How to Grow Cedar Bonsai

A Blue Atlas Cedar bonsai tree on a wooden stand against a weathered stucco wall.
A Blue Atlas Cedar bonsai tree on a wooden stand against a weathered stucco wall. This Bonsai is over 50 years old.

 Joesboy/Getty Images

In This Article

If you enjoy the art of Bonsai and you like a challenge or want to push the limits of your skills, using one of the four beautiful species in the genus Cedrus might be exactly what you need. 

The Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica), the Cyprus cedar (C. brevifolia), the deodar cedar (C. deodara), and the Lebanon cedar (C. libani) are all gorgeous trees with unique traits. Yet they are slow-growing and require immense patience which is not ideal for everyone.

If you have the patience, growing and training a Cedar Bonsai can be very rewarding, but results are not immediate, and it can take years to achieve the desired effects. 

These trees also do not transplant well at all, which is one of the largest issues in growing this appealing plant. Cedar Bonsai that are grown in pots will retain their thin trunks. If a thick trunk is desired, and it usually is, it will need to be grown in the ground, then potted. The best remedy for this is buying a pre-bonsai, but this will take some searching online. 

If you have not been scared off yet then Cedars make great subjects for a few reasons. Aesthetically, the needle pattern can be shaped beautifully and already lends itself to pruning in beautifully arranged canopy-like groupings. The rough scaly bark is an amazing contrast to the soft appearance of the needles, and the branches and wood, though slow-growing and time-consuming, take to wire training very well. So, while the Cedar Bonsai is time-consuming and difficult to train and style, you will find it relatively easy to grow.  

Cedar Bonsai Care

With some knowledge and patience, you should be able to create a beautiful work of living art that you will be proud of for years to come if you are able to source a Cedar tree suitable for bonsai. 

Light

Your Cedar Bonsai will prefer full sun and requires at least six hours a day of sunlight. If you can furnish it with more, all the better. 

Soil

The appropriate soil for the Cedar Bonsai is a mix made with mostly inorganic aggregates. You can buy a premix or make your own using pine bark, lava rock and a product called akadama. This holds water and slowly breaks down over time.

Cedar trees prefer acidic soil so the addition of the pine bark mulch will add to the acidity while providing some organics to nourish your plant.

Water

During the growing season you will usually be watering your Bonsai daily. Allow the plant to get nearly dry before watering. Do not let it completely dry out. If the leaves turn yellow, it is a sign you are giving your Bonsai too much water

Temperature and Humidity

Cedars grow naturally in mountainous terrain from the Mediterranean to the Himalayas. This Bonsai will tolerate some cold and moderate heat but does not thrive in high humidity. 

Fertilizer

Your Cedar Bonsai will have very little soil. There are little, if any, organics to draw nutrients from, so it is necessary to replenish the trees nutrients occasionally.

Any multi-purpose liquid fertilizer available at your friendly local nursery or garden center can be used for this purpose. For the Cedar Bonsai, remember to dilute the mixture by fifty percent with water before applying and apply every two weeks.

Pruning and Training

The time to do any small pruning is during the spring. You want to use sharp clean scissors to make these cuts.

Never cut needles, but if you want to shape and form needles, pinch off new growth only in the spring as buds appear. Older growth can be carefully pruned in autumn. Cedar is a very slow healer and its bark. though rough looking. is very delicate so great care is needed with this process.

Young branches of the tree can be wired easily and are quite flexible. However, be sure that the wire does not damage the sensitive bark. Older branches should be trained with guywires and not direct wiring. Always use annealed copper wire or anodized aluminum wire when training your tree. 

Repotting

Cedar is notoriously difficult to transplant. Younger plants should be repotted every two years and older Bonsai every five. You will want to do this in the spring before new growth. When transplanting be very careful about disturbing the roots and prune the roots minimally.

Is the Cedar Bonsai Toxic?

The four true cedars are not toxic.