First develop the trunk, then work on the branches. That’s how I think about bonsai development. If the trunk has yet to reach its final size, I use large pots and encourage vigorous growth. When I’m happy with the trunk, I move trees to smaller pots and focus on refinement.
A number of my black pines turn 11 this year. A few have reached the desired trunk size. I’ve been slowly removing large escape branches and am now ready to move the trees to smaller pots.
In general, if the soil is good, it’s easy to use a smaller pot as the root ball will have fine roots throughout. If not, the tree will have to stay in an intermediate-sized pot until enough fine roots develop to support the tree in a smaller space.
Here are two of the 11 year-old pines I repotted this winter – both were container grown.
Exposed root black pine – 11 years old
11 year-old black pine
After repotting – note how the trunk looks larger in a smaller pot
Yes, Northern California is in the middle of a mild winter and most of my pines are already growing. As I repotted these trees about a month ago, I can start fertilizing now to make sure they’re strong enough to be decandled come spring.
Ever wondered what it’s like to be a bonsai apprentice in Japan? For those who haven’t done so already, feel free to submit questions to Juan Andrade, the Costa Rican bonsai artist studying at Aichi-en in Nagoya, Japan with Junichiro Tanaka, via AMA scheduled for later today (Wednesday Japan time) at Ask Bonsai Tonight.
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Fr. Tom says
Jonas, I’ve noticed that you have been replanting some of your trees into colanders. Why?
I have heard that colanders provide great drainage and air, but for me being down here in So Cal where it’s mostly hot and dry, my fear is that roots may cook and suffer from the heat, unless I change my potting mixture to something that might hold more water, thereby defeating the purpose of using a colander. Your thoughts please… Thanks for your wonderful posts!!!
Jonas Dupuich says
Good question about the colanders – a few things come to mind:
– You’re right; in particularly hot and dry climates, trees in colanders would need more water. Using a larger colander would help, as would setting the colander in a shallow saucer that holds water. More akadama in the soil mix might help too.
Why use colanders at this stage of development?
– They are cheap and easy to use
– Keeping more of my trees in similar pots simplifies watering
– They encourage great roots and cut down on circling roots
Thanks for the note!