How To Repot Your Bonsai Tree

Posted by Nursery Tree Wholesalers on

This article gives you all of the information you need to know with regards to repotting your bonsai tree. When you choose to buy one of our bonsai trees for sale from our wholesale nursery online, you will undoubtedly need to perform this procedure at some point!

Before You Begin

It is always a good idea to think ahead about what you will be doing and what materials you will need, before you start the repotting process. That is very basic advice, but if you follow it, things will always go smoother!

You need to have the following materials before you start: basic tools, bonsai wire, plastic mesh, chopsticks (not for eating!), and an adequate amount of quality bonsai soil. If you are transferring you bonsai into a new pot, make sure you have that ready as well. You need to prepare everything ahead of time to reduce the amount of time that the trees roots are exposed to air.

How To Prepare The Pot

If you are moving the bonsai to a new pot, make sure you do this before you lift the tree from its former pot. If you are going to continue using the current pot, then prepare the pot after the tree has been lifted.

Clean the pot throughly with clean water to remove any “grime” that has accumulated.

With a new pot (if it is not there already), you will want to cover up the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot with plastic mesh. The mesh will help keep the soil from falling out through the drainage holes during watering. 

Most often, enthusiasts will shape “butterflies” out of the bonsai wire to hold the mesh in its proper position about the holes. You then need to thread the wire through the drainage holes and make a loop, which will help anchor the bonsai into position. If a bonsai tree is not firmly anchored into the pot with these loops, it can easily be blown out of the pot during strong winds!

Summary: clean the pot, attach the plastic mesh, make a loop with the wire in between the two drainage holes.

Easy enough right?

How To Prepare The Soil

Choosing the proper bonsai soil is a highly debated topic lingering in the bonsai realms. It is a highly important topic that should not be skipped. You need to choose the right soil-mix for your specific bonsai and for your specific climate. If you would like to read in depth about bonsai soil, please read our post about it.

In the meantime, it is absolutely essential that you use a soil that is free draining and does not quickly compact. We recommend that you do not use regular garden soils or potting compost, as they are not typically suitable for a bonsai’s needs.

How To Remove The Bonsai From Its Pot

After you buy one of our online bonsai trees for sale from our wholesale nursery, eventually you will have to repot it. This is how you remove the tree from its pot.

The first thing you need to do is (gently) try tilting and lifting the tree out of the pot. If it is being stubborn, try lightly tapping the sides of the bonsai pot with your hand in order to detach the soil from the edges of the pot. If that still does not work, you should run a sharp knife along the inner edges (like cutting a cake) around the pot to help release the  rootball. When you see the anchor wires, cut them and lift the tree out to inspect the rootball. 

If the tree has become pot bound (roots filling the entire pot with no room to grow), it will be difficult to see the rootball.

How To Removing The Old Soil 

Once you have removed the bonsai tree and rootball from its current pot, you will now need to clean the rootball by “combing out” all of the old soil. By removing the old soil around the rootball, you give space to the new, nutrient rich soil that it will be planted in and it also untangles the longer, more vigorous roots that will need to be trimmed.

Trying removing the soil by hand first, and as you get closer to the rootball you might need to use a chopstick or other wooden stick to help clear everything away. Be gentle as you do not want to damage the roots.

How To Cut Away Old Roots

The amount of root you need to cut away depends on many factors: the species of the tree, the density of the rootball, and the overall health and vigor of the tree itself. As a general rule however, it is safe to remove about 1/3 of the root mass.

After you remove the 1/3, you should carefully examine the remaining roots in search of any problems. You need to cut away and decayed, injured, dying, or dead roots. How do you identify such roots? Dead and rotted roots with be black in color and have a slimy feeling when you touch them. Their bark will easily strip all from a dead root. Severely rooted roots will crumble away when touched, as they are usually completely hollow inside. By cutting away these roots, you are helping to prevent future problems that are usually associated with root rot.

By trimming the roots each time you repot your bonsai, you are encouraging the development of the rootball. Optimally, your tree will have roots spreading out radially from the trunk. You should remove any strong, thick and downward growing roots so that the bottom of the rootball is relatively flat. If you leave large, downward growing roots untrimmed, they could easily lift the tree out of the pot after some growing has occurred. 

If there are any other straight, thick roots, you should also trim those back to be even with the rest of the fine roots that are branching out from the rootball. Such roots will usually rob the vigor from the smaller roots. When you actually cut the root, make sure that the open end of the cut is facing downward so water does not accumulate on the surface of the cut. Ensure that the cuts are clean to help accelerate healing and prevent future rotting. You can also dress the end of a thick cut root with a fine layer of long-stranded sphagnum moss to help accelerate healing even more.

How To Put The Bonsai Back In The Pot (Repotting)

Eventually, the bonsai tree you bought from our online, wholesale nursery is going to need to be repotted. If you are just checking in, we recommend you start with Part 1 of this series to get the full picture. Once the root system of your bonsai has been properly trimmed and pruned, the next step is putting the tree back into the pot. If you have not already prepared the pot, remember to do so now!

Start by covering the bottom of the pot with a thin layer of soil and create a small mound  in the center of the pot so that the bonsai, when rested on it, sits just above the height of the rim on the pot. Gently place the tree into the pot after making sure you have it facing the desired direction. The next step is to tie it firmly to the anchor wire (if you did NOT put in anchor wire, go back to step 1) to help keep the tree from being shaken and rocked by the wind as the new roots are still growing. Remember that the tree should be held in place by the anchor wires, not by the new soil that you are about to add.

Next, slowly begin to add soil and work it in around the rootball so that no air pockets remain in the fresh soil. Do so gently so you do no damage the roots and compress the soil too much. Continue this process of adding soil until the entire pot is full of fresh soil, just below the rim. When you are completed adding soil, water the bonsai very thoroughly so that the fresh soil is fully saturated which will help remove any remaining air pockets. You might need to water several times until you are certain that the new soil has fully settled in the new pot.

Congratulations, you are now done!

What To Do After Repotting

If you repot your wholesale bonsai tree in the correct time frame, you will probably not even notice a reaction from the tree and new growth will continue through the Spring. However, we do recommend that you take some extra care to ensure the health of the tree after its roots have been pruned for up to 6 weeks.

  • Avoid frosts and freezing temperatures. The roots are still healing and less hardy than normal
  • Keep the bonsai away from strong winds and sunlight as it can increase the loss of moisture and stress the healing root system. 
  • If the tree begins to loose foliage, move it to a shady location and ensure that you are practicing the recommended watering techniques

So now, you know exactly what to do after you buy one of our bonsai trees for sale!


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