When repotting a bonsai for the first time, I begin by looking for the transition from trunk to roots. After finding this transition, I can then determine how much of the remaining rootball to keep. Options for reducing the rootball include carefully combing out the roots and reducing their length or simply cutting them, soil and all. As the sawara cypress below had plenty of roots, I opted for the latter approach.
Reducing the rootball with a sod knife
I was fortunate to not find any large roots when I cut and after a minute or two the bottom of the rootball gently fell away.
After reducing the rootball
From this point I can begin removing old soil to make room for bonsai soil. How much soil to remove? More on that next week.
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I love it when it goes well like this…no compunctions when it comes to deciduous stock, they can surely take it. Conifers are another kettle of fish and should be handled on a case by case basis.