How To: Lift and repot a black pine bonsai

Lift and repot a black pine bonsai

Charles M., an attorney and bonsai cultivator, demonstrates how to transfer a field grown Japanese Black Pine that is ready for training. A 5-gallong nursery specimen was purchased and planted in the ground with a bonsai compound soil to keep its roots close and compact during trunk thickening. The tree was allowed to grow for three years, with the main foliage under four feet, but with two "sacrifice" branches allowed to shoot out without trimming. One sacrifice branch at the top of the tree was allowed to grow up to a height of seven feet, while a side shoot extended about three feet. This extra growth encouraged thicker trunk growth on the tree. In late December of the third year of growth the sacrifice limbs were cut back to where they joined the trunk. Trees are in dormancy at that time of year, and ready to come out of dormancy within a few weeks, so it is the perfect time to do heavy root work and repotting. First, dig around most of perimeter of the bonsai tree, locating long tap roots that go farther than perimeter, and cut them at the border. Then, dig under the root system to further dislodge the tree and cut any additional tap roots. Remove the tree from ground and prepare it for spending the next year in recovery from its tap-root trimming and uprooting. Lift the tree to a work area, prune it lightly, and place it in a training pot. Keep the roots in a circular bunch under the trunk, and set the tree in a pleasing position. Pine trees need a symbiotic fungus on their roots (seen as a white dusting on the soil) to help digest nutrients, so use a mix that is heavy on organic matter and the tree will re-establish itself much more easily. The transplanted pine will not look much like a bonsai yet, but once the tree gets its health back, some of the branches can be grafted to create additional visual interest. Finally, backfill the training pot with moistened organic soil and gently pack the soil around the roots.

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