How to Repot your Bonsai Tree: Spring and Fall

Re-potting your Bonsai:

Regular re-potting is essential for the healthy growth of your bonsai tree.  A few benefits include; preventing your bonsai tree from becoming root bound, promoting new and healthy growth, and preventing compaction in the soil which can lead to root rot. Re-potting also helps your tree grow faster and healthier.  The best time to re-pot your tree is in the early spring but that also varies with your type of tree as well as climate.  Fall re-potting is popular in warmer climates on conifers as it helps establish strong roots prior to the spring growing season.

What you need for re-potting your bonsai tree:

1. Bonsai Pot

2. Drainage Screens

3. Bonsai Soil (make sure to choose the correct type)

4. Chopstick (used for getting rid of air pockets around the roots)

5. Root Rake (to free your roots from old soil)

6. Bonsai Shears to cut excess roots

7. Bonsai Training Wire (for stabilizing the tree and roots in the pot)

8. Wire Cutters

9. Bonsai Broom for evening the soil and cleaning around roots (optional)

10. Tweezers for removing loose material (optional)


Keep the roots from drying out:

When re-potting, you should repot after watering the plant so that the soil is moist. Never let the roots dry out while re-potting as it will affect the tree.  Also re-pot your tree in a cool, shaded and non windy area.

Removing tree from the Old Pot / Root trimming:

To begin you need to remove the plant from the pot.  Carefully remove the tree from the pot.  Sometimes it can be difficult to remove the tree as the roots can become a large mass attached to the pot.  For this you can use a small spade or small sickle scythe to wedge between the pot and roots and loosen to remove more easily.  Once removed from the pot, start by using a root rake/hand cultivator to separate the tangled roots and remove most if not all of the old soil.   When you see that the roots are untangled and have removed the old soil, start trimming the thinner feeder roots down in size to fit within the new pot.

Soil selection:

Use a soil mix that works best for your species of tree.  Remember you always want great drainage and soil that retains enough water for you bonsai tree.  You can either go with organic material or inorganic or aggregate material depending on what your tree prefers. As a general rule of thumb, you want good water retention but also great drainage.   Many combinations can be made.  However, our pre-made bonsai soil mixes are formulated to include organic material for water retention along with inorganic material to promote drainage.  For more information on soil mixes, please read our article on soil mixes.

Pot selection:

Choosing a pot for your bonsai tree is similar to choosing a frame for a picture.  For the pot that you will use, make sure it is a good size for the tree and feels appropriate to you in regards to the balance of your bonsai.  You never want to pot your tree into an even smaller pot than it had before of course, so only way to go is bigger.  We do suggest at least an inch larger in size.  When picking a bonsai pot you want the pot to have drainage holes on the bottom, it is highly necessary otherwise you can and most likely will drown your tree.

Screen importance:

Prior to placing the soil into the pot you will need to place your bonsai screens over the holes of your pot.   Ensure that the holes on the screens are not too small otherwise dirt will clog the screens and not let the water pass through to drain properly.  Drainage screens help keep the bugs from crawling into the pot from the holes. They also keep most of the soil from falling out during watering.  We recommend wiring the screens to the pot to help keep the screens from moving while you are re-potting.

Adding Soil to the New Pot / Re-potting your Tree:

Place a small layer of soil to the bottom of your pot and then place your bonsai tree into the pot.   If you are concerned about compaction over time of the soil, you can set a base layer of aggregate material.  When placing your tree into the pot, sometimes the tree may not stay in a set position.  Wire can also be used to anchor your tree to the pot and help keep the tree and the roots secure. Continue adding soil to the pot.  Use a chopstick to poke the soil between the roots to prevent any air pockets from forming.  Now, when finishing the re-potting process you will need to thoroughly water your tree. Keep it in shaded light for about one week to promote healthy new growth.


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