Overwintering Juniper Needle Bonsai

(Question)

Hello. So I am caring fir my first bonsai.we bought it from a couple who grows bonsai’s. It is currently October when the temperatures start to fall. My Bonsai tree is turning brown and the needles are turning brittle and dry. It is also losing a lot of its leaves. I was wondering if my Bonsai tree is going into hibernation mode or if I have done something wrong for the care of it. If it’s overwintering, what should I do? Do I need to put it somewhere without sunlight or should I put it outside despite how cold it could get? I am well aware that the bonsai species I have is supposed to be outdoors but I brought it in because of decreasing temperatures and I didn’t want it to get cold. Typically during fall where I live, we get temparatures as high as 70 F and as low as 40F. In winter we get as cold as 15F and as high as 45F. We live in Taos, New Mexico. Any help and ideas and advice you could possibly give is much appreciated. Thank you in advance!

(Answer)

Congratulations on your first attempt at growing bonsai!  If only a small portion of the needles is turning brown on your juniper, this may be a natural process.  During the fall, the inner, older foliage on most evergreen conifers dies and is replaced by new needles.  However, if the browning becomes excessive, then this is likely a more serious problem.

Junipers like a dormant period each year.  In winter, do not fertilize.  Outdoor bonsais should be placed outdoors for the winter, but should be protected from strong frosts and excessive winds. Since your plant has been indoors, gradually re-introduce it to outdoor conditions.  Keep the plant in a partially shaded location at first (for acclimatization purposes), and then move it to a sunnier but still protected location.

In order to ensure that your plant is healthy, make sure that you don’t over- or under-water it.  Test the soil’s moisture by poking your finger in it or by using a chopstick.  If it feels dry or nearly dry, then water it thoroughly and let the water drain from the pot.  This method of watering helps to prevent salt buildup in the soil.

For all bonsai trees, humidity is an important part of the growth cycle – without proper humidity, a Juniper bonsai will wither and die.  Many people place a humidity tray underneath a potted Juniper bonsai tree to ensure a high level of humidity. The pot, however, should not sit directly in water, as this may result in root rot.

If possible, check with your vendor to confirm winter requirements for the specific species of juniper.  Local growers provide a wealth of knowledge.  You mention that you live in Taos, New Mexico.  You may wish to connect with the Albuquerque Bonsai club, or visit its website at http://abqbonsaiclub.com/.  The website provides a month-by-month guide to growing bonsai in your region, tips for beginners and a number of additional resources.

For further information, visit

https://www.bonsaiempire.com/