The juniper tree is one of the most popular trees for bonsai. If you’re considering choosing a juniper bonsai tree, you may wonder if it can live indoors. It’s a common misconception that bonsai trees need to be kept indoors. In fact, bonsai trees should remain outdoors. On that note, can a juniper bonsai live indoors?
Juniper bonsai trees should not be kept indoors. A juniper tree is an outdoor plant that should have full sun exposure in the warmer months. During the winter, when the temperature drops below 20 degrees F, it’s best to protect your bonsai by storing it in an unheated space.
Can My Juniper Bonsai Be Indoors All Year?
No, a juniper bonsai is not an ideal plant to keep inside. If you keep your juniper bonsai tree kept inside all-year-around, your plant will start to look weak and sickly and will eventually die. When a juniper tree dies, you’ll notice the tree’s needles turning yellow and falling off.
To keep a juniper tree alive, it needs to be outside with the proper conditions. The proper conditions for a juniper bonsai include:
Juniper bonsai trees need to be exposed to direct sunlight for a minimum of five (5) hours per day. During the spring, summer, and fall, your juniper bonsai should remain outdoors. You can place your tree on a patio, deck, balcony, or in your garden. They grow best when exposed to morning sun and afternoon shade.
Juniper bonsais should not be overwatered. As with other bonsai trees, only water the plant when the soil is almost dry. A bonsai’s soil should never be fully dry. There are several ways to determine if your juniper tree needs to be watered.
Use A Soil Moisture Meter
Serious bonsai gardeners will use a moisture meter to accurately measure the moisture of the soil near a bonsai’s roots. Using this tool takes the guesswork out of watering your bonsai tree and prevents beginners from over- or under-watering their plant.
Feel The Soil
Many gardeners use their finger to easily check the soil of their bonsai tree. The gardener will put their finger in the soil about one inch deep. If you don’t feel too much moisture, its likely time to water your tree.
Use A Chopstick
Some bonsai enthusiasts use a wooden chopstick (or any other untreated wood) to measure the soil’s moisture level. This method involves placing the chopstick in the soil for 10 minutes and then removing it to see if it has any dark watermarks. If the chopstick comes out with no color change, it’s time to water your bonsai tree.
Check The Weight
As you gain more experience with bonsai gardening, you will know if your tree needs water just by lifting it. By picking up the plant, you’ll be able to check the weight and now if there is water stored in the soil. Dry plants weigh much lighter than well-watered ones.
Airflow and Humidity
Juniper bonsais need good airflow to survive. If you store your tree in an unheated shed or garage (more information below), its best to invest a small fan to circulate the air. Juniper trees also need humidity to thrive. Keeping a juniper indoors and occasionally misting it will not create the level of humidity that it needs.
Bonsai trees need high-quality soil that is loose and easily drains. You can pick up commercial bonsai soil at your local nursery or online. Juniper bonsai trees require organic fertilizer every month during the growing season. Many gardeners recommend a weak slow-release fertilizer of 10-10-10.
Juniper bonsais are strong trees that can tolerate aggressive pruning. When pruning a juniper, it’s important to preserve the growing tips of the branches or you risk weakening the tree and causing the needles to turn brown. Regular pruning and thinning foliage will ensure pests can’t settle in it. However, you should make sure that there is foliage on every branch you want to keep alive or else it won’t bud again from bare tree parts.
Repotting your bonsai tree encourages growth. How often you repot your bonsai tree depends on the plant’s age. A young bonsai (less than six years) should be repotted every year. An older bonsai tree only needs to be repotted every 3-4 years. When you repot a bonsai tree, you are changing the soil and trimming the roots.
Pests & Diseases
With proper care and maintenance, junipers can be quite resistant to pests and diseases. Checking for pests is particularly important during the winter when it is more likely to occur. Juniper trees can get infested with many different pests to include:
- Mealy Bugs
- Needle Miners
- Spider Mites
These pests can be controlled if detected early and treated effectively. Insecticidal soap should be used once every five to seven days to kill any new hatchlings. Read the instructions included with your insecticidal soap and use it accordingly. If used improperly, you risk accidentally killing your tree.
One of the biggest concerns with juniper bonsai trees is fungal rust disease. Some juniper species are more resistant compared to others. Rust fungus can cause permanent damage to a juniper tree by causing swelling.
With these conditions in mind, a juniper bonsai tree should spend most, if not all, of its life outside to remain strong and healthy.
When Should I Bring My Juniper Indoors?
Your juniper bonsai tree should not stay indoors for more than a few days at a time. The conditions indoors are not ideal for the survival of this plant. Only consider bringing a juniper bonsai indoors to display for guests during special occasions. A bonsai tree is best displayed when it’s at eye level.
Should I Bring My Juniper Bonsai Inside During The Winter?
Juniper trees go into a winter dormancy period that lasts about three months. A dormant period is a time when a plant rests and slows down its growth. During its dormant period, your juniper bonsai needs to be stored in a cold environment. You should prepare your juniper bonsai for its winter dormancy by mid-November. If you don’t give your bonsai a dormant period, it will continue to grow all year round and eventually will go dormant regardless of the season or temperature. This forced dormancy is very stressful and may kill your bonsai.
During the dormancy period, your tree does not require sunlight, but it will need water. There are several ways to winterize your juniper bonsai tree.
Plant It In The Ground
One way to prepare your juniper bonsai tree for the winter is by planting it in the ground. Ideally, you would plant your tree in the ground without a pot and then use a mulch to cover the trunk up to the lowest branch. You should plant your tree in a location that will protect it from wind and sunlight while keeping it exposed to rain and snow.
Store It In A Garage Or Shed
If you can’t plant your juniper bonsai, another option is to store the potted tree in an unheated location such as a garage or shed. If you choose this method, you will need to water your bonsai every two weeks. If you don’t have an unheated area in your house, you can store the bonsai tree in a closed-off room and keep the window open to keep it cold.
No matter what method you choose, you need to keep your juniper bonsai away from any kind of heat vents. If your tree is exposed to heat, it won’t go into dormancy.
Build A Frame
You can build a frame to protect your bonsai tree and keep it outside. You can cover the frame with a shade cloth and surround the bottom edges with mulch. The shade cloth prevents heat from building up on the inside.
A juniper bonsai tree should remain outdoors for most, if not all, of its life. It is an outdoor plant that will die if placed indoors for more than a few days at a time. A juniper bonsai will die when exposed to unideal conditions. The plant needs at least 5 hours of sunlight a day. Even during its dormant period, juniper bonsai trees should remain outside. If that’s not an option, the tree should be placed in an unheated room such as a shed, garage, or a spare room with an open window. If you’re choosing your first bonsai tree, a juniper remains a great choice.