Bonsaism enthusiasts often choose conifer specimens to produce their artwork; in fact there are hundreds of species and varieties of conifers, most of which are very hardy and hardy, thus placing a good base for an outdoor bonsai, without major problems with the cold in the shade or with the summer heat.
Moreover, the presence of minute foliage, such as the scales or the needles of many conifers, allows to obtain a bonsai with leaves of small dimensions already when the plant is young; for this reason varieties with particularly small leaves are often chosen, such as some species of juniper or cypress, so as not to have to worry too much about the appearance of the leaves.
In effect, however, in order to obtain a harmonious and well-developed conifer bonsai it is necessary to lend the plant a lot of special care, for several years, in order to obtain those specimens with an ancient appearance; very often on the trunk of coniferous bonsai is also practiced jin, or the stripping and clearing of some stumps of branches, so as to simulate a branch roto by the weather, or even the shari, the barking and lightening of a part of the trunk: these techniques, for which many conifers with very light wood are well suited, simulate nature, given that many conifers are subjected to bad weather, such as frost, snow and wind, which even in nature cause damaged plants, with broken branches.
Which conifer to choose
There are hundreds of species of conifers, belonging to various families, and from them have derived thousands of varieties over the years. Many species are decidedly very vigorous, and it is very difficult to contain their exuberance to produce a bonsai.
Beginners who want to try their hand at a bonsai conifer often choose new garden varieties, those that even if planted in the ground would not give rise to a tall tree, but to a small slow-growing shrub; in this way the bonsai obtained however tends to be small and small, even if the treatments are not exactly perfect.
Even in supermarkets it is now possible to find very small conifers, of varieties that at most grow up to 70-80 cm, which act as a good exercise for those who later want to try their hand at conifers with the most common development.
Many novice bonsaists soon arrive at a conifer, a little because pruning techniques are special, and can be learned only by cultivating a conifer; a little because they are rustic plants, which also bear some slight carelessness; but also because generally the conifers are not very expensive plants, and sometimes it is possible to buy a plant from which to obtain a prebonsai without investing significant amounts, thus avoiding despair in case of failure.
Pines, firs, larches and badgers are definitely conifers suitable for experienced bonsaists, as care must be taken to maintain the compact foliage, short branches and small leaves.
Pinus pentaphylla, a majestic tree, which gives rise to resistant and long-lived bonsai, is certainly the most appreciated species, also typical of the home of bonsai.
Most pine species are used to create bonsai, as well as fir and larch varieties; among the other very popular conifers such as bonsai we certainly include the badgers, and then all kinds of junipers, tsugas and cypresses, with the most colorful foliage, from gray-blue to yellow-green.
Conifers are completely rustic plants, which can and must remain outdoors all year round, even in the event of frost, snow or other inclement weather; they prefer sunny locations, but remember that in most cases they are alpine plants, and therefore they do not like summer heat too much: so in summer we remember to shade them, or to increase the environmental humidity, especially if we live in the south.
They adapt very well even in case of not ideal climate, being vigorous plants, which can withstand some negligence, such as a short period of drought, or some excessive watering; surely, however, let us remember that the older the plant, the stronger it is, the care for the young specimens must be assiduous, to avoid dry branches or rots.
Obviously if we want to cultivate a bonsai conifer, it is essential to know its species and variety, and remember that the bonsai versions of large trees do not always behave like non-bonsai specimens placed in the ground; so let's avoid leaving our young conifer bonsai completely in disarray, prey to intense frosts or extreme drought: place it outdoors, but in a fairly sheltered place, with a few hours of direct sunlight a day, but avoiding that in late July it remains at mid-day sun.
The small pot will force us to water quite regularly, so as to keep the soil, which must be fresh and very well drained, quite humid; in the summer also the vaporization of the foliage with demineralized water is good that it is frequent and regular, to increase the environmental humidity around the plant.
Prunings on bonsai conifers are practiced between the end of autumn and the beginning of winter; remember that these plants, despite being evergreen, go through a period of vegetative rest during the cold months, during which it is possible to prune their branches and roots, and repot them if necessary.
To keep the size of the needles contained, or the tips of the branches in the cypresses, it is important to practice pinching the shoots; this practice is practiced throughout the year, particularly in spring, when the young shoots are more numerous. The stapling consists in the shortening of about half of all the leaves that develop in the young shoots; as for junipers, tsughe, cypresses, and any conifer that has scales, the stapling is practiced by removing the apex of the small branches of new growth, shortening the central branch and also the 2-4 branches below.
The best tool to do this is our fingers, because in this way we can control the pressure exerted on the leaves, avoiding crushing the part that will remain on the tree, still in vegetation.
Said so it seems a simple operation, and indeed it is, only that, especially with regard to prebonsai and young specimens, it is a practice that engages us for a long time, and frequently: to "clean up" a small young man cypress we can also take an hour to pinch its spring buds.
Although it takes a long time, it is a fundamental practice, which must be carried out continuously throughout the plant's growing period. The stapling allows to obtain, over the years, conifers with small foliage, very compact and well developed.
Coniferous bonsai: Pests and diseases
Even if they are rustic plants, let's not forget that bonsai cultivation involves slightly more demands than cultivating in the open ground; for this reason, often coniferous bonsai, and in general all outdoor bonsai, often dry out due to total neglect: if it is true that our fir tree in the garden has not required more care for years, let us remember that the bonsai specimen obtained from its seeds will need care even when they reach 100 years of age. So even if it is fairly vigorous and resistant bonsai, we avoid leaving them without water for months, or in the full sun in summer, some simple care will allow us to grow our bonsai plant for years.
Generally the parasites that most often attack conifers are the cypress aphids; these are small aphids that normally also attack conifers grown in the ground, the color is often identical to that of foliage, and they hide on the back of the leaves, or at the base of the same, so as not to allow us to notice them. The presence of aphids on conifers in the garden often does not cause serious damage, and therefore we hardly worry about them, or even hardly notice them. On bonsai, on the other hand, these small insects can also cause serious damage, with loss of the tips of the branches due to drying out, or yellowing of part of the foliage. A timely treatment, to be practiced at the beginning of spring, with a good pyrethroid or with products based on imidacloprid, may be sufficient to prevent small insects from reappearing.
A very dry climate can cause the appearance of scale insects, especially in summer or in specimens that are crammed into a cold greenhouse in winter, with little or no ventilation; an end-of-winter treatment with white oil should prevent the presence of cochineal, which moreover hardly settles on plants grown in a well-ventilated place and with the right humidity.