Japanese five needle pine

The five needle pine, a precious evergreen conifer, is a slow grower with a petite stature, making it a favorite for bonsai enthusiasts. Its robust branches and lush green needles have won many hearts. Not only is it a sight to behold, but it’s also a valuable asset for bonsai creation.

While there are various methods to propagate this tree, like seeding or cutting, grafting stands out as the most effective. Why? Grafting leverages a faster-growing rootstock, ensuring quicker growth post-grafting and easier bonsai shaping.

Step-by-Step Grafting Guide

Grafting on a young black pine tree
  1. Choosing the Rootstock: Opt for a 3-year-old black pine. It’s compatible, has a robust root system, and ensures a high survival rate post-grafting.
  2. Selecting the Scion: Harvest from a healthy five needle pine, preferably the robust 1-2-year-old branches from the outer canopy. Once collected, graft immediately.
  3. Timing is Key:
    • The best grafting time is early spring (February to March) or autumn (September to October).
    • If using fresh shoots, graft during the rainy season in June. Protect from rain post-grafting for higher survival rates.
  4. Grafting Techniques:
    • Grafting on Young Trees: Use a 3-year-old Black Pine. Graft about 5-6 cm above its roots. Typically, one scion is used, but if it’s thin, you can use two for a better shape. Secure with plastic strips and cover with a plastic bag. In about two months, the graft should be successful.
    • Tender Branch Grafting: Use a fresh shoot from the Five-Needle Pine, about 6 cm long. Shape it into a wedge and graft it onto a fresh shoot of the Black Pine. Ensure both cuts align well. Secure and cover as before. In about a month and a half, the graft should take hold.
    • Grafting on Old Stumps: Use older rootstocks, either a few years or decades old. This method ensures the branches and leaves of the Five-Needle Pine are closer to the roots, ideal for bonsai. Multiple grafting techniques can be used here. Post grafting, ensure not to remove all the leaves from the rootstock, or the grafted tree might weaken.
    • Utilizing Top Dominance: This method promotes the growth of the Five-Needle Pine. By adjusting the position of the Black Pine branches, you can transfer the growth dominance to the scion. This suppresses the rootstock’s growth and promotes the scion’s rapid growth. This method is simple but effective.

Post-Grafting Care

Successfully grafted five needle pines
  1. Protect the Graft: Use measures like bagging, shading, waxing, or binding with plastic strips to prevent dehydration.
  2. Prune the Rootstock: For spring grafts, prune either during grafting or once the graft takes hold. For autumn grafts, prune the following spring.
  3. Loosen the Ties: After some time, loosen the binding to prevent hindering the scion’s growth. However, ensure it’s still secure.
  4. Remove Sprouts: Once the graft is successful, remove all sprouts from the rootstock to promote new shoot growth.

So, there you have it! Remember, it’s not just about the technique, but the love and patience you pour into it. Happy grafting!

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