Help with black pine seedling please!

Hi all!

First time to post, I’m hoping someone can help me. I got some bonsai seeds in Japan, and when I brought them home to Ireland I followed the instructions on the packet of how to plant them. Planted them in August last year, so they’re about 4 months old at this stage. All was going well, but a few days ago the seedling leaves went from bright green to dark green, and they have started to look like they are wilting. I’ve been watering it when it’s dry, not too much, and there’s a drainage hole at the bottom of the pot. I’ve had it in a window, bright with a bit of direct sunlight in the morning, but not all day. The soil came with the seeds, like a starter pack. I’m wondering if this looks normal to any experts out there, or should I swoop in and either cut off the lower pine needles to try and save it?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. This seedling means a great deal to me, I would be heartbroken if it was to die on me.

Thanks in advance,


Thanks for the post. Unfortunately, the seedling doesn’t look great. Too much or not enough water are possible culprits. I can also say that pines need to live outdoors. It’s possible to grow them for a limited period of time indoors, but they’ll need to be outside at some point.

Cold temps can turn the foliage purple - was there a significant cold spell recently?

At this point the main thing is to watch the watering. Water when there is just a little moisture in the soil. Avoid letting the soil get bone dry and avoid keeping it waterlogged too.

Thanks for that reply Jonas. The temp has been pretty constant for the last few months, never getting too cold of too hot, because it’s been indoors. I was planning on putting it outside soon, but then this happened! It can get quite cold here at night time, so would be concerned about frost at night. Maybe I should just put it outside now anyway, what do you think? Do you think I should cut off the bottom pines to promote more growth? It never got watered too much or too little, I was very aware of that side of things.

I wouldn’t remove the old leaves - the main question is whether or not the seedling has the ability to send out new growth at this point.

Do you have more than one seedling? If so, you might try placing a few outside where they can get some sun when it’s out and only take them back inside if the temps drop close to freezing.

As for the water, feel free to completely saturate the soil when you water. What’s most important is for there to be adequate time between waterings so the soil to dry out a bit.

I wish I had more seedlings! This is my only one, so I’m trying to get it right!! I’ve started to put it outside for a few hours a day for the past few days because of what you said. You mention the main thing to be if the seedling has the ability to send out new growth… what does that mean exactly? Can I do anything to help it with this?

Not sure there’s anything to do at this point. The best way to gauge if a tree is healthy is to check the buds. I can’t tell from the photo if the apical bud is healthy. If not, the tree will need some reserves to generate a new bud and continue growing.

Thanks for that. If it’s only a seedling, can I check the buds? How would I do that if I can?

How can I give it some reserves? What do you mean by that? (excuse my lack of knowledge on this, this is my first bonsai!)

Good questions. A pine seedling only produces growth from one point - the tip of the shoot. If the existing leaves die, it’s possible for the tree to continue growing from this tip. If the bud starts growing then all will be OK, though I wouldn’t expect any new growth until the weather warms up.

The tree needs to build its own reserves which it does by storing food produced by the leaves. As the seedling is quite young, it doesn’t have as much reserve energy as a more mature tree.

Hi Emma,
This seedling has been too dry. Not sure how you watered, but it obviously wasn’t enough. Your only course now is don’t mess with it putting it in/out etc… Keep it constant. IF and that is a big IF it is still alive give it a good watering. Allow the water to flow thru. Then don’t water it again until it is just moist then repeat. Here in Aussie we have something called Seasol which is like a tonic for plants made from seaweed. If you can find anything similar to that, use it at half strength/diluted when watering. Please don’t use fertilizer.
Fertilizer at this stage will kill it if it is alive.
Personally I would say it is probably past saving. As Pines by the time you see they are sick are beyond saving. All you can do is try.

Hi Kirky,

Wow, thank you so much for your advice. Ok, I’ll stop putting outside for a few hours a day and keep it inside at the window, thanks for that. I’ll pop to my local plant store to look for something like that seaweed tonic, I feel like I’ve seen something like it in the past. Will keep on top of the watering of it also, thank you for that info.

Oh I’m so hoping that it’ll get better! I got the seeds on my honeymoon in Japan, and I’ll be heartbroken if the poor thing doesn’t survive!