Air layering is a great technique for improving bonsai with flawed roots. Simply add new roots, and a new tree is born.
Janet, a founding member of Bay Island Bonsai, the author of suisekiart.com, and a longtime friend, sent me some photos of a recent layer project that unfolded over the past year. She had a zelkova with poor roots but enough potential to warrant an air layer. She started the layer in January of 2010. Six months later there were plenty of new roots, but not enough to separate the layer. To encourage more roots, she and Boon built a pot for the layer. The new roots loved the bonsai soil and the layer was separated the following January. The photos below are from Janet and Boon.
Ready for the next step
The bag is full of roots
Extracting moss from the roots
There are plenty of roots, but not enough to separate the layer
The new pot in place
Zelkova air layer – July 2010
Upgrading the layer from bag with moss to pot with soil is a great technique for speeding up the development of new roots and ensuring a successful transition when the layer is removed. The alternative – leaving the roots in the bag – produces fewer of the fine roots that are desirable for bonsai.
Six months later, there were plenty of new roots. Removing the layer was a simple process, the rootwork similar to any other repotting. The new tree is off to a great start!
Zelkova air layer, ready to be removed – January 2011
Instant bonsai – layer removed
Plenty of new roots – the layer is ready for a new pot
The tree will be ready for some cutback this fall, and serious branch development can begin next spring. I’m looking forward to seeing what becomes of this
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Roger A Ayres says
Great tech. I will keep this as a very helpful tool. Thanks for your efforts with Bonsai tonight. It is a highlight for my week.
Danny P says
Thanks for the article. Do you know if they removed all the moss and used all bonsai soil in the temp bot? Also you call it a beech at the bottom and in the tags although the title and the pictures look like a Zelkova.
Danny – thanks, it is a zelkova. I don’t know for certain, but I think they removed most, but not all, of the moss, and then potted the tree in straight bonsai soil.
Janet Roth says
@Danny P, Yes we removed the moss. And yes, it’s a zelkova. We put a large layer of moss on the top of the soil though – keeps it moist and insulates it so helps the surface roots.
It should start leafing out soon – it’s always last after my hawthorne (which is just barely beginning).
Thanks Jonas !