Xanthoxylum Piperitum

Japanese Pepper Bonsai Tree

The Japanese pepper tree is native to many parts of Asia. It is commonly also referred to as the ‘Sichuan’ pepper and Chinese pepper. It has uniquely shaped round leaves which are glossy and grow close together, as well as thorns on the stems. If the Japanese pepper is pollinated, it will produce peppercorn-like fruits from which a hot spice can be made.

Japanese Pepper Bonsai Care Guide

Japanese Pepper Tree Care Tips

Japanese pepper trees are mainly grown indoors in countries with temperate climates such as the UK but in a warm climate they can be kept outside all year round. Choose a sunny windowsill or under a skylight where the tree will receive ample sunlight and warmth, taking care not to expose it to any cold draughts. Your tree should not experience drops in temperature below 10 °C and requires temperatures of around 16-23 °C to thrive. This includes over wintertime as the pepper tree requires consistent warm temperatures to replicate its tropical habitat. If it is difficult to keep your pepper tree warm and with enough light over the winter, consider investing in heaters and artificial lighting.   

There is no definitive guide to watering and it should be conducted on an observational schedule, not a routine. This means that it is important to keep an eye on the moisture levels of the soil to avoid over and under watering, both which can lead to dropping leaves and/or root death. The amount of water a bonsai requires depends on pot size, climate, airflow, soil and tree type so it is best to use your eyes and fingers to assess whether the soil is damp, wet or dry. 

If the top inch or so of soil has dried, it is ready to be watered. When you water, try to get an even coverage over the roots and soil, allowing water to flow out from the bottom of the pot to ensure a good soaking.

If you are a first-time bonsai owner, another way to water is by submerging the entire pot in water until the bubbles stop. If you choose this method, be aware that your bonsai may not need watering for another two to four days, but this will depend on the factors mentioned above such as soil type, pot size and climate.  

The Japanese pepper tree also benefits from higher humidity levels. This can be achieved by using a mister to spray the leaves, as well as placing a gravel tray under the pot to create a humid microclimate around the tree.

Using fertiliser on your pepper tree will help encourage healthy growth and this should be done periodically from once a week to every two months and only during the growing season. You can start adding Chrysal Liquid Bonsai Feed to your water from March until October and use weekly. Use Naruko Fertiliser Slow Release Bonsai Feed once every one to two months. With Buddhist Pine trees, less is more, and we tend to advise using half the recommended dosage to see how your Buddhist Pine reacts first.

Pruning your bonsai is important not only to maintain or create an aesthetic style but to also ensure light and airflow can reach inner leaves. The Japanese pepper tree grows very fast in spring and summer under the right conditions and will need pruning. During the early to late spring months use appropriate tools to cut back stems which have grown longer than four leaves, leaving the two leaves which are closest to the stem intact. For more mature or bigger branches, the wood is hard so you will require concave scissors for cutting thick branches.

Training your bonsai using wiring is possible but take care that the branches do not snap as they tend to be a little hard and less bendy than other species. You can wire the pepper tree throughout the year. We recommend using wires with a thickness that matches the thickness of the branch: if the wire you choose is too thick you will damage the bark. If it is too thin, it won’t be effective.   

Repotting your tree is an important way to provide a fresh and suitable soil mix and ensure appropriate root health. Repot in early spring. Generally, your pepper tree will need to be re-potted once every two or three years if it is young, while older ones can stay in their pots for longer. However, you should always check if it has become root-bound before you change pots. You can do this by lifting the tree gently out of the pot by the main trunk and examining the root system. You will know it is ready if you can see that the roots are circling around each other and the pot. If, however, they still appear contained in the soil, you should place it back and wait until the following spring to check again.  

Trees that are ready for repotting will require root pruning, a suitable new pot and appropriate soil mix.

When repotting, do not cut back the root mass by a large amount, and choose a well-draining soil mix that has a neutral or slightly higher PH value of 5-6 but not over 7. We tend to use a mixture of different speciality bonsai soils on our trees. Every species is different so please contact us for free soil-mix advice or to take advantage of our repotting service.

Bonsai make for a one-of-a-kind indoor plant offering elegance, nature and art all in one minute form. Across an array of exquisite and erudite species, they all demand their own specific care and cultivation needs in order for their beauty to flourish. We have an extensive library of care guides for indoor bonsai trees so you can make an informed and considered choice. It’s not about selecting the perfect bonsai, it’s about selecting the perfect bonsai for you. 

Japanese Pepper Tree - Typical Queries

There are two main methods to propagate a Japanese Pepper Bonsai: by seeds or by cuttings. Seeds can be sown in spring or summer, in a moist and sterile potting mix. They should be kept in a warm and bright place, and watered regularly. Cuttings can be taken from healthy and mature branches, preferably in late spring or early summer. They should be dipped in rooting hormone, and planted in a moist and well-drained medium. They should be kept in a humid and shaded environment, and watered frequently.

A Japanese Pepper Bonsai can be affected by various pests and diseases, such as aphids, scale insects, spider mites, mealybugs, fungal infections, and bacterial infections. To prevent and treat these problems, it is important to keep the tree clean, healthy, and well-ventilated. Any signs of infestation or infection should be addressed promptly, using appropriate methods such as spraying with insecticidal soap, neem oil, or fungicide, or applying a systemic pesticide or antibiotic.

The berries of a Japanese Pepper Bonsai are edible and have a unique flavour and aroma. They can be harvested when they are ripe, usually in late summer or early autumn. They can be used fresh or dried, whole or ground, as a spice or a condiment. They can be added to various dishes, such as soups, stews, stir-fries, salads, sauces, marinades, and desserts. They can also be used to make tea, vinegar, oil, or liqueur.