I recently received a request – thanks Chris – for an update about a landscape pine on its way to becoming a bonsai. Here’s what the tree looked like in 2012.
After removing the top half of the tree and repotting, the tree did well for a while but showed signs of stress a year later when two of the remaining three branches died. This made me concerned about the roots. The next year I repotted the tree to see what was going on in the soil.
After removing the tree from the pot, it was easy to see that a lot of roots had grown on one side of the pot. Looking closer, however, it became clear that the roots were no longer growing – and that there were signs of root aphids.
The previous years’ roots
The other side of the rootball showed no new root growth.
No signs of life
We all know that stressing trees makes them more susceptible to infestation. What I did not know at the time was that hidden infestations were just as dangerous as visible infestations. As I poked gently at the rootball, most of the soil fell away. Very quickly I realized the tree had only a few living roots.
No living roots on this side
The only living roots
I did the repotting in a Bay Island Bonsai workshop. No one was very optimistic about the prognosis. I repotted the tree in a much smaller pot with medium-sized soil.
The aftercare was simple – don’t water the tree until it dried out. Every day when I watered, I sprinkled the foliage lightly but not enough to wet the soil. As there were very few roots, the soil remained wet just an inch from the surface. As a result, I watered the tree less than once a month – even in summer.
The tree grew very little last year, but this spring new candles have opened right on schedule.
I don’t feel like I’m out of the woods yet, but it is good to see some new growth. I’ll fertilize more this year and let the tree grow freely until it regains its vigor. Although I don’t plan to use them in the future, the dead trunk and branch stubs will remain for now.
The weed growing at the base of the trunk, by the way, is a spiral orchid. They seem to love growing at the base of pines and have showed up in several of mine over the years.
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