Country of Origin : Japan
Bonsai Styles : Informal upright, slanting, semi-cascade, cascade, root-over-rock, clasped to rock, twin-trunk, clump
Zone : 4 – 7
Taxus cuspidata is a small to medium-sized evergreen tree native to Japan. Its silhouette is similar to that of the English yew (Taxus baccata), except its leaves are a deep green on the top and a light cream on the bottom.
In recent years, both of these species have gained popularity as bonsai trees. The Chinese have their own version of yew called Chinese yew (Podocarpus macrophyllus).
The tree is suitable for most bonsai styles, but is particularly well suited for bonsai with lots of driftwood.
From superfluous branches, exquisite jins and sharis can be produced. New shoots grow easily from old wood, and they have lovely dark green foliage.
It has small green flowers.
A female tree must be pollinated by a male tree in order to bear deep pink fruits.
There is another dwarf variety of this plant called Taxus Cuspidata ‘Nana’. This is suitable for small sized bonsai.
Best location to keep Japanese Yew Bonsai
Japanese Yew Bonsai tree can tolerate some sun but it dislike prolonged sun. It thrives in partial shade or even full shade.
Do not place this tree in a location with hot sun. Temperatures exceeding 90°F (32°C) will prove to be detrimental to the health of the tree.
Japanese yew is hardy in temperate areas. The plant requires cold winters and can even handle freezing well, however do not expose the tree to consistent temperatures below 23°F (-5°C). In such cases, move the tree to a frost free shelter.
It should not be allowed to remain frozen solid for longer than a week.
Avoid bringing the tree indoors in winter if the temperatures do not fall below the recommended values.
A suitable temperature range for growing Japanese yew bonsai tree is between 25°F (-3°C) to 80°F (26°C).
Propagation of Japanese Yew
Japanese Yew can be propagated by air layering in summer.
It can also be propagated by using stem cuttings. Take the stem cuttings in fall. Preserve and protect it throughout the winter. Plant these cuttings in spring.
Watering Japanese Yew Bonsai
Regularly water your plants throughout the growing season, giving them more during the summer. You can also spray some mist on the foliage from time to time.
Reduce the watering in winter and keep the soil just moist.
Remember that this tree will most likely be placed in shade. So it will be easy to over-water the soil as evaporation of excess soil in shade will be very slow.
The combined effect of frost and excessively wet soil will be highly damaging to the roots. Hence, be very careful when watering the soil in winter.
Protect the tree from continuous rain.
Read watering bonsai tree for more details about immersion technique.
Wiring Japanese Yew Bonsai
Japanese yew can be wire trained from early fall to early spring.
Do not wire the soft branches and while wiring make sure that no needles are trapped under the wire.
Depending on the thickness and age of the branch, wires should be left on the tree for one to five years.
These plants have flexible and springy branches. Use copper wires for wiring instead of aluminum wire as copper wire is stronger.
Even after a branch appears to be set, it will slowly creep upwards over the next few months. You can use fine wire ties to pull down branches in place.
When young side shoots are wired when they are a year old, they will set rigidly in a relatively short time.
Pruning Japanese Yew Bonsai
When to prune Japanese Yew bonsai?
How to prune Japanese Yew bonsai?
Pruning of Taxus Cuspidata bonsai tree can be done in fall or spring.
Prune the secondary shoots (laterals) that are emerging above the mass of needle foliage.
It is critical not to cut through the needles, as this will cause them to discolor and could result in die-back.
Remove vigorous shoots and trim dangling shoots.
Japanese yews prefer hard pruning. The result is a new crop of dense new shoots.
By hard pruning you can revitalize bare branches. You can cut them in half in early summer which will result in the emergence of plenty of shoots.
The extension shoots which will be produced will be round and will have spiral growing leaves. On the other hand, the side shoots will be much finer and flatter. These shoots will have leaves on one side.
Unless you want to use these extension shoots, remove them. Mostly they are removed in mature established bonsai and in younger bonsai they can be wire trained.
Prune the side shoots to match the bonsai style.
Following this procedure will result in producing a bonsai with a wide, dome shaped foliage on the branches.
Pinching Japanese Yew Bonsai
To encourage branching, pinch out new growth throughout the growing season.
Wait until the spring blooms have appeared before pruning new shoots, in case you are planning to grow fruits.
Repotting Japanese Yew Bonsai
When to repot Japanese Yew bonsai?
Repotting can be done in spring.
Young Japanese yew bonsai trees can be repotted in 2-3 years.
Mature Japanese yew bonsai trees can be repotted in 3-4 years.
Use a bonsai container which is relatively deeper than the regular shallow pots.
Most types of soil are suitable for yews, including acidic and chalky soil.
You can use a basic free-draining bonsai soil mix as a potting soil.
You can also use a soil mix consisting of 30% grit and 70% organic matter.
You can also use a mix of sharp sand, peat and loam (or akadama) in the ration of 1:1:2.
Must Read: Bonsai Soil Recipes
Must read : Choosing the right bonsai container
Feeding Japanese Yew Bonsai
During the summer, use a general fertilizer twice a month.
Apply a high-nitrogen feed if the leaves appear yellow.
In early fall, apply low nitrogen feed.
Stop applying fertilizer in winter.
Read more about bonsai fertilizer and its application.
Diseases and pest of Japanese Yew Bonsai
Old leaves of these trees can be affected by spider mites and scaled insects. The younger leaves of the plant can be affected by aphids.
Manual removal or use of systemic insecticide can be done. You can also use a gentle jet of water to remove aphids.
Japanese Yew bonsai care
Fruit and foliage of this plant are highly poisonous.
Japanese yews should be planted in free-draining soil to avoid root damage during freezing weather.
During winter, the foliage may turn reddish-brown, but it will return to green color in the spring.
It is important to keep Japanese Yew bonsai trees shaded and protected from wind throughout the year.
What to look for when buying Japanese Yew Bonsai
Japanese yew bonsai trees are slow-growing, so they are rare and frequently of poor quality.
The bonsai specimens which are imported from Japan are of excellent quality. They are mostly collected from the wild (yamadori). These specimens are expensive but a good investment if you can afford the price.
However, now western bonsai producers have also started providing medium sized bonsai which are proving to be value for money.
You can also try and look for a half trained bonsai specimen which has a well shaped trunk and good surface roots. Also, it is a plus if the tree has downward sloping branches.