Creating a Juniper bonsai rock planting

My friend Wolfgang Egbert, a talented bonsai artist from Germany, created this little rock planting and kindly allowed me to republish his work as a mini-tutorial. (On facebook he regularly posts his work, if interested)

Materials needed to create a small bonsai juniper rock planting

  • A young juniper (Here: a 3 year old itoigawa cutting)
  • An interesting rock (Ideally with some crevices and taper)
  • Keto (A special substrate, consisting of a mix of peat and loam)
  • Wire in different thicknesses
  • Moss
  • Akadama

Preparing the rock

  • To get started, prepare “bonsai muck”, a mixture of up to 40% Akadama (Or other coarse substrate) and keto. The muck should be soft enough to easily mold, yet not so wet that water drips from it.
  • In the area where you would like to plant the juniper, stick the muck to the rock. Extend as far as you would later like to cover the rock with moss.

Preparing the juniper

  • First, the juniper is trimmed back, and inner foliage is removed to create a small open structure, where each secondary branch is well-defined.
  • In order to be able to position branches and trunk fitting to the rock, the juniper is completely wired with appropriate strength bonsai wire (Here: Aluminium in 1 and 2mm).
  • In order to place the juniper on the rock, the roots are combed out, removing most of the original substrate. Overly long and strong roots are removed, leaving mostly fine roots and a compact root ball.

Putting together a bonsai juniper rock planting

  • Take a piece of 2mm aluminium wire, long enough to wrap around the rock at the level where you would like to position the juniper
  • Gently spread the juniper roots and press them onto the muck
  • Just below the trunk, trap the roots with the wire, loop the wire to the back of the rock, and tighten enough to hold the juniper in place, but not so tight that the roots are crushed.
  • Bend the juniper branches in place, creating a pleasing canopy outline
  • Add muck over the roots, ensuring all roots are properly covered with a thin layer
  • Arrange moss on the muck to create a closed carpet. Muck is sticky and the moss should stay on by itself
  • Water gently


Aftercare of a young bonsai rock planting

Keep the rock planting in dappled shade. The rock can dry out very quickly so it is important to shade the composition from direct sun during the hottest part of the day. Placing the rock on a Suiban can help to keep the rock moist and the planting watered at all times.

This post is part of a series of tutorial posts on bonsai techniques

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