When repotting bonsai, I try to keep roots exposed to air for as little time as possible. When I know what pot a tree will be planted in ahead of time, I’ll add wire and screen to the pot before I begin the rootwork. I knew I’d plant my sawara cypress into a terra cotta pot ahead of time so I began the process by adding screen and wire (2mm aluminum) to the pot.
When I was finished with the rootwork, I started adding soil to the pot. I began with a drainage layer of pure pumice.
Pumice drainage layer
I then added some bonsai soil, creating a small mound on which I placed the rootball.
Bonsai soil in the bottom of the pot
Next comes the tricky process of setting the tree. Mound up too much soil and the surface roots will be exposed to the air. Mound up too little and the base of the trunk gets buried. Once the soil level is correct, I nestle the tree into place with a gentle twisting action. After the twisting, the tree should come to rest at the idea height, centered equidistant from all edges of the pot, and set at the proper planting angle.
This often requires more than one pass. If, after nestling the tree into the soil, the base of the trunk is too low, I remove the tree, add more soil, and repeat the process until I get the level right. I never mind taking my time with this stage as it’s far easier to correct mistakes here than it is once the tree is planted.
Boon gently twisting a dwarf sawara cypress into the pot
Checking the planted angle
Making further adjustments
Once again checking the level
When planted at the appropriate level, I can fill the pot with enough soil to just cover the surface roots without filling the pot to the rim.
Tree set at the proper level
After adding bonsai soil
What about wiring the tree into the pot? Details next week.
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