Midway through repotting a procumbens juniper, I found that the center of the rootball was dry. This is common when a tree has gone too long without repotting. Even heavy and frequent waterings – or incessant rain – may not be enough for the water to soak the entire rootball.
Rootball with dry center
Finding dry patches of soil during repotting is great as addressing the problem is easy. Bare-rooting sections of the rootball is one option for improving water’s ability to pass through the soil. Another is creating holes in the rootball.
Creating holes with a root hook, chopstick or old screwdriver loosens up the rootball enough to let water pass by more roots during watering and makes it easier for water to soak into the remaining compacted areas. For this tree, I used a root hook to create a hole.
Using a root hook to perforate the rootball
I worked from the top of the rootball and the bottom until I’d removed a section of soil about 1.5″ across.
A hole in the rootball
I made several similar holes around the rootball, being careful not to damage too many of the exposed roots in each hole.
After preparing the rootball for repotting, I tied the tree into the pot and began adding soil.
Rootball secured into the pot
This is where it can be helpful to remember where the holes were created. I filled each hole with loose soil and used chopsticks to settle the new soil into place.
Hole filled with bonsai soil
After settling the soil in the holes, the level of the soil dropped a bit so I added more soil and repeated the process until the holes were full of fresh soil.
After settling the soil in the hole
After refilling and resettling the soil
When the chopstick work was complete, I mounded some soil above the rootball and tapped it into place. Here’s the tree freshly repotted.
Procumbens juniper after repotting
As noted in the previous post, the new pot isn’t perfect, but it’ll do well as I continue to refine the tree. I expect I’ll tilt the tree further to the right at the next repotting, but hesitated as I didn’t want too much of the rootball to rise above the edge of the pot as I’d already removed a number of roots during this repotting.
I’ll let the tree settle into the new pot for several months and then get to work on the foliage. Feeding will begin in about a month.
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