Repotting a Bonsai

Repotting is not optional when growing bonsai.

Why? Because after growing in the same pot for some time, the tree will become pot bound. This means there is no room for new roots to grow and the plant will have a hard time getting the nutrients it needs to survive.

To be a successful bonsai grower you need to know when to re-pot (and when not to) as well as how to re-pot. How often you need to re-pot is dependent on the species of plant you use for bonsai and you should look into a care guide for your plant to help you decide. So in this article I’ll just focus on how to re-pot.

Step One: Gather needed supplies

Before you begin re-potting you should make sure you have two things ready–the soil and the pot. If you’ll be using a new pot make sure you have a cover for the drainage holes to prevent soil from leaving the pot after watering the plant. You can cover the holes with plastic mesh and keep it in place with bonsai wire.

The new soil you add to the pot should be free draining. That means avoiding ordinary garden soil and regular potting compost. You’ll want to get instead a general purpose bonsai soil or make your own soil.

Step Two: Prepare your tree for potting

The next step in re-potting your bonsai is to prepare your tree for potting. To do this prune unwanted foliage, and branches. And to make re-potting easier, reduce your watering schedule by about half for at least a week. This will make the soil dryer and make it a lot easier to remove the plant from the pot.

Step Three: Remove your tree from the pot

Gently remove the tree from the pot using a tongue depressor to help separate the soil from the sides of the pot. Then pull the tree and the soil out of the pot. You should now be able to see the root ball. Once you have the root ball out, you need to remove the soil from it. This can be done by hand or you can use a root hook. You should brush away the soil from the trunk and take every precaution not to damage the roots. Use a fine bristled paintbrush to remove soil stuck to the roots.

Step Four: Remove soil from the roots

The next step involves combing the roots to straighten them out. Use a pointed stick or a chopstick for the purpose. Prune the excess circling roots. The aim is to remove 1/3 of the overall root mass. Carefully examine the roots and if you find any diseased or dead roots, you should remove them.

Step Five: Prepare the pot for the tree

Wash the pot. Then cover the drainage holes with plastic mesh. Get a wire to anchor the bonsai and put it through two of the holes. Leave long ends on the wire to anchor the tree in place. Bend the wires back so that when you add soil to the pot they don’t get in the way.

Step Six: Put the tree in the pot

Lay a layer of grit at the bottom of the container and then add the bonsai soil. Position your bonsai into the container and then add soil where needed. Put the wires across the root ball. Twist them together to hold the tree in place. Add more soil and gently work it into the root mass until the pot is full. Add some water and then putmoist moss over the soil.

Your bonsai will need extra care after it has been re-potted. After some time you will see new foliage on your bonsai and you’ll know that you have done a good job at re-potting your bonsai.

By Rodney Daut

Giving nature a helping hand!

Last year after years of wishing and saving I bought what most gardeners wish for, a ‘Greenhouse’.

 

When I lived in Kimmage, Dublin, our humble capital. I lived in a terraced house with a backyard that was challenging to grow anything in, well almost anything. The shade loving plants thrived and for the back wall that got the sun in the morning, the glory vine was producing flowers in abundance.

My interest in growing tropical plants and Bonsai was limited by the small windows and lack of available light. I used to make frames with day light bulbs and tin foil to emulate enough light that the trees would stand a chance in getting enough light for healthy growth. As I said the backyard was challenging it was only 15 by 30 feet.

So when I moved down to Wicklow (the garden of Ireland) I had a blank canvas and a garden that is  16,000 sq feet.

16,000 sq feet… where was I to start.

The plan was straight forward. Plant grass seed, get a feel for the wind, what direction it blew strongest, what part of the garden water gathered most in and as for light, this wasn’t going to be an issue.
The back of the house is south facing with clear views of the Wicklow mountains. On the North and West side we are protected by the native species Ash tree. These stand at about 40 to 60 feet tall.

So a number of years later the garden is planted up, shade loving plants up near the Ash trees, the pond is built (it is half the size as my old houses backyard), the Bonsai trees that got too big for training are thriving in the wild and now it was time to select the greenhouse.

As with planning the garden, the greenhouse had to fit the environment. The house is aptly named ‘Windy Acre’, not after me but we do tend to have some very strong winds at times. So my criteria for selection was a sturdy greenhouse, one that was large enough for growing veg, tropical and propagating tree seeds.

Their are no greenhouse manufactures in Ireland only resellers and most of these provide the same models except for one that specialises in polytunnel’s. If I was going to invest in anything it had to have a once off install cost, I don’t mind ongoing maintenance as long as its a low cost.

So after milling over different options I went for the Eden Gardener. A strong greenhouse that has been through force 10 winds already.

gardener. copyright. eden greenhousesThe greenhouse is a way of giving nature a helping hand
and also if you enjoy eating what you grow it does help
a lot. Some people say it is a luxury, perhaps so.

What a greenhouse does is open up opportunities for growing plants that would be difficult to grow in normal
circumstances.

For me it is not just about Bonsai. You can’t really eat trees, can you?

Training a Bonsai from seed

jacandra-in-potHave you ever considered training a Bonsai from seed and putting your own style to a tree. It’s not that difficult and it is a great way of developing a collection at a lower cost and most importantly if you are starting out, you don’t experiment with expensive trees.

The only disadvantage is that you will have to wait about 3 years (dependent on species, growing rate etc) before you can start training your tree. The main reason for this is to give the seedling a chance to harden itself.


So what are the best tree’s to start with?

Well, almost any tree can be trained as a Bonsai. I once trained a Horse Chestnut and miniaturised its large leaves. The tree’s I would start with would be Maples, Fir’s or Chinese Elm, the Chinese Elm have naturally small leaves. So the balance between roots and leaf can be easier to achieve. If you live in an apartment try some indoor trees like the ‘Japanese Wax Privet’ , ‘Blue Jacaranda’  with it’s blue flowers and fern like leaves or the ‘Silk Tree’ with its feathery leaves and delicate flowers.

jacandra-beforeOver 10 weeks ago (Jan 2010) I placed ‘Blue Jacaranda’ (Indoor Bonsai) seeds in a pot of vermalite (well watered)  and placed them in a warm location. If best use a propagation unit that can supply bottom heat. These seeds took approximately 6 weeks to sprout.

The next stage is to transplant the seedling into their new home, a pot with good free drainage soil. At this stage I would cut back the tap root to encourage more fiberous roots and begin the miniaturization process.

The best tool to use is a Bonsai trimming shears as this will give a nice clean cut. After this use a dibber to create a whole in the soil, then place your seedling in the holding the stem and backfill the soil. Thenjacandra-after water well and don’t let the soil dry out. Your seedling will require good attention as it develops its new roots.

The images above show the tap root before and after trimming.

As the trees progress I will keep you up to date.