Buddhist Pine

The Buddhist Pine can be grown as a hedge, tree, bonsai or houseplant, and has been a staple in Japanese temple gardens for centuries. Whether you grow it indoors or in your garden: our tips help you plant and care for Podocarpus macrophyllus.

Jul 23, 2021 02:57 pm
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Growth type
  • Tree
  • large shrub
Growth height (from)
from 200 cm to 2000 cm
Growth characteristics
  • upright
  • bushy
Flower color
  • green
  • yellow
  • multicolored
Flowering time (month)
  • April to May
Flower shape
  • Cones
Leaf color
  • green
page format
  • oblong
  • narrow lanceolate
  • pointed
Sheet properties
  • evergreen
  • sunny to semi-shade
Soil type
  • sandy to loamy
Soil Moisture
  • fresh to moderately humid
ph value
  • neutral to weakly acidic
Nutrient requirements
  • nutrient-rich
  • rich in humus
Decorative or utility value
  • Leaf ornaments
  • picturesque growth
Winter Hardness
  • conditionally hardy
  • Single position
  • pruned hedges
  • Interior greening
  • Planters
  • Winter garden
Garden style
  • Japanese Garden
  • Pot garden
  • Forest Garden

The Buddhist Pine (Podocarpus macrophyllus), or yew plum pine, is part of the Podocarpus genus. Originally from southern Japan, southern China and northern Myanmar, it is found naturally in zones up to around 3280 feet - so it’s the northern-most member of the Podocarpus. In their native land, the trees are used to plenty of precipitation, amounting to up to 6.5 feet per year. In Japan, the Buddhist Pine is known as a temple tree found in ancient temple settings. On the South-East coast of North America, it has been established as a hedge plant. In colder zones, it is mostly grown as a houseplant or trained as a bonsai due to its sensitivity to frost.


Podocarpus macrophyllus is an evergreen tree that can reach heights of up to 65 feet with a diameter of over 20 inches. They often only grow into large shrubs. Their silhouettes are conical when young, developing into domes with age. The brown outer layer later becomes a cracked bark that is used as a worming treatment in its native land. The yellow-green branches are striking. Buddhist Pine is a popular houseplant, rarely growing taller than 6.5 feet. Podocarpus macrophyllus is also a popular variety for growing as a bonsai.


The Buddhist Pine’s long evergreen leaves are narrow and lanceolate, ending in a point. They clearly stand out from the branch and are arranged in spirals or whorls. They tend to be around 4.72 inches long and 0.39 inches wide. The Central Spine is clearly defined. When damaged, the plant’s foliage gives off a pleasant scent.


Podocarpus macrophyllus is dioecious, so the flowers on one tree are either all male or all female. The flowers appear between April and May. The males are yellow, catkin-like cones while the females appear in green, cone-like groups.

Buddhist Pine leaves
The narrow, evergreen leaves of the Buddhist pine are arranged in a spiral on the shoot. This gives the plant a certain special something

A 0.39-inch long seed with an arillus is typical, similar to the red case of yew seeds. Podocarpus macrophyllus seeds are also spread by birds.


Podocarpus macrophyllus prefers sunny locations but will also thrive in partial shade.


The Buddhist Pine thrives best in nutrient-rich, humus soil with a good water supply. Slightly acidic soil is preferred.

Planting Buddhist pine

In a container or in a bed: the soil must have good drainage.


Podocarpus macrophyllus should be kept constantly moist and the soil should never be allowed to dry out, particularly when grown in a pot. It should be fed every two weeks from March to September. Buddhist pines that have been planted out should simply be given a little compost twice a year - at the start of the growing season and in early summer. They should ideally be repotted annually into a substrate with a high grit content. This evergreen should be watered in winter to avoid frost-related dryness.


Shortly before new growth in spring is the best time to prune this plant. In principle, the Buddhist Pine tolerates pruning very well. It does well as a niwaki or garden bonsai.

Winter protection

Protection from cold wind is important. When cultivated as a potted plant indoors, it does best in a bright location at around 41 degrees Fahrenheit. In zones with mild winters, the pot can remain outdoors even during the coldest months with some frost protection. Buddhist Pines tolerate temperatures down to 5 degrees Fahrenheit in short bursts.

Where to plant in the garden

You will either see Podocarpus macrophyllus planted out, in large containers outdoors or in conservatories. The maki variety is popular in hedges in North America, and is a popular bonsai variety worldwide.


There are various varieties that predominantly differ in terms of leaf color and needle width.

Propagating Buddhist Pine

Once the seeds are mature, they are sown into sandy potting soil. The arillus must first be removed. Germination can take 18 months. It can also be successfully propagated using semi-woody cuttings taken in late summer.

Diseases and Pests

There are no known diseases that impact the Buddhist Pine.