When You Should Repot Your Bonsai Tree

Posted by Nursery Tree Wholesalers on

The bonsai trees from our wholesale nursery cannot be repotted at any random time of the year. For nearly every species used in bonsai, there is a small window of time in the Spring where the root system may be pruned and trimmed with a reduced risk of danger to the health of the tree.

If you have read anything else before about repotting, you probably know that your bonsai should be repotted just as “the new buds start to extend.” But what exactly does that even mean and when exactly do this happen? As with many techniques in bonsai, it is not possible to give an exact date of the perfect time to repot. Varying species require faintly different times for repotting and the timing can also be effected by the climate of the area you live. For example, repotting a bonsai tree in New York will take place weeks after the same exact tree is repotted in Florida.

The important key to remember is that no matter when the stages of new bud growth occur, they all follow the same stages of growth and all occur during the Spring.

Why You Should Repot During The Spring

As Spring roles around, the temperatures will slowly begin to rise and the roots of your bonsai tree will slowly become more active. During Spring, the energy that was stored in the root system during the winter will begin to spread back up into the branches of the tree, causing the previously dormant buds to swell.

Let these swelling buds be the first signal to you that the tree is starting to come out of its winter dormancy. As the Spring temperatures continue to rise, the energy stored in the roots will also continue to rise up into the tree, readying itself for the boom of new growth as the bud blooms. When this happens, the roots are no longer acting as an energy storehouse as their principal task is to provide the newly opening leaves with water from the soil. This period of time is the BEST time to repot you bonsai tree. Follow the 4 stages of new growth below to help you identify the correct time.

The 4 Stages New Growth (for buds)

During the Spring, the new growth that appears on your bonsai will follow these 4 stages. Use them to identify the correct time to repot your bonsai.

Stage One - The Winter/Dormant Buds

  • Winter Buds on most trees and plants are ordinarily colorless and small. When the tree has Winter Buds, almost all the energy for the tree is stored within the root system and the roots are dormant.

Stage Two - The Spring/Swelling Buds

  • During the early Spring, the roots of the tree will awaken with the rising temperature and the buds will start to swell. Swelling Buds will often have more color than the Winter Buds. Brand new buds may appear on the on the trunk and branches of the tree during this stage.

Stage Three - The Extending Buds

  • The buds of the tree will become even stronger in color, will length, and will often appear to be on the brink of opening. When this happens, the vast majority of the tree’s energy is no longer stored in the roots but rather in the upper parts of the tree. **This is the prime time to repot as the root system is very active and has the ability to repair itself very rapidly. The majority of the tree’s resources are also not in the roots, so pruning the roots will not drain the bonsai of energy.**

Stage Four - The Opening Buds

  • The buds of the tree are now open and tiny, petite leaves begin to grow. Repotting needs to be completely finished before this stage begins

Repotting At Different Stages

Stage One - The Winter/Dormant Buds

  • When the buds of a bonsai tree are dormant, the root system is also dormant. This means that the tree can be lifted from its current pot and repotted if necessary with little damage to the tree. 
  • However, root pruning could damage the tree as most of the stored energy of the tree is stored in the roots that were just cut away. Any roots that are cut or damaged will not be able to repair themselves until the Spring when the tree begins to grow and heal itself, possibly causing dieback in the waiting process.
  • Bonsai trees can be repotted and root pruned during the dormant months, but there are increased health risks to the tree 

Bonsai trees can, and are, collected and root pruned at this time with no obvious ill-effects but there are risks to the health of the tree (that increases according to the amount of the root system that is removed). Once you are finished reading about repotting, be sure to check out our entire selection of bonsai trees for sale from our online nursery with wholesale prices!

Stage Two - The Spring/Swelling Buds

  • The roots are beginning to come out of dormancy but are not supporting any new foliage yet, so they can still be disturbed
  • Repotting and root pruning can still be done, but the closer the bonsai gets to Stage Three, the better the results will be. If you repot to early, the tree will be deprived of some of the stored energy in the roots that were cut away

    Stage Three - The Extending Buds

    • Again, this is the absolute best time to repot and trim the roots of your bonsai tree
    • The buds will begin to extend and are visible on the upper branches of the tree. The roots will be able to heal itself from any pruning wounds very quickly as the tree has sent the vast majority of the energy to the upper region of the tree
    • Take note that Stage Three can come and go very quickly!

    Stage Four - The Opening Buds

    • If your bonsai is already in this stage and leaves have appeared, then repotting and root pruning should not be done until the following year. As the buds begin to open, the roots are greatly needed to supply the proper amount of moisture and should not be disturbed!

    More On Repotting During The Spring

    Identifying the correct time within the different stages to repot can be a very difficult in the beginning. It might take some time to become familiar with the species you are dealing with as your might have trouble telling the difference between a swelling bud and an opening bud when you buy one of our bonsai trees for sale. Stay with it! After your first year with the tree, you will be able to quickly tell the difference between all four stages with relative ease.

    As stated above, you can safely repot when the buds are in Stage One or Two, but it is best to repot in Stage Three, when the buds are extending.

    There are certainly exceptions to this, but as a general rule it holds true and we recommend that you follow it.


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