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Quick Tip - Re-potting Deciduous Bonsai

Is it time to re-pot your deciduous bonsai? What's your tree telling you? The ideal time is when the buds of maples, elms, hornbeams and larches swell, begin to move and show some "green". Do not re-pot your bonsai by a date on the calendar. If you are pruning roots, it's essential to follow this guideline. If you are "slip-potting" and not cutting roots, it's okay to pot up later throughout the spring.

posted March 2019 


Chinese Elm


Trident Maple


Eastern Larch


Japanese Hornbeam


Dawn Redwood


Japanese Maple

Quick Tip - Pinching Japanese Maples in Spring

Spring pinching of the center growth on Japanese Maples is a technique used to keep established trees compact and improve branch ramification by keeping internodes (the space between sets of buds) short. With young maples whose trunks still need to fatten up, this pinching technique should not be utilized - let those shoots grow out and cut back in the future.

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Spring growth from the center of new shoots.

Pinching new growth with tweezers. Can be performed with small scissors or fingertips.

Center growth pinched out.

Quick Tip - Re-potting Evergreen Bonsai

Junipers; Early to mid spring is the best time to repot if you need to prune the roots. When you see the tree begin to green up and the buds begin to swell your timing is correct. Slip potting is ok spring through early summer and again early to mid-fall.


Pines; If you are root pruning, early to mid-spring is the ideal time frame to be precise. Watch for buds beginning to swell and elongate, but before the needles on these candles green and open. It is ok to slip pot pines late summer through mid-fall.


Azaleas; There are two accepted time frames to root prune and pot azaleas. Early spring, when most other temperate bonsai are potted is suitable, however, the majority of bonsai growers root prune and repot their azaleas after flowering. Here at YDB, after flowering is our preferred time to repot because azaleas push out their new growth after their flowers are spent.

Note: Deadhead azaleas after flowering so the plant's energy is directed to green growth and not seed production.

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Japanese Black Pine

Japanese White Pine



Quick Tip - Re-potting Aftercare

Immediately after re-potting any evergreen or deciduous bonsai, place your tree in full or partial shade. Over the course of 2-3 weeks, gradually re-introduce your bonsai to a sunny location. This will prevent your newly developing roots from drying out. However, be careful not to over water your recently re-potted bonsai. Watering too frequently after root pruning can drown your bonsai causing root-rot. Air within the root ball is essential to your plant's healthy growth.

Note: Do not fertilize a root-pruned tree until 3-4 weeks after re-potting.

Quick Tip - Spring Wiring

Be mindful of the vigorous growth during spring & summer of many tree species regarding your wired bonsai. Most deciduous trees (Maples, Hornbeams, Elms, etc) and your fast growing tropicals (Ficus, Natal Plum, etc) put on new green growth quickly, including the thickening of the trunk and branches. Make sure you are checking these wired trees 3-4 weeks after your initial wiring session and weekly thereafter to ensure tight wire doesn't embed and scar your bonsai.

Wired evergreen trees (Pines, Junipers, Spruce, etc) do not thicken at quite the same rate as deciduous and tropical bonsai do. However, it is a good practice to check the wiring condition of evergreen bonsai 6-8 weeks after your initial wiring session and monthly thereafter. Checking your wired bonsai may seem an unimportant task to most, but having a wire scar appear on that special bonsai will convince every bonsai devotee otherwise. 

Quick Tip - Heavy Rains! What to do??

Even though bonsai soil is very porous and drains well, our bonsai do not appreciate heavy consistent rains day after day. A simple way to improve the drainage during rainstorms is to tilt the pot. Simply place a block under one side of the pot - in effect you are creating a deeper pot which drains more quickly. This is especially helpful with shallow, tray type bonsai containers. Here at YDB we always have a few wooden blocks on our growing benches for this quick adjustment.

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Willow Leaf Ficus in a tray style pot

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Placing a piece of scrap wood under one side of the pot helps with drainage

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Quick Tip - Moving your Tropical Bonsai Indoors for the Winter

 Now is the time of year when the nights are becoming cooler than our tropical bonsai can tolerate, and we need to move them indoors for the winter. Any time you change the siting of your bonsai it is normal to experience some leaf drop. The immediate change from the brighter outdoor conditions compared to the dry air and lower light of being indoors "slows down" your tree's vigor causing foliage loss. THIS IS NORMAL. Be careful not to over water any bonsai that has experienced foliage drop. Ample lighting will help your tree maintain more of it's foliage and is easy to supplement with fluorescent and LED lighting. Another change for your bonsai will be the different humidity levels in your home compared to living outside in the spring and summer weather - many bonsai will appreciate a little added humidity in their environment by misting the foliage or adding a humidity tray. Come spring the daylight increases, your tropical bonsai will regain it's vigor and begin putting on new green growth. 

Quick Tip - Be Mindful of Early Spring Temperature Changes

 As the first warm days of March arrive most bonsai lovers can't wait to get their hardy bonsai out of their winter protection and back outside on their benches. JUST BE VIGILANT! Many bonsai growers have lost valuable trees to an early spring cold snap after a warm spell. Freezing temps and cold winds can easily damage spring buds and any tender new growth. Be especially careful of a bonsai that has recently been root pruned and repotted. Here at YDB, we've had to perfect the "bonsai shuffle" - bringing trees inside before a real cold night and back outside again as it warms up.


Japanese Larch

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