Repot Black and Red Pines

It’s been two years that my seedling cuttings have been growing in their very small nursery pots. It’s time that I give them more room to grow, so I’ve decided to repot them all into colanders. I’ve had a lot of casualties this winter, a lot of black pines and even my white pine died.


Pine Seedling Cuttings

The Japanese White Pines and Red Pines planted two weeks ago, are now ready to be made into seedling cuttings. Making them into seedling cuttings rather than letting them grow naturally, will ensure it develops finer and more radiating roots, rather than one strong tap root. I usually don’t want to wait too long before doing this task, because I feel the seedlings are most vigorous during the first few weeks, and would recover much better if the procedure is done early. I usually wait till the second flush of needles emerge, and are about 1/4 inch long, before proceeding to make cuttings out of them. I ended up making two Japanese Red Pine seedling cuttings, and three Japanese White Pine seedling cuttings.

Red and White Pine Seedling Cuttings

I find growing them in these square pots are really helpful in conserving space. I lined the bottom third of the pot with some large larva rocks. The next third of the pot, I lined with bigger particle bonsai soil. The final layer, I use the smallest grain bonsai soil.  In order for the seedling cutting to be held in place, I made a small hole in the middle of the pot with a chopstick, and filled it with sand. The seedling cuttings will go into the sand. The sand will hold it in place while the roots develop. Also, the sand retains more moisture, and helps the survival rate of the seedling cuttings. In fact, the sand retains so much moisture that it kept the trees too wet after the seedlings are established, so, I’ve decided to use less sand than years before.

After making them into seedling cuttings, they’ve lost their roots, and wouldn’t do well in full sun. As such, I’ve moved them into a small green house, with bottom heating. The green house helps retain moisture, while the bottom heating will help roots develop. Hoping these will develop into nice seedlings with great nebari in two years.

Seedling Cuttings with Bottom Heating

Seeds Sprouted

I got a bunch of seeds from a month or so back. Since they ship from Montreal, they arrived quite quickly. As usually, I immediately put the seed through scarification and warm/cold stratification as required. Of the seeds I got, only the Japanese White Pine and Korean Hornbeam required warm stratification. The rest went into the fridge for cold stratification right after the scarification process.

After a month of warm stratification, I noticed that two of the Japanese White Pines were already sprouting. One of them actually sent out quite a long tapping root already.

White Pine Seed Budding

Luckily I already had some bonsai soil ready, so I quickly potted the two Japanese White Pines into their own pots. After a week, they’re now growing strong, and the false leaves can be seen emerging from the seed.

White Pine Seeding

White Pine Seedling

The seed with the long tapping root needed some wiring to help it grow straight up. For the time being, I’m not too concerned about the roots under the soil, since I’m planning to make seedling cuttings out of these anyways.

I’ve also noticed that one of the Zelkova serrata seeds have also sprouted a root. I also potted it up. Since I don’t know how they respond to seedling cutting, I probably will not risk it, and let it develop fully in the pot.

Zelkova Seeding

My Japanese Red Pine also completed its 30 day cold stratification. I proceeded to sow them in bonsai soil. There are 17 of them in total, they all went into the pot, evenly spaced out. Since they wouldn’t occupy the whole pot, I left one side for the next batch of seeds coming out of cold stratification.

Red Pine Seed Planted

It’s been one week, and still no activity from the Japanese Red Pines. I sure hope I didn’t get a bad batch of seeds.

Japanese Red Pine Seedling Cuttings

I got these seeds online, sowed them, and got myself three Japanese red pine seedlings. Originally 10+ seeds sprouted, but because I wasn’t misting them every morning, most of them eventually wittered and die shortly after they sprouted. These three seedlings came later, and I realized that misting them every morning was essential to their survival. They’re now several weeks old, so I decided to make seedling cuttings out of them.


This particular one was awfully small. After digging it up, it turns out the tap root has died off. I could also see it was developing a new root system. This is surprisingly a natural seedling cutting. I simply planted it into a larger pot with sand in the middle.

The other two seedling cuttings are made with he conventional way of cutting off the tap root, and then dipping it into some rooting hormone. The weather lately has been exceptionally warm, so I took the Japanese red pine seedling cuttings outside to soak up some extra sunlight. I placed a plastic colander upside down on top of the cuttings to act as a sun shade – just to be on the safe side. The last thing I want is to burn my only red pine seedling cuttings to a crisp.



With good care and full sun, hopefully these cuttings will quickly develop some roots. Can’t wait to see them develop some more in the coming months.

Second Year Pine Seedling Cuttings

I planted two pine seedling cuttings during fall of last year. They were doing well all the way till winter hit. For overwintering, I had the option of burying the fragile seedling cuttings in the ground with the rest of the trees, or kept them in my garage. Coincidentally, we decided to create a porch enclosure in front of our front door. This provided me with an option of keeping the seedling cuttings in the porch enclosure, which enjoyed a bit of transfused heating from the side of the house. This heat allowed the trees to be kept all winter long just below freezing, while sheltered from the frigid winter winds. It also receives some sunlight, although only a tiny bit due to it being north facing, but I figured it was better than the pitch dark garage. So, that’s where the pine seedling cuttings spent the winter, I occasionally watered them when they looked too dry, but for the most part, they were just a frozen clumps of ice, so didn’t have to pay much attention to them.

Now that Spring is just around the corner, I decided to give them a boost start. I brought them back into the house to spend some time until they’ll move outside in the coming weeks. There were some new buds forming at the apex, which gave me some assurance the trees enjoyed the overwintering environment.


The white pine seedling cutting have a leave bud that’s wanting to pop. Hoping the warmer environment will force some new needles to form soon.


This black pine seedling cutting (from Science Center) is also doing well with a bud at the top.

I will be monitoring these seedling cuttings closely throughout the next few weeks to ensure they’re not too dry/wet. It’s difficult to keep the moisture level consistent indoors.

Seeds Heading For The Fridge

There are absolutely no activity from the seeds I left out over the winter. I figured I’ll give them one last chance and try putting them in the fridge for 60-90 days to see if the seeds will sprout after I take them out in August/September. I’m hoping that because they were kept on a table facing south, that they weren’t experiencing cold enough temperatures to kick off the sprouting. I’ll find out whether any of the seeds are viable later on. For now, they will occupy some room in my fridge.

Seeds Heading Into The Fridge

More seed planting

Last month I ordered some seeds from eBay. The seeds took a bit to arrive, apparently the first shipment got “lost”. But after an email, the seller sent the shipment <again?>, and since it has almost 2x the number of seeds, I’m happy. Since these tree species are hard to find in Toronto, I decided to grow them from seeds. For as little as $10 bucks, it’ll be a good experiment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI first soaked the seeds in hot water to perform the scarification process. I boiled water, and then let it sit a bit until it’s not too hot, then dumped the seeds in. Some seeds begin sinking to the bottom in an hour or so. While 1/5 of the seeds are more stubborn, and wouldn’t take in enough water to sink onto the bottom. Simply repeat the process until they all sink to the bottom. After they all sink to the bottom, scoop them out and put them aside, awaiting to be planted.


I opted to use these containers for my seeds. They’re generally available from take-outs, so I had plenty of them lying around.


In order to ensure proper drainage, and that the pots don’t get waterlogged, I drilled a few 3/4″ holes in the bottom of the pot. I then covered the holes with a plastic mesh to ensure that my bonsai soil doesn’t also escape through the holes.


To keep the mesh in place, I used a piece of wire, and twisted it as so above. Then insert into the mesh and fasten it onto the pot.


Here’s the finished pot with mesh attached. Next step is to prepare the bonsai soil. Instead of using expensive akadama for my bonsai soil, I opted to use diatomaceous earth instead. I went to Napa and bought a bag of diatomaceous earth (a.k.a. granular absorbent). After sifting out the smaller particles, the larger particles would go into the bonsai mix. The small particles would clog up the drainage holes, so therefore, we want to sift them out of my bonsai mix.


The next ingredient of the bonsai mix is some high performance bedding (HPB) I head lying around from my stone patio renovation a few years back. These stuff are pretty clean, so can just be used straight out of the bag.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next ingredient is small bark chips. I had these left from by orchid growing. I would say getting them from the orchid society is the best way to obtaining them. These small bark chips breaks down way too easily when growing orchids, so I’m not using them for my orchids anymore. So, into the bonsai mix they go.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI mix the above three ingredients equally in volume. Namely, 1/3 diatomaceous earth, 1/3 HPB, 1/3 bark chips. And I end up with the following bonsai mix.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe bonsai mix needs a good wash-down until the run off is no longer murky. After a good wash, the bonsai mix looks like this.


Now line a layer of play sand on top of the bonsai soil. This is where the seeds will be planted.


Since the soil below is already wet, when placing the sand above the soil, the sand will wick the water from the soil, and become wet as well. Make sure to lay it evenly. Then use tweezers to make tiny holes for the seeds to go in.


Now simply place all the seeds in the holes.


The last step is to place a thin layer of sand on top, then tamp it down so that the sand won’t run off when I water.


Now I simply label the pots, then place the lid back onto these pots. The final step is to place them outside, such that mother nature can work its magic. Throughout the cold winter months, the seeds will go through stratification. Hopefully by spring next year, I’ll see some seedlings sprouting.