Black Pine / Ponderosa Frankenstein Bonsai

Well. I’m not sure what to call Black Pines grafted onto Ponderosa stock. Frankensteins? Frankies? Feel free to suggest…

When I first started grafting Black Pine onto Ponderosa, I was unsure whether one could decandle them the same as Black Pine on its own roots. Before I went to Japan to study I grafted a small tree (not this one) and have now decandled it 10 years in a row. So there’s the answer: It’s the same. The tree becomes a Black Pine, it has the same powerful energy.

This gnarly little pine has been in the garden a while, collected by Randy Knight in the Rockies (back when it was a Ponderosa.) Several years ago, about four I think, I grafted two Black Pine scions onto it. This year we potted the tree for the first time, and then we decandled it a few months later, because it was showing a lot of strength. Here are a few photos of the pine this year:


Black/Ponderosa Frankie tree early this spring, testing out this round pot for suitability…


…we liked that pot, so in a Seasonal class we potted it up.


Potting finished.


Now we jump ahead three months…the pine has long candles and is ready for decandling.


All these photos are with Seasonal class students (we used to call them SeaStudents but haven’t in a while for some reason.)


The small pile of needles on the lower left are the pulled needles from this tree, before cutting the candles. (Be sure to leave a lot more needles on a tree with this few branches, not 3 or 5 pairs.)


And now we’re jumping ahead again, about four weeks—the brown stub in the middle is where the spring candle was cut, and the new shoots are coming out on the sides which will be fully needled by the fall, but with much shorter shoots.



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  1. ndbcreek2014 says:

    Great..I have been following you a long time
    Thanks for the information..on a regular ponderosa would you remove the candle completely (as with black pine)..or just shorten it as with white?..thank you in advance
    Neil 🌲

    • crataegus says:

      I would not remove a candle completely on a ponderosa, it doesn’t have the energy to reflush with growth. At most it might produce a bud, which would not open that year, so there would be a year without needles. This greatly weakens a tree. Some are experimenting with shortening the shoot as is done with a white pine, yes.

  2. I am curious would you treat a dwarf Bosnian pine the same way?

    • crataegus says:

      Sorry, I’m not familiar enough to comment with conviction on Bosnian pine.

    • ndbcreek2014 says:

      You can trat Bosnian pine cradled by just shortening to just below the old needle length
      Other methods work but are not stable..after pads develop watch to keep needles clean and thinned as this will develop quickly and very tight pads..hope this helps!…⚓️

  3. johnny cheeseburger says:

    how about frankinpines

  4. endsurg says:

    Mike, is it possible for a black pine to have a triple flush. I decandled an old black pine (about 90y/o) at the proper time (I think). I started to see new candles about a month later. Sometimes there were four or five new candles. I left all of them so as to divide the energy. They are now starting to stop lengthening, I know I should remove all but two but will this cause the new needles to be bigger than they should? Is it too late to do another decandling? I haven’t fertilized at all while waiting for these second set of candles to harden off. But if I fed them now, would there be enough energy to get a third flush?

    • crataegus says:

      If you decandled in the Portland area at the end of May (where I think you are), then the new candles should finish growing needles by november. So it’s only a double flush pine in most temperate climates. If you live in Puerto Rico it might be more than that.

      After new needles come out in mid-summer then you can begin fertilizing again.

      Yes, best to wait until all the shoots have hardened off in the fall before choosing which to leave.

  5. Steve Moore says:

    Call them “thunbergonderosas”?

  6. says:


    I live in Iowa and I have a ponderosa pine that was collected by Andy Smith two years ago. It is in the same pot and soil, but this year the needles are not dark green. They are a light green almost to the yellow state. I have fertilized it but am a lost as to what is causing it. I used Bonsai Pro fertilizer 7-9-5. Any ideas you have would be greatly appreciated.

    Bill Englert Swisher Iowa

    • crataegus says:

      Might be overwatering. That’s the majority of yellowing on pines, but then it could be something else that is weakening the tree or limiting the root growth. For starters, just be sure the tree is drying out between waterings.

  7. bindibonsai says:

    Hi, I am interested in your grafting methods, have you or can you post a step by step guide on how you graft your pines? Seems like you have years of experience and a good success rate??
    Thanks for the informative blog!!

  8. Bernard says:

    How about Frankenpines!

  9. Bruce Kennedy says:


  10. Great post! I have been thinking about this technique a lot lately and love to see your amazing results with Black Pine. I was wondering about grafting White Pine (western, eastern or Japanese) onto ponderosa as well. Is that something you have tried? Thank You!

    • crataegus says:

      Give it a whirl. The only problem with the whites onto thicker barked trees is that the bark will never match. Red, black, maybe scots are good options for scions onto Ponderosa for that main reason.

  11. Winston Tyler says:

    I am in central Calif. on the coast and wonder how you treat Pinus nigra, Austrian Black pines?

  12. Ruth Jackson says:

    Sure looks like a Black Pirosa, to me. Thanks for all your help and sharing. You knowledge

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