations of Pinus rigida in the northeastern USA.

In recent times coastal populations have been under attack by the North American pinewood nematode, Bursaphelenchus xylophilus, as well as blue stain fungus, (the most commonly cited species being Ophiostoma minus, but others exist). Add to that the effect of certain pine bark beetles that literally girdle the trees, and this species is in deep trouble in its native homelands. Currently scientists are working on genetically engineering stronger trees and these are being tested at sites all over Japan. Thousands of freshly planted Japanese black pine seedlings on or just behind coastal dunes is a common sight these days along Japan’s shores. With luck these efforts will be successful and this noble tree will continue to grace coastal forests for years to come.

The mature seed cone of Pinus thunbergii opens in fall to early winter.

The species epithet, thunbergii, is in honor of Carl Peter Thunberg (1743-1828), a Swedish botanist and physician who was fortunate enough to be allowed to visit Japan during the Edo Period (1603-1868). During his stay he described many of Japan’s plant species (along with many Chinese transplants and in error labeled them “japonica”) and became known as the “Japanese Linnaeus” after his mentor and the inventor of the Latin based binomal nomenclature system used to this day in identifying organisms. One of the more interesting things he did during his visit was to introduce a new cure for syphilis while in the capital city, Edo (now Tokyo). His popularity grew with this impressive and highly needed gift! The Japanese name for P. thunbergii is kuromatsu from the words kuro meaning “black” and matsu, “pine” – rendering the straightforward name “black pine” in English.

This lovely dwarfed Japanese black pine grows on the grounds of Matsuyama Castle, Matsuyama City, Shikoku, Japan.

While this tree is one tough customer, it has its share of problems, not the least of which are the above mentioned disease issues. Beyond that, it is not too challenging to grow as long as the roots aren’t water logged. It will grow in just about any free draining, acidic soil. Like most pines it requires full sun to grow well. A bonus feature is its wide range of temperature tolerance being able to handle extreme heat in summer and cold, dry, and even salty winter winds. It also is resistant to high levels of air pollution, and so thrives in urban environments as well.

It is probably happiest in USDA zone 7-8, but can be grown from zones 6-9 so long as summer temperatures get fairly high and winter averages are below 10 C (50F). The natural hybrid of this species and P. densiflora, P. densi-thunbergii, is considered a good omen and so is planted in gardens throughout Japan.

In a genus that boasts some of the world’s most impressive conifer species, P. thunbergii holds its own in such company admirably. This iconic tree is beloved by many and for good reason – it is both lovely and resilient. That is reason enough for its survival into the future via the maintenance of remaining coastal forests, and its use as a garden plant the world over.

Occasionally Pinus thunbergii can be found growing on rock barrens, forming shrubby stunted forests. This dwarf forest is growing at ~1000 meters elevation on Sefuriyama, Fukuoka Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan.

Pinus thunbergii

  • Whole Plant Traits: Plant Type: Tree Leaf Characteristics: Needled Evergreen Habit/Form: Pyramidal Spreading Growth Rate: Medium Maintenance: Low Texture: Medium
  • Cultural Conditions: Light: Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day) Soil Texture: High Organic Matter Soil Drainage: Good Drainage Moist Occasionally Dry Very Dry Available Space To Plant: more than 60 feet NC Region: Coastal Mountains Piedmont Usda Plant Hardiness Zone: 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b
  • Flowers: Flower Color: Gold/Yellow Insignificant Flower Bloom Time: Spring Flower Size: 1-3 inches Flower Description: 1.5 to 2.5 in. solitary or clustered cones
  • Leaves: Leaf Characteristics: Needled Evergreen Leaf Color: Green Leaf Feel: Rough Leaf Type: Needles Hairs Present: No Leaf Length: 3-6 inches Leaf Description: Leaves are needles clustered on dwarf shoots (fascicles) in twos, they are medium in length (2.5-5″ long), stiff and rigid, pointed, margins serrulate, and lustrous dark green in color.
  • Bark: Bark Color: Dark Gray Surface/Attachment: Ridges Bark Description: Dark gray or purple-gray, scaly and fissured longitudinally
  • Stem: Stem Color: Brown/Copper Stem Is Aromatic: No Stem Surface: Smooth (glabrous) Stem Description: Light brown with many bracts, becomes glabrous and possibly ridged. Twigs bear appressed scale leaves that are light brown, becoming blackish-gray with age, bearing axillary fascicles of needles. Candles form in fall and over winter become elongated. Buds are ovoid-cylindrical, acute, scales non-resinous, apices free, grayish-fimbriated.
  • Landscape: Landscape Location: Lawn Meadow Patio Recreational Play Area Woodland Landscape Theme: Children’s Garden Drought Tolerant Garden Design Feature: Accent Border Foundation Planting Small groups Specimen Resistance To Challenges: Deer Drought Salt

Pinus thunbergii – Japanese Black Pine

Next Plant ” ” Previous Plant Availability Shippable Sizes These plants can ordered online and shipped directly to you or picked up at the nursery. Most of these plants are shipped bare root, read about shipping methods small plug 6 to 8 inches tall – Ships Nov-May


105 available now. FREE Shipping!
On Orders Of $75 Or More
Shippable Sizes These plants can ordered online and shipped directly to you or picked up at the nursery. Most of these plants are shipped bare root, read about shipping methods small plug 6 to 8 inches tall – Ships Nov-May


105 available now. #landscape #conifer #drought #bonsai #cold #evergreen #deer #ornamental #pots #height=30 #hardiness=-20 #sun=3-5 #habit=upright #branch=medium #spread=clumping #end Average Height: 30+ feet in landscapes
Hardiness: Zones 5-8
Aspect: Sun or light shade
Plant Spacing: 10+ feet apart Deer Resistance: 5/5 – Very deer resistant!
Leaves: evergreen Shipping Restrictions: Can not ship to California, Montana, or Hawaii
Japanese Black Pines are most often used for bonsai and high-detail pruning because of their easily shaped branching habit and dense clumps of needles. They form wide branches with a short rounded top more readily than most other pine species and mature trees often look manicured even when they never received any pruning.
Japanese Black Pines have a wider, broader habit than most other Pine species
Source: Commons
Trees are often formally pruned
Source: Commons
Wind-battered Japanese Black Pines growing on an oceanside beach Source: Commons
Typical pine seedling for 72 cell plug size (fall 2019 crop)
An 8-12 inch container-grown tree
A 10-15 inch transplant tree

Shippable Sizes These plants can ordered online and shipped directly to you or picked up at the nursery. Most of these plants are shipped bare root, read about shipping methods Pinus thunbergii small plug 6 to 8 inches tall – Ships Nov-May


105 available now.

How Your Plants Are Packaged And Shipped

A bare root Sitka Spruce
A 2 gallon Sitka Spruce with all the soil washed away Bare root and washed root are very similar but in the nursery trade typically bare root plants are trees which are grown in the field and dug up in the winter with no soil attached. These plants are typically cheaper due to lower growing costs and are popular for large projects where a large number of plants are needed. When the are dug they lose any roots that grew away from the main root ball and typically these plants will grow a little slower in their first year as they focus on producing new roots before returning to fast top growth. Despite the longer establishment period, bare root plants benefit from the root pruning and will produce a superior long-term root structure than washed root plants. Certain plant species and varieties that are prone to poor root system development are only available bare root for this reason. Bare root plants have high success rates but are not tolerant of planting directly into windy areas, especially with evergreen species as the remaining roots will not be sufficient to withstand drying winds. If you are planting in high-wind areas you should consider ordering washed root plants.
Washed root plants are grown in containers like one or two gallon pots in a standard nursery setting and can ship much earlier in the fall because we don’t have to wait for deep winter dormancy before handling the plants. For shipping the plants are removed from their containers and the soil is gently washed off of the roots, preserving most of the small feeder roots. We make minor root pruning cuts to elimate clumps of circling roots from some plants but typically don’t remove more than about 5-10% of the fine roots, compared to bare root plants which typically lose around 60-70% of the fine feeder roots. Washed root plants are much quicker to establish and are suitable for planting directly in windy locations but because of the higher growing costs and shipping weight will be more expensive than field grown bare root plants. Some plant species that are especially prone to root circling are not grown in containers but only in the field.
For most plant species we choose the growing method that has the highest success rate for that plant’s root structure but some plants can be grown just as well either way so both forms can be listed for sale at once. Under the “availability” section for each plant variety any plants listed by container size (such as 1 gallon, 2 gallon, etc.) are washed root plants while plants listed by height (such as 20-30 inches tall) or any listing saying “field grown” are bare root plants.

Packaging Plants For Shipping

Most plants are shipped wrapped in newspaper, then moistened. Large bundles of plants can be shipped in a single long box. Some plants, usually bamboo, are shipped in their container while others have their roots washed of soil and wrapped in damp paper and plastic. Most plant varieties can be shipped year-round, but sometimes certain plant species or large sizes do best when shipped dormant. You can order these to reserve yours during the summer and then they will be shipped in November when they are ready to go.

Your plants are placed in tight fitting boxes and strapped to the box so they don’t move around and sustain damage. These are 3′ tall Coast Redwoods.


We prune both the tops and the roots of our plants at least once per year while they are growing in our nursery to ensure they develop a strong, dense form. Regular annual pruning goes a long way to ensure a healthy branching structure and this is often a missed step in many nurseries. Pruning a plant back hard after it has been neglected pruning-wise often results in an irregular branch habit or multiple leaders. However, with annual pruning this is not the case and so it is important to start pruning even in the first year of growth. We also prune the roots of our plants every winter which causes them to produce a much more branched structure and helps to elimate tangled masses that hinder future development. Plants that have been root pruned establish themselves much more quickly than root bound plants. Generally, hardwood plants will be pruned in the winter and conifers will be pruned in the summer. Pruning conifers is a little bit trickier because it must be done while the new candles are still young, otherwise it can take an extra year to form a new upright leader bud which slows the next year’s growth rate down.

Pruning For Shipping

Before shipping plants we prune the tops and roots one last time. Conifers will usually have very little top pruning except to balance long branches. Shrubs are usually pruned to around 1-2 feet tall to encourage low branch development and small to medium sized trees are usually pruned to around 36-40 inches. Pruning trees at this height encourages dominant branches to begin forming around 3 feet from the ground which typically looks the best in most situations. However, if you want a tree to have branching start higher (some city codes require trees to not branch below 4 feet) we have longer boxes available. To request taller trees please contact us at least three days before your ship date. Depending on your location and the shipping routes there may be a fee for oversize package handling (usually about $15 for a 60″ box).

Tall trees (Oaks, Ginkgo, large Maples, etc.) are pruned to 40″ to encourage crown development from about 36″ and up
Small and medium trees (short Maples, Redbuds, Stewartia, etc.) are pruned 10-20″ above the prune line from last year
Shrubs (Weigela, Hydrangea, Viburnum, etc.) are pruned to 18″ tall and root pruned one last time

Read More About How Your Plants Are Shipped

All Plants Are Guaranteed To Arrive In Good Condition

If you have any damaged plants please email us at [email protected] and specify which plants were damaged. Please keep all the packaging material in case it needs to be inspected by the shipping company.

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Japanese Black Pine Information – Growing Japanese Black Pine Trees

Japanese black pine is ideal for coastal landscapes where it grows to heights of 20 feet. When grown further inland, it can reach the remarkable height of 100 feet. Read on to find out more about this big, beautiful tree.

What is a Japanese Black Pine?

Introduced from Japan, Japanese black pine trees (Pinus thunbergii) tolerate sandy, salty soil and salt spray much better than native species. This makes it a valuable asset to coastal landscapes. If you’re growing it in an inland setting, give it lots of room because it grows much larger. The average height of a mature tree is about 60 feet, but can grow up to 100 feet tall in the ideal setting.

One of the first things you’ll notice about this tree is the white terminal buds that contrast beautiful with the thick masses of dark green needles. The needles are typically about 4.5 inches long and bundled in pairs. The tree grows into a conical shape that is tight and neat while the tree is young but becomes loose and more irregular with age.

Japanese Black Pine Planting Information

Japanese black pine care is easy. Make sure you have an open site with lots of sunlight. The branches can spread as much as 25 feet, so give it lots of room.

You won’t have any trouble establishing a balled and burlapped tree in an inland site with good soil, but when planting on a sand dune, buy container-grown saplings. Dig the hole two to three times wider than the container and mix the sand with lots of peat moss to fill in around the roots. Sand drains very quickly, but the peat moss will help it hold water.

Water weekly in the absence of rain until the tree is established and growing on its own. Once established, the tree is drought tolerant.

Although the tree adapts to most soil types, it will need a dose of fertilizer every year or two in poor soils. If you don’t have access to a fertilizer designed for pine trees, any complete and balanced fertilizer will do. Follow the package instructions, determining the amount of fertilizer by the size of the tree. Protect the tree from strong winds for the first two years.

Species of Pine Bonsai (Pinus)

For Bonsai, pines are especially popular and many people even regard them as the most typical Bonsai trees. Pine trees are evergreen, coniferous resinous trees with needles that appear in bundles of two to five.

The bark of older pine trees becomes scaly or flaky. Pines can grow in many different shapes in nature and can therefore be shaped in almost every known Bonsai style. In order to treat each pine species according to its nature, it is necessary to know if it produces only one or two flushes of growth during the growing season. Pine species with two flushes can be decandled in early summer to produce a second flush with shorter candles and smaller needles. Pine species with only one flush of growth must not be decandled because that would harm them, but the candles can be selected and shortened.

How to identify your pine species

The two well-known pine species which produce two flushes of growth per year are both from Japan and grow near the shores. Storms often break off their new candles in June and the trees are well adapted to producing a second flush afterwards. The Japanese Black Pine is a strong tree with long, dark green, hard needles in clusters of two. It grows more or less near by the sea. The Japanese Red Pine is more delicate and slender, has softer, thinner paired needles and looks similar to the Scots Pine. It grows a bit more uphill from the shore.

Pine species with only one flush of growth come from the mountains or are at least adapted to harsh conditions and short growth periods. The Japanese White Pine (also named five-needle pine) is a mountain plant with soft needles in clusters of five. It is more feminine in design and found at high mountain regions. It is often grafted on Black Pine root systems, for more stable growth. Dwarf cultivars of the White Pine include Zuisho, Kokonoe and Myojo. The Scots Pine grows all over Europe and even in Siberia. It has thin paired needles which can be slightly twisted and the bark in the upper part of the trunk is often reddish. The Ponderosa Pine is native to western North-America and the Rocky Mountains. It is a tall tree with very long needles in clusters of three. The bark of old Ponderosa Pines has yellow to orange or even pinkish plates with black crevices. The Mountain Pine is native to European mountains and often forms depressed shrubs on bedrock near the timberline. It has short, strong, dark green, paired needles and a dark brown bark. Its wood is very fibrous and resinous. Finally, the Pinus aristata (Bristlecone pine) mostly grows in Colorado and New Mexico.

Two flush pines: Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii) and Japanese Red Pine (Pinus densiflora).

One flush pines: Japanese white pine (Pinus parviflora), Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris), Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa) and Mountain Pine (Pinus mugo, or Mugo pine).

If you need help identifying your tree, try our Bonsai tree identification guide.

Specific Bonsai care guidelines for two flush pines

General info: It is important to understand where our pine species live in nature and which characteristics they have, in order to know how to treat them correctly as a Bonsai tree. The Japanese Black and Red pines can lose their first flush of growth and some of their foliage due to storms which often occur in early or mid summer in Japan. Afterwards they can produce a second flush of growth quite quickly which matures until autumn. This incident can be copied by the Bonsai artist in order to achieve shorter needles on more compact shoots and extra ramification. But it is necessary that the growing season is long enough for the second flush to fully develop.

Position: Place the pine Bonsai outside in full sun. This helps the first and second flush of growth develop and adds to decreasing the needle size (needles grow longer if the tree doesn’t get enough sunlight). Pine trees are very hardy, but still need to be protected during the winter when they are planted in containers.

Watering: Be careful not to over-water, as Bonsai pines dislike permanent moisture. Good drainage is required. Protect the trees from excess rain while the second flush is developing because much water will make the needles grow longer than necessary.

Fertilizing: Fertilize weak trees all year round, as long as the temperatures do not drop too low. Fertilize healthy trees from early spring (March) to early summer until the candles are cut. Solid organic fertilizer should be applied at least three times at intervals of 4 weeks before decandling. Then stop fertilizing until the secondary candle growth has hardened. Fertilize again from early to late autumn.

Pruning: Remove the candles in early to mid summer on healthy trees, leaving only a small stub of about 5 mm with a few pairs of needles. Cut off the tip of dormant buds to activate their growth. In autumn, after the second growth has matured, remove surplus shoots. Where more than two are growing from the same point, select two which are growing lateral and in the desired direction, form a v-shape and are of the same strength. Remove the others. In strong parts of the tree pluck excess old needles to balance the growth of the tree.

Wiring: Wire the pines from early autumn to early spring, or just after candle pruning in early to mid summer.

Repotting: Repotting is best done in spring just after the buds begin to swell.

Propagation: Pines can be propagated from seed or by grafting. Some can be airlayered.

Pests and diseases: Pines can be affected by aphids, spider mites, scale or caterpillars. Sometimes they are also attacked by fungal diseases and root rot. Specific pesticides must be used in that case and it is recommended to get help from an expert in this situation, because pines can die quickly from the moment the first sign of disease gets visible. But if pines are placed in a sunny position and are cared for properly they tend to be very healthy.

For more detailed information on these techniques, try our Bonsai tree care section.

Specific Bonsai care guidelines for one flush pines

General info: Unlike the pine species mentioned above, most other pines will only produce one flush of growth each year. It could be fatal to remove all their candles, so they must be treated differently. Included in this category are the White Pine, Scots Pine, Ponderosa Pine and Mountain Pine.

Position: Place the pine outside in full sun. This supports healthy growth and helps decrease the needle size (needles grow longer if the tree doesn’t get enough sunlight). Pine trees are very hardy, but still should be protected during the winter when they are planted in containers.

Watering: Be careful not to over-water, as Bonsai pines dislike permanent moisture. Good drainage is required. Protect the trees from excess rain while the shoots are developing because much water will make the needles grow longer than necessary.

Fertilizing: Fertilize weak trees year round as long as the temperatures do not drop too low. Healthy trees are fertilized from early spring to late autumn.

Pruning: Elongated candles should be shortened to an appropriate and even length from late spring to early summer. If there are more than two candles in the same place you can already cut off all but two. In autumn you can remove surplus shoots if you have not done so in spring. Where more than two are growing from the same point, select two which are growing lateral and in the desired direction, form a v-shape and are of the same strength. Remove the others. In strong parts of the tree pluck excess old needles to balance the growth of the tree.

Wiring: Wire the pines from early autumn to early spring, or just after candles are shortened in early to mid summer.

Repotting: It is best to repot in spring just after buds begin to move. You can also repot pines in late summer or early autumn when temperatures are not so high anymore but there is still enough time for the tree to regrow fine roots before winter.

Propagation: Pines can be propagated from seed or grafting. Some can be air-layered and some can even be grown from cuttings (Zuisho White Pine for example).

Pests and diseases: Pinus Bonsai can be affected by aphids, spider mites, scale or caterpillars. Sometimes they are also attacked by fungal diseases and root rot. Specific pesticides must be used in that case and it is recommended to get help from an expert in that situation, because pines can die quickly from the moment the first sign of disease gets visible. But if pines are placed in a sunny position and are cared for properly they tend to be very healthy.

For more detailed information on these techniques, try our Bonsai tree care section.

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