How to Make a Western Hemlock Bonsai Tree

Western Hemlock is a member of the Pinaceae family which includes cedars, firs, hemlocks, larches, pines and spruces among other evergreen trees. For bonsai, it is an excellent choice as it lives for hundreds of years, grows in a variety of climates, and is easy to care for.

Steps

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    Get a Western Hemlock. Find one that is less than 1 foot (0.3 m) tall, at a garden store or find one in the wild.
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    Assess the tree's condition all year. Is the tree damaged (many wounds, missing needles, exposed roots, and/or only a few branches)? Is it healthy (has lots of needles, lots of new growth, and intact bark)? It's always good to know how your tree is doing.
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    Prune it. Major pruning should be done in late winter. Be sure to cover wounds with sealant.
    • You should also prune the tree in mid to late spring. When growth is too prolific, prune back some of the new growth. New growth is easy to spot, as it is bright green.
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    Repot the tree. Once every two years, before major growth for the year starts, hemlocks should be repotted.
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    Wire the tree in early to mid summer. Once most growth has ceased, small gauge wire (1/3 of the width of each branch to be wired) should be carefully wrapped around each branch that you want to move into a different position. Don't worry about knocking off a few needles in the process.
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    Prepare for winter in late fall. Depending on the climate where you keep the bonsai, you may need to put it in a greenhouse to prevent hard freezing, but make sure that the tree stays cold enough that it reaches dormancy for the winter.
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    Wire the tree again in late winter. Remove all of the wires from summer and rewire the tree.
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    Follow a calendar of care. Keep a calendar with all the important dates to remember from this page.

Warnings

  • Don't let the tree get dehydrated; if the soil doesn't feel moist, the tree needs to be watered.
  • Wild plants may be on private or government property, so be sure to ask for permission first.
  • Don't overwater; needles will turn yellow if you overwater the tree.
  • Trees in poor health should not have any major pruning done to them.
  • When pruning many major branches at the same time, be sure to allow for a year of healthy growth in a deep pot before and after the pruning.
  • Don't leave wires on for more than a few months as hemlocks will scar.
  • Branches are a little brittle, so take some care when bending them.

Things You'll Need

  • A Western Hemlock
  • Pruning Shears
  • Plant Sealant
  • Wire, 1/3 the width of the branch that it is wrapped around
  • Shallow pot with a drain and a saucer
  • Deep pot with a drain and a saucer
  • Soil. Western Hemlocks will grow in many different soil types from gravely or clay-laden soil, to loamy nutrient rich soil. They will even grow in rotten wood.

Article Info

Categories: Indoor and Patio Plants