One great thing about plants is their ability to reproduce not only from seed, but from cuttings as well, and the Shimpaku Juniper is an excellent candidate for propagating from cuttings. It roots extremely easily, has nice tight green foliage, and can not only be used as bonsai material on its own, but makes great grafting material as well. Now is a great time of year to grow cutting material, in the late spring when growth is strong and hardy. Here I’ll show you how easy it is to get started with your own crop of junipers.
I couldn’t pass up this cheap pair of junipers from my local garden center
Things you’ll need:
Choose your material – Scout out your local garden centers, nurseries, and hardware stores for your plants. You can also take cuttings from more esablished material such as a friend’s landscaping, or an area park. The junipers I’m working with today actually came from a local plant center that was converting into a commercial tree nursery and so was getting rid of all of their smaller stock rather cheaply. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to do something with them and now I’ve found it.
the thinner right branch would make interesting jin
After studying where to make the cuts, I decided that one of the junipers would make a decent small bonsai in its own right. The thinner of the top primary branches would be an interesting jin, or deadwood feature, and the other side would carry a nice pad of foliage.
this could be interesting
This made the decision of where to take my cuttings from much easier. The other juniper I would simply thin out the foliage, using the trimmings as cuttings, and plant it into the ground.
the cuttings freshly sheared
When removing branches for cuttings, I like to make the cut as sharp and cleanly as possible. Here I’ll use a good pair of shears, and to finish of the cutting I’ll trim the bottom with a razor sharp pair of leaf trimmers. A razor blade pressed into the branch and into a piece of wood works as well.
trim the bottom of the cutting to ensure a clean cut
coarse sand and perlite
One of my favorite soil mixes for rooting cuttings is a 50-50 mix of course sand and perlite. Sand is something you should not use in a standard bonsai soil mix, as it has a propensity to become compact when wet, retard drainage, and prevent airflow, but it makes a fantastic substrate for cuttings when amended with perlite. I’m using a coarse white beach sand from a creek that runs through our property and standard garden center perlite. The sand holds moisture rather well, the small grains promote very fine root ramification from the tiny cuttings, and the perlite still permits drainage from the bottom of the trays.You can pick up small plastic trays for free from pretty much every nursery and I have built up quite a stack to use for seedlings and cuttings.
you know how to tell I’m from the south?
After mixing your soil fill the trays well and using a chopstick or pen push in a 1″ deep hole in the center of each tray. Take the cuttings, wet the bottoms with water and dip into the rooting hormone, thoroughly coating the bark. Rooting hormone is available at every garden store and nursery and is usually the same active ingredient, indole-3-butyric acid. It’s entirely possible to root cuttings in water and without hormone, especially willows and ficus, but I choose to use it here with the juniper cuttings.
dip the cutting into the hormone
Make sure the cuttings you use are healthy and green. Push them into the holes and fill in with the sand. Don’t pack the sand down too much, just make sure the cuttings are stable within the soil. You don’t want the sand so compact that the water has trouble draining from the bottom of the trays.
gently place the cuttings
After everything is done, water them well but gently, making sure not to displace the newly planted cuttings. Place the trays in the shade, and make sure to keep damp and don’t let them dry out. When they start to push out new growth, you will know the cuttings have successfully taken. Juniper can stay green for a long time without rooting, so watching for new growth is pertinent.
Now that all is done, have a cold one and relax. I want to give thanks to my beautiful lazy helper as well.
the embodiment of happiness
Stay tuned for a progression of the small shimpaku the cuttings were taken from. I see a neat little shohin bonsai in its future.