Pinus Radiata as bonsai

Hi everyone,
As a beginner of bonsai i have a burning question that i cant seem to find an answer to.
Is Pinus radiata ( The Monterey pine i believe ) not a desirable species to bonsai ?
i cannot find any info on working with Radiata .
It is one thing we have here that plentiful in New Zealand and see lots of great possible yamadori potential everywhere.
Thanks heaps. Im loving the Mirai site

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Hey Shaneo, I’m also a beginner and before I found Mirai, I had read about “optimal” or “desirable” trees for bonsai which led me to believe that I had to have one of those types. However, when I began listening to Ryan, one of the things that stuck out to me most was when he said that a bonsai professional should be able to bonsai any tree. Granted, we’re probably not professionals, however, I think it still holds true that any tree should be able to be bonsai. I’ve also heard in a couple of the Question and Answer videos when asked about tree species which lack sufficient bonsai information, Ryan tends to tell people to try it and let him know how it goes. There are plenty of trees with undiscovered potential.

Hope that helps!


Hi Carl ,
Thanks for your reply, and what a mind opening one it was, as a beginner i think we get stuck in a bubble of doing what we have been told and forget that there is lots to learn by " just doing it "
you also made me realise that i am already doing it as i have alot of shrubs and small trees in pots that i thought would make great bonsai and i am not yet sure of what they are lol.
you have helped a great deal . thanks Carl


Hi Shaneo

I work in Monterey and used to be a member of the Monterey Bonsai Club. I collected a few P. radiata earlier this year that I hope to bonsai. I remember a few club members had Monterey pines in their collections, and although I recall there being some challenges (e.g., back-budding), the trees were impressive. This web article contains an article by my former teacher on Monterey Pine. that may be useful, but I wonder if the common approach to P. radiata originates more from applying Japanese pine techniques (e.g. single flush) to a certainly multi-flush species. If I get to stay in the area for an extended period, I would like to focus on Monterey Pine and Cypress cultivation–and perhaps we can collaborate and share notes as our trees develop and progress toward refinement.
One great thing about living here in the California Central Coast area is having access to old growth pines and cypress; I hope to post some inspiration-kine pictures in the near future.


Hi Lewbobber.
Thanks for the link, what a great read aye,
as a beginner i am yet to go through a full cycle of seasons so i have a lot to learn for sure. My biggest weakness at the moment is wanting to just get stuck in pruning/potting/trimming… and we have just started winter haha.
will be great to someday manage the radiata.
thanks again for the read

I love that your question is about how to work with local species. I don’t know the species, but from what I’m reading, it’s not a tree for beginners. Don’t jump straight to digging the best looking trees. Dig a few “maybe” trees and learn from them. Develop your stock in stages. Get the better trees in another year or two. Use the lesser stock to develop the skills you’ll need to get ready for working on the better trees. Don’t worry about creating good looking trees from the lesser stock.

Are there import restrictions on bringing trees into NZ? If so, obey them. Don’t even bring in seeds. I imagine your country has some serious concerns regarding such things.

Good luck with your endeavors!

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Hi BillsBayou,
Thanks heaps for the advice, will be great idea to practice with a few first to save disappointment on the great ones.
i have not tried to import any trees or seeds before so not sure on restrictions. however this week i have just discovered we have a huge tree nursery just 10 minutes out of town that cultivates a great amount of variety trees, anything from Chinese larch / Elm / Maple / pines /firs. for great prices also. My partner is going kill me when i start visiting there i think haha.
Thanks again

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Hi Shaneo,

I’ve been dabbling with Pinus radiata over the last two years (a far cry from some people who’ve owned and refined them for decades), but find mine to be quite co-operative.

Living in Australia, our radiata might even be genetically identical to the ones you’re likely to encounter in NZ.

The Australian bonsai forums and blogs seem to carry the most information on using radiata as bonsai, but even that information I find to be a little inconsistent, or lacking in detail. The nurseryman I bought my stock from owns a few, and has maintained them over the decades and says to treat them like a JBP. So that’s largely what I’ve done, though I’ve found the timing to be quite different.

In my climate (I live in Wollongong, which is 80km south of Sydney), I found my radiata’s foliage wanted to grow during the cooler periods of the year. To the degree where it was extending and maturing candles in June/July. Last year, I thought I’d experiment and de-candled it when the foliar state was similar to what one would expect a JBP to look like in summer (candles elongated and needles starting to mature). The result was profuse back-budding and multiple buds at the cut-sites (same as a JBP done in summer). Growth was rapid, and branches thickened very quickly. Whole thing was a green orb come summer.

Having said all that, none of the branches on my radiata are particularly old - apparently back-budding becomes harder to achieve on branches older than a few years. We shall see. I can say though, that generating back-budding on wood that’s one or two years old appears not to be an issue given a lot of common-sense practices (at least in a nursery pot) such as heavy feeding, thinning of the needles and wiring branches out for maximum light exposure . I plan to get it into a bonsai pot in October this year, so we shall see how my routine works in a more confined environment.

Oh, and just as a ‘heads up’. If you want to work with radiata, you might find a more delicate touch is necessary while wiring. The shoots and needles are far more tender than something like a JBP or scots pine - they are very easy to damage.

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Thank you @PetrifiedPencils; your experience with radiata is quite valuable. I collected a few small, around 20 cm, probably 3-5 years old (deer-pruned) pines in December. I have gotten two flushed of growth so far this year and the candles have nearly doubled the size of the tree. I am very interested in how your trees progress, and how your environment compares with the California Central Coast. I hope that we can keep this thread rolling with updates.

Hi Petrifiedpencils,
Thanks for the info, i think our climates are real similar, however i am in the top of the south island and winters can get a bit low in temp, summers are close to yours for heat and sun im sure,
i hope to be able to add to the radiata information in the future as my skills improve, you been a great help,
thanks heaps

Here are quick pics of most of the collected Monterey conifers (I gave a couple away)–apologies to Ricardo for my photography malpractice. The timing for collecting seemed right, but I was probably not as prepared as I should have been with pots and soil–lessons learned.

@Shaneo and @lewbobber, it’s my pleasure. I’m just muddling my way through this species myself. Attached is a photo of the candles when I pruned them off.


I wish you luck, and hopefully, we can learn from each others’ experiences! They’re a very promising species, and people definitely make beautifully refined bonsai out of them, but they do have their own quirks!


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