How to check if your Bonsai tree needs repotting

How to check if your Bonsai tree needs repotting

In this video I take you through the points to bear in mind when considering to repot your bonsai.

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I’ve been doing quite a few videos we spent the day at wesley checking over our trees at wesley and i’ve come back to the nursery and it’s in the afternoon a lovely partly sunny day and the temperature is quite mild it’s eight or nine degrees centigrade and it’s perfect none of the soil is frozen so what i’m going to do today is to show you how we repot but more importantly to show you how to check that the tree needs repotting

so often i come across people who insist on repotting their trees every year i can tell you straight away that most bonsai don’t need repotting every year not even every other year if you live in the tropics some of the ficuses may need doing every other year but i don’t think as a rule they need doing every other year even so let me begin to show you um the various points to bear in mind when you are repotting first of all it’s the timing the timing of course in the south of england we have two months when we repot february if it’s mild like this and march by the end of march it’s getting a bit late to repot so the calendar is a good indication of the repotting season so repotting season is february march in the uk that means in a mild temperate climate and then the other thing is to watch the development of the growth on the twigs which gives a good indication

if i take you into the back greenhouse i will show you some of our so-called indoor trees we have some chinese hams although we sell them as indoor trees they’re strictly outdoor trees and if you come in here i will show you exactly what i mean now in this greenhouse the trees are kept at a very low temperature this greenhouse goes to zero degrees it freezes in the winter for a cold night but it is always about two perhaps two degrees warmer than it is outside now let me show you these chinese zones so the chinese arms we let it freeze so when you let it get cold you get the yellowing of the leaves and the leaves will drop off so if you get this dropping of the leaves don’t panic but what you need to look for are the signs of new growth

i don’t know where the camera can pick it up you see all these little buds if you look at all the trees you can see all these new buds coming out which is quite clear for you to see and this is the sign of spring these will all develop into new leaves in a couple of weeks time so when the trees are beginning to show bud like this this is the ideal time absolute ideal time to to do repotting but just because they’re coming in to leave it doesn’t mean you need to repot what you need to look for is to examine each bonsai to see how pot bound the roots are now let’s have a look at each of these trees

i’m not cheating i haven’t looked at any of these trees and i will tell you what in my view uh whether the tree needs repotting or not you see how soft the soil is that is by no means pot bound i know the roots one or two roots at the edges but there is so much room for the tree to grow so that doesn’t need repotting let’s have a look at many of these now even this one you look at it closely there’s a root dress come right up to the side some people may say that it needs repotting you can tease it out by all means but again it is fairly soft so in a situation like this i wouldn’t rush out to re-pot this tree you can repot it and put in a bigger pot if you want to make it grow bigger but this tree certainly does not need to be repotted

if we look at each of these trees in turn look at this one again the roots have gone right to the side but again it is so soft inside so there’s a lot of room still for the roots to develop so this doesn’t need repotting this rate i’ll be hard-pressed to find any tree that does need repotting okay look at this one the roots are filling the pot there filling the pot there that is getting close to repotting okay this might need it but you see it is soft over there so if it’s soft there there’s still room for it to grow there so again i wouldn’t rush to repot the street you could do it but you don’t have to do it so i don’t know whether i’m confusing you or not let’s look at some of the uh ficuses to see whether any of the ficuses need doing or not now i know that some of these ficuses have been here for a long time so let’s look at this one the pot is pretty small and ficuses grow but again you see it’s not portable not pod-bound so there’s a lot of room for it to grow so it seems that most of our so-called indoor plants see again a lot of room for it to grow so that’s why i always am perplexed when people feel that they have to repot a tree as soon as they buy it i can’t understand the logic for it because none of these trees really need to be repotted so it’s only when it goes round and round and the pot is completely jammed with roots look at this one there is so much soil there it’s absolutely soft so that sort of situation means no need to repot i think the best examples will be our outdoor trees but most of these i’m sad to say i can’t show you examples of repotting here because none of these trees in this greenhouse need repotting now let’s see outside where we can possibly find one or two trees that look as if they need repotting okay perhaps let’s look at these big korean corn beans now these big korean hornbeams let’s look at this one so we’ll go through the procedure i’ve got steve my main man here and if you come close you’ll see what we do the trees of course have been tied in with wire from the last re-pot so once the roots have filled the pot the wire doesn’t need to be there so i don’t need to tie it back again so we remove the wires and price it out on the pot to examine the root ball this i think was done maybe two or three years ago let’s have a look this is how we check now again i don’t think it is but this in my view you see still got room for it to grow we could do it if we wanted to especially if sometimes you get rotten roots if the soil is too wet it can rot the roots let’s tilt it this way steve let’s look completely on the underside tilt it up this way okay now if you can bring the camera close it’s wet i might do a repot but again it doesn’t really need it you see in this sort of situation not desperate yeah it’s not desperate for repotting you can sometimes get roots at the edges which rot and turn black but you will soon get the new roots again so [Music] i might do this one just to show you as an example but again this doesn’t really need it let’s find one that obviously need keep it like that we are sure the other little trick i need to show you is that before you repot if you want to drain the pot and let the soil drain out we put it at a tilt like this and the water will drain out more easily so that’s a little trick to remember you know if you keep it like this let the water drain and then it becomes drier and much easier to repot now this tree looks pretty hot now let’s have a look at it perhaps steve can show you what’s happening here it hasn’t been tied so i think we took the wires off maybe a couple of years ago let’s see what is going on here it’s one of our beaches that we developed on the nursery and look at it it is so vigorous that the roots are coming out of the pot okay so i can’t even get out of the pot so i have to cut that root off okay so we’ll cut it off either with secateurs or a root cutter just to get it out of the pot so that looks as if it is pretty pot bound these are mostly mica pots because i love using my capacitor custom ones are very good quality ceramic pot we have them but these mica parts you couldn’t even guess that they’re not micro they’re they look ceramic to me but so you can get situations where the root is coming out of the pot so [Music] judging from this i can tell that it is going to be pretty powerful so this is a good example the tool steve is using is called a root cutter so the root cutter looks like the branch splitter but it’s got wider jaws and it’s an ideal tool for cutting the roots and it’s called a root cutter not for no reason i think you may have to cut a little more it’s covering the holes too you get this sort of situation with flower pots as well let me cut that thing off and see i think that’s the while holding the mesh okay now we will try and yank it out of the pot i hate to use that term yank but this is exactly what we’re going to do i don’t think it will come easy may need a tour of some sort okay all right okay now that is seriously pot-born look at the roots on the side this is seriously potbold so this is a good example of a pot-bound tree and this certainly needs repotting we will go through the procedure of doing this to show you exactly what we do okay let’s look at another one so when we look at trees that you think need repotting this is what you got to do with each one you’ve got to literally look at each tree study the tree and see whether they need it or not if they don’t need it leave well because many of these trees are still in the process of being trained let’s look at some of the trees here let’s look at one of these latches here now this large i know hasn’t been done for a while let’s have a look at this i don’t think it’s time we will examine this because ceramic pops okay mind when you lane with steve okay i would take it out of the pot check underneath another one [Applause] still oh now this i would say probably needs it we can give it more room to grow all the roots have come to the edge so this probably needs it so i don’t know whether i’ve shown you enough examples uh maybe let’s there’s one maple there come we’ll leave that tree that will go to another maple which i know could be pop on but they need a very serious looking tool this is a multi-trunk tree i find that deciduous trees tend to grow stronger than uh evergreen trees i know the roots have gone wrong and around we’ve got to deal with the nebari as well so let’s have a look at this tree to see if it needs repotting first thing we do is to check whether the tree is tied in come the side no not tied in okay okay have a look you see the roots all at the side it is pretty stiff it is pretty stiff and i think the trick is if you can get it out of potsday for me can you tilt it like that on the other side so i can see the water coming out see we usually do this before repotting we put the tree like this to drain the soil although we haven’t had rain we had rain a little bit of rain the other day so this root ball is pretty wet but if we leave this here for a couple of minutes you’ll see how the water will drain out from this uh root ball so remember this is a very good trick to remember so before you repot a tree light on the side either in the pot or out of the pot and let it dry out a little bit so this is the preliminary work we do with most trees so this is a situation where it needs repotting some of the other trees let’s look at this one to see if that needs it this probably not but we have a look i think we put it in that pot just put it in the milk [Music] okay foreign now with pines and beech trees more pines than beach let me remind you again till i’m blue in the face that white stuff is not root aphis or disease it is the beneficial fungus called mycelium so all pines have that so again although the roots have gone round and round i don’t really need to repot it see that’s not pot bound by any means i’ve had pines which are more pot-bound than this so this one i think could stay for another year i wouldn’t rush to do it so i hope this is not confusing you but judging whether a tree needs repotting or not is critical to any operation for re-potting out it’s only like a couple of minutes so can you come here close and see how the water has already started draining from that root ball you see the water is literally flowing out from there so tilting the tree like this is a very good tip to remember it’s literally flowing out from there so we will leave this for about half an hour so before we even tackle the roots maybe even leave it for a day and we will just as an exercise go through one of those trees to show you the full process so here we are we are ready to repot this tree so let’s take you through the procedure this is a very high grade tokoname pot from japan and we’ll put it back in the same pot so this is a european no i think this is a japanese lodge japanese lots that we grew in our field back in 1985 86 and it was two or three times as tall as this so we chopped it over there drew a side branch and this is the design of the tree so here you are this tree has been in training for the last 30 or so years and we repot it every so often so we will tease away at the roots to see uh what is in there and to show you how much root to cut okay far away steve now these are big trees i know most of you do not have trees as large as this but the principles nevertheless are still the same so just to recap for those of you who are new to bonsai why do we repot bonsai bonsais are always grown in pots the very term bonsai means tree and a pot punch of potted trees and because they’re grown in pots the roots will completely fill the pot in time and if you leave it indefinitely in the pot the roots will strangle itself so for that reason we have to repot the tree many people imagine that repotting or cutting the roots as they call it although we do cut roots that’s not the right term it’s repotting rather than root cutting it doesn’t dwarf the tree as such in fact it makes the bonsai more vigorous because we’re giving it more room to grow so they all a purpose the sole purpose of repotting really is to give the soil uh a chance to be changed and we give more room for the tree to grow and by giving more room the tree gets more vigorous so we’re not really dwarfing or stunting it by keeping it pot bound in fact if you keep it pot bound it will lose vigor and in time if you lose vigor too much the tree can eventually die but it will be a very long time before you do that so this tree i reckon would have been in this spot maybe four or five years and as i said it doesn’t really need to be pot-bound it is not so pot-bound but i’m just taking the opportunity to do it again [Music] it certainly isn’t pod-bound we’ve seen worse trees than this when it comes to repotting situations and you notice that the root hook we are using for large trees the root hook is a very useful tool to use we get this single root hook double root hook so we begin by teasing the perimeter and then we will look at the underside as well so you notice what steve is doing here he’s combing the top because we want to show the surface roots we always talk about nebari and all that nebari simply means the surface roots so that these lovely surface roots we want to develop so the more you can show the surface roots the more impressive the tree will be because it gives a feeling that the tree is anchored into the soil see the more it is aware you see some more root and that is what you want to expose over time so when it comes to re-potting this is a very good opportunity to see how you can improve the root base and if roots are in the wrong position they can be cut off or disposed off see the root spread is very important some of these large bonsai if it’s a very large tree it can take as long as a day to do it not only are they heavy to handle and difficult to handle there’s a lot of work involved now this is the front of the tree [Music] i think that root should be taken off it’s doing nothing it’s crossing there so we’ll cut it off over there get rid of it okay that doesn’t do anything the others are okay even this i think could be i know there’s a lot of root from there but coming back like that doesn’t look so good is there much root attached to this use the root hook properly if there isn’t i’d like to get rid of that it’s not really radial you see the radial part is this part that part is going radial this is crossing a bit can you hold the camera i’ll just see what it is because if there isn’t then i can safely take this off you usually judge if the tree has a lot of root then you can judge whether it’s safe to remove now there’s enough root there so i think i can get this is not doing much it’s coming back on itself so let me just stay there i’ll bring a big locker and take that off this is a serious looking tool and what i’m going to do is take this bit didn’t do off harm i want the root to go that way so so this is a good example because you should always take the opportunity to improve the nebari when you’re repotting so we can always improve it further pairing it down sometimes you can use a router for the very thick roots because with the thick root you can carve a channel in the middle so one thick root can look much thinner and it look like two thin roots i’ve done that to many of my very big maples that have massive roots so you can bear that in mind as well so now with this as the front the roots are going that way and going that way rather than coming back on itself and if you want to develop more surface roots you can always put like sphagnum mosses like doing an air layering put around here and you can develop more roots so the rest of the roots are not too bad that’s nice radio and then we look underneath the tree to see what needs doing so we just tease that gently and we will put it back in the pot now threading wire through the pots these are the tying wires so for a large tree like this we’re using two pairs of wires many of you wonder what these cocoa fiber brushes are used for this is exactly how we use the brushes when we repot so this is how the brushes are intended to be used [Music] after repotting some people put sphagnum moss on it if you’re in a very dry and warm country putting sphagnum moss on the surface after repointing does help in case it dries out too much but in the uk we don’t usually have to do that because our climate is not that hot and dry okay nasty we’ll show you how he ties the tree and you can devise all methods for tying in it’s just to prevent the tree escaping don’t cut it off okay just tighten it there are all sorts of ways sometimes you can crisscross the wire take it underneath there unless you’re putting a tree into exhibition this is not the time to dress it with moss that is really preparing a tree for exhibition so for repotting don’t worry too much about the moss moss will grow on its own simply from watering the tree [Music] so that is your tree done so this is the repotting process so we have lots to do during february and march we are hoping to repot maybe two to three hundred maybe even more trees so if we have like uh 20 40 working days we will do maybe 200 trees this season and that is only the big big trees the small trees we do those maybe one every 10 minutes so this we’re not counting the small trees so at hand [Music] you

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