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Repotting a Bonsai plant - Dos & Don'ts

written by: •edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 7/20/2009

Bonsai being a tree trained to grow in a shallow pot requires special attention in repotting. The basic steps to repot a bonsai tree, equipment necessary for repotting and the don’ts while repotting bonsai are elaborated here.

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    Repotting is one of the major cares to your bonsai plant. There is two or three school of thoughts regarding when to repot a bonsai plat. One school of thought is to repot the bonsai just after they awaken from the dormant stage (generally in spring), the other is to repot any time before the plant goes to dormant stage and the last any period of time. I have found good results when you repot just after they awaken from dormant stage.

    Initially bonsai will have to be repotted more frequently than they are trained to live in the shallow area. But this will mainly depend on how you are propagating the tree and the age of the starting stage of the training.

    Why should we repot bonsai?

    • To replenish the nutrition like any other potted plant repotting
    • The roots can thicken more than that the pot can accommodate
    • To ensure suffocation of the roots do not take place.
    • Bonsai needs more thin root and must less or no thick roots
    • To ensure proper drainage of excess water

    Steps to repot a bonsai tree

    • The first thing to be ensured is whether you can lift the trunk out of the pot smoothly
    • Once the plant is lifted out, disentangle the roots, always remember to start from side & work towards bottom
    • Once the roots are disentangled then comb the roots in such a way the long one & thick ones are clearly seen. Now prune the roots in such a way that a good mass of thin root with desired length remains. Cut the thick and long roots so that more space is available for new roots to grow after repotting
    • Check carefully – Pick out eggs & larvae of pests, remove grass roots
    • It is necessary to identify which are those branches and twigs that are not in harmony with the shape and cut them
    • Prepare the pot for bonsai placement while doing this remember to
      • Cover drain hole with wire mesh
      • Run two wires through holes to squire plant
    • While you settle the plant please remember the following
      • Place the plant in the desired position – Generally off center gives a good look
      • Secure the plant by using the two wires
      • Now put soil and fill the pot slowly
      • Tap the edge to make soil settle firmly
      • Brush the surface
      • Press with a towel – from edge to center
    • Complete repotting by watering – use sprinkler and place the plant under shade for couple of days.

    Equipment necessary for repotting

    Repotting of bonsai plant generally require the following

    • Scissors – for cutting roots
    • Pincers – for cutting thick roots
    • Knife – for cutting roots inside the pot
    • Rake – for disentangling roots
    • Tweezers for arranging roots
    • Bamboo – for disentangling roots & chopstick for arranging soil
    • Wire – for securing plant
    • Shovel - for filling the pot

    Along with these a sprinkler, a towel, a blunt knife and sharp knife will also be needed.

    Don’ts while repotting bonsai

    It can be some times fatal to the bonsai plants if we do not adhere to certain specific things we are not supposed to do while repotting a bonsai.

    • Never prune all the thin roots and keep only the thick ones
    • Do not cut the roots making the cut end to face upward; always it is preferable to make the cut end of roots face downward
    • Never use a knife or sharp tools to disentangle the roots this can damage the roots
    • Never place the repotted plant under direct sun for at least a couple of days
    • Never use too big a pot, try to use the same pot or one size bigger.