Japanese black pine help

Japanese black pine experienced friends!

I’ve been trying to figure this guy out in the last year and I think I know a couple things but there’s one bugging me:

The shoot on the tip of each branch, is it a shoot or cone, does it normally open when you decandle, or it’s dormant till spring? Do I remove it early spring or late winter or how should I do to get at least 2 terminal buds?

Also, I got done long and some short needles, I want to build energy to have a strong flush in spring but I was thinking of cutting the long needles down to the small size ones around late fall. Is it counterproductive? I think at that point most energy was already storage but need to confirm

Thank you in advance


The “candle” at the end of each tip is a bud that is waiting to grow. I’m not sure in which part of the world you are, but right now where I am (Australia and coming out of winter in a month or so) these candles are getting ready to elongate in spring and produce new needles. You should let it grow! If you want to refine the growth to get more ramification you need to fertilise throughout spring and then “de-candle” after these shoots have opened and set needles (which for me is December). The stored resources from fertilisation along with the de-candling encourage the tree to create a second flush of multiple buds with smaller needles and shorter internodes if all goes to plan. That is the equivalent of bonsai nirvana! Doing this repeatedly over a few seasons helps to balance energy in the pine and therefore equalise needle length, internodes etc…
It goes without saying you need to check out the JBP videos in the library here… good luck!


Thank you!

I’m in CA and it’s the pick of the summer. The tree gets partial protection from a shade screen but direct sun after 4pm.

Yea, I messed up last year so this year I did minor work to it and just fertilized.

The candles in the tips got me confused cause they didn’t open, or at least until now and I’m afraid if they don’t that they will die back. Every branch as a terminal one so if I keep fertilizing hopefully in spring they open strong and I’ll decandle to try and finally balance the needles length.

The tree was weak for a while but I e see a lot of small back budding that should elongate this year. It will also bring me to: should I reduce to 2 shoots per end later in fall or let it stay to accumulate energy. I think probably let it stay and remove when I decandle next year…

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So it didn’t have any elongating growth this year with new needle mass forming?

If that’s the case, the tree is telling you it had enough energy to sustain but not add. Leave all of the needle mass on it if that’s the case. Let it rebuild and see how the growth goes next season to determine next steps. The last thing you want is to reduce needle mass and weaken further.

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OK, just like chuckwheat said, if you didn’t see any candle elongation, new needles etc this year you should leave it alone. You can fertilise during fall but I wouldn’t be touching needles, let it grow and get some strength up. Those buds in your pic will extend and grow next spring and then look at what you can do after that occurs, but for now I think you should leave it be and gain some vigour, needle length will come when you can work on it once it is stronger.