Bonsai Tonight

Planting pine seeds

Posted in Bonsai Care by Jonas Dupuich on April 30, 2010

In my quest to grow Japanese black pine bonsai from seed, I planted some pine seeds earlier this spring. The process is simple. The first step is preparing a shallow pot with bonsai soil. While a number of soils work for growing black pine, I’ve mostly used my regular bonsai mix – lava, pumice, and akadama – covered with a layer of clean sand. I water the soil and poke 1/4″ holes in the sand with a matchstick. Into each hole goes one pine seed.

Placing the seed in the hole with tweezers

I tend to space the seeds over an inch apart so they don’t grow up too close to each other. Even though they’ll only be in this pot for a few months, I want to give them every advantage.

Seeds spaced just over an inch apart

After placing the seeds in the holes, I add a tiny amount of sand to fill the holes and water again. The result looks no different than the starting point.

Seeds planted and watered

After-care depends on climate and local weather. I’ve read that the seeds can be placed in a shady area until they sprout. The concern is that the seedlings will perish if they dry out. No worry of that this year. After two cold months, only a handful have sprouted. If we get a warm week sometime soon, I believe more will pop. If not, I’ll be patient – and try again next year.

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9 Responses

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  1. Jeremiah said, on April 30, 2010 at 9:33 am

    Hmm…. What do you think about putting the pot into a greenhouse? would there be any benefit? Or maybe putting them into a green house after you have cut the roots off and planted back into a pot?

    After they sprout, you cut the roots off, dip in hormone what do you put them in? Individual pots or still a larger pot with several pines? How much of a layer of sand do you use?

  2. Christian said, on April 30, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    Hi Jonas,

    Please keep these updates coming! I really enjoy reading your blog, and am especially interested in the development of the pine seedlings…I wish I lived on the west coast.
    Thanks for taking the time to share these experiences.

  3. xwires said, on April 30, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    Thanks Christian – will do!

  4. Melinda said, on May 30, 2010 at 9:30 am

    I used to garden quite a bit and when my brother found out I was moving to the city he bought me a bonsai pot with two black pine seeds. Cool! So I planted my seeds, have the cutest little guys I have ever seen… they just got their first needles, I am so proud! I started on my research like a good tree mom and I am more than overwhelmed… Hardest to grow, only seasoned bonsai growers should attempt… I am reading all kinds of stuff! HELP! I don’t want my lil’ guys to die! If someone could just point me in the right direction…

  5. xwires said, on May 31, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Hi Melinda – pines from seed aren’t particularly tricky. You mentioned that you’re in the city – pines need to grow outdoors. If they’re out on a patio or in a yard and get a few hours of sun every day, they should grow well. The main trick this year is getting the watering right. Water when the soil has some moisture left – letting them get too dry will cause trouble. And they don’t need water when the soil is still wet, even if it’s been a few days since the last watering. Mild fertilizer will help too!

  6. Jeremiah said, on June 1, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Any updates on your seeds?

  7. xwires said, on June 1, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    Hi Jeremiah – yes, I do have an update. I expect I’ll post it in the next week or two. In short, 12 sprouted. Soon I’ll be making seedling-cuttings.

    I only now noticed your questions above. Here are some answers.

    I think a greenhouse would help with the germination and with seedling-cuttings. I used a mini-greenhouse – a small lexan box really – the last time I made seedling-cuttings and I had great luck with it.

    As for where to plant them, I usually use either 4″ or 5″ plastic pots in flats or larger containers filled with rocks when I’m going for exposed root trees. And rather than coat the surface with sand, I typically create a pocket of sand for the cuttings. When I first planted the seeds, I used up to 1/2″ of sand above bonsai soil.

    I’ve seen seedling cuttings planted together in larger containers, but it’s trickier to repot later. However, if there are plenty of seedlings and not so much time, it’s a workable option.

    After they sprout, you cut the roots off, dip in hormone what do you put them in? Individual pots or still a larger pot with several pines? How much of a layer of sand do you use?

  8. Roandw said, on September 17, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Would planting the seeds too deep prevent them from growing?

  9. xwires said, on September 17, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    At some point, yes, planting pine seeds too deep would prevent them from growing successfully. Plant them too shallow and it’s easy for them to dry out. When seeds are plentiful, planting at different depths will tell you which depth works best for your weather and soil mix.

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