What to do with Japanese White Pine seedlings?

I’m growing about 100 Japanese White Pine seedlings at the moment. One batch is in its second year and the other in its first. I’ve searched through Jonas’ blog posts and there are plenty and great posts on white pines but non specifically to do with white pine seedlings.

  • I’m curious to learn how other folks treat their white pine seedlings?
  • Am I wasting time by growing them on their own roots?
  • Does anyone have a reliable routine for growing white pines that has worked well for them?

As you are working with seedlings there will be a varied response, and i would suggest that regular propogation techniques used for JBP and JRP would apply. Free draining mix, lots of water and fertiliser.
As far as wasting your time growing on their own roots. JWP is often grafted for the simple reason that many specific dwarf cultivars grow very slowly and grafting them on regular white pine stock ensures better growth rate. Your seeds are likely regular white pine stock and will grow normally if that is the case.
There is excellent reference material contained in the White Pine Section of the Bonsai Today publication Masters Series Pines which deals with the growing and styling of Japanese Black and White Pines. The blog archives of this website also contain very applicable material for propogation techniques.

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Thanks @Riversedgebonsai.

I have come to think that weak roots is possibly and old wive’s tale. It makes more sense to me that grafting is a technique for producing consistent results vs sexual propagation which can have indeterministic outcome.

I think there is some truth to the difference in root characteristics. The main difference is the capacity to adapt to temperature variation in climatic zones. Nursery propogation frequently chooses grafting in order to produce stock that can withstand colder climates than the scion stock would if it were on its own roots! This enables a larger market for there product.
An excellent example of this is Japanese maples. Using hardier stock for more sensitive cultivars. As you mentioned an additional important benefit is truer characteristics through grafting cultivar scions rather than propogation by seed.

Is seedling JWP good? I’ve heard about weak roots and less-desirable foliage. However I like them very much. I’ve seen a few from our area practitioners that are very good. They are however very slow and take a long time to bark up.

Grafted white pines are relatively expensive, seedlings are economical but will require time.

If your climate is good for JWP I would definitely keep it up. It will be easy to sell any extras at the local club.

Good luck,


addendum - I’m with Frank, not sure that all the negative hype about weak roots and other undesirable traits from seedling grown plants is true.

Thanks for starting these - I’d love to see more white pine bonsai around!

White pine from seeds can make great bonsai. The most common style I’ve seen is exposed root style (it’s far more common for white pines than black):

My understanding is that white pine foliage is traditionally grafted onto black pine stock as it’s the fastest way to get white pine foliage on a thick trunk. There are health benefits too. Some white pines do OK on their roots in my climate but most fail to thrive. All whites I’ve seen grafted on black pine stock do great in my area.

As Frank noted, the basic techniques for white pines are similar to black pines - save for refining techniques like decandling - but they develop much more slowly.