How to Repot Bonsai Seedlings and Trees – Step by Step

Bonsai is the art of growing miniature trees and plants in pots. Even if you’re new to bonsai, this book will show you how easy it is to create your own plantings. Learn how to bring a bonsai seedling or tree back to health, choose the right pot and soil, prune properly and more!
A bonsai plant repotted.

Bonsai trees need sufficient nutrients to thrive. As your bonsai seedling grows, it will consume all nutrients from the potting mix. Keeping it rootbound without doing anything to replenish the nutrients will only starve your tree further. A simple solution to this problem is repotting your bonsai regularly to keep it healthy and thriving. Repotting allows ample pot space and a good soil and nutrient supply to encourage blooming.

So, how do you repot bonsai seedlings and trees? The first thing to do is to cut and remove any wire holding the tree in place. Next, inspect the roots of your bonsai seedling, checking for rot, damage, or compactness. Rake away any old dirt from the bottom and sides of your bonsai seedlings. Then trim the roots as this will encourage finer roots to grow, thus creating new branches and twigs. Prepare the new pot, then go ahead to repot your Bonsai tree. Before doing this, you may add a new soil mixture to the new pot. Lastly, water your bonsai tree to help settle the new soil with the plant roots.  

This blog post will discuss everything you need to know about repotting bonsai seedlings and trees. Read on to learn more.

Why Should You Repot Bonsai Seedlings and Trees?

Bonsai trees require enough nutrients to flourish, regardless of their size or species. In fact, all trees need extra support when planted in a pot!

Since bonsai trees are just ordinary, intentionally miniatured trees, their care, and nutritional requirements are similar to those of their full-size counterparts.

The only difference is that bonsai trees are confined in a pot, lacking access to the same amount of nutrients. Repotting bonsai trees and seedlings aims to rekindle and replenish their nutrients and stimulate the tree’s growth.

That’s because the limited supply of soil and nutrients in your bonsai tree’s pot depletes with time. Your tree will gradually die from a lack of nourishment if you keep it in the same pot for a long time!

A sack of soil and a bonsai without a pot.
The only difference is that bonsai trees are confined in a pot, lacking access to the same amount of nutrients.

Repotting a plant also allows you to examine the roots. Your bonsai tree’s roots are a good indicator of how healthy and robust it generally is.

By properly repotting your tree’s roots, you can manipulate them to accommodate the desired design and get them back to growing as they should.

When Should You Repot Bonsai Seedlings and Trees?

Timing is crucial when it comes to repotting bonsai. Consider the time of the year and other work you have done to your bonsai before repotting it.

For example, if you did heavy pruning at the start of the year, it is not advisable to repot your bonsai tree the same year.

Plant experts agree that early spring is the best time to repot Bonsai trees. So, watch your tree closely as winter comes to an end.

Repot it once the weather warms up and the buds on your tree have not opened. While certain species respond well to repotting in the fall, most Bonsai do well when repotted in the early spring.

Some indoor tropical Bonsai species can tolerate summer repotting. But generally, summer and winter are not the best seasons for repotting bonsai because your tree’s energy is redirected somewhere else. 

Your bonsai won’t have the strength to recover from a stressful activity like repotting as time passes.

The best time is early spring since this is when your tree will focus its energy on developing its leaf and root systems.

Tools For Repotting Bonsai

You should pick a few tools before you repot bonsai seedlings and trees. Some of the tools that will help you accomplish your repotting mission include:

  • Root sickle for compacting root ball from the pot.
  • Small stick or rake for removing old soil from your bonsai tree’s roots.
  • Wire cutters for cutting the wire that secures the bonsai on the pot
  • Wire and wire mesh to secure your bonsai tree to the bottom of the new pot.
  • Root/pruning shears for pruning the roots of your bonsai tree.

How to Repot Bonsai Seedlings and Trees

Here is a simple step-by-step process to repot bonsai seedlings and trees.

Step 1: Cut the wire

Before repotting, remove old wires securing the bonsai seedlings and trees onto the pot. Then use your finger and a rake to dig into the soil and carefully take out your bonsai.

A man training bonsai.
Remove old wires securing the bonsai seedlings and trees onto the pot.

Usually, bigger trees have wires pushed through the drainage holes to hold the bonsai in place.

But when repotting, there won’t be a wire to hold it down.  All you have to do is remove the bonsai and put it in a larger pot.

Step 2: Remove the Bonsai tree from the pot and inspect the roots

The next thing is to remove the bonsai tree from the pot. You may cut the container if it is biodegradable.

You can easily remove it from the container if it is a seedling. However, you may need a root saw if it is an older tree.

Detach your bonsai tree from the pot using the root saw. Be careful not to cut the root ball when separating it from the pot’s walls. 

Next, inspect the roots of your bonsai seedling or tree. The soil should not be wet when repotting your tree. Are there roots encircling the pot and the root ball? Are they leaking out the pot?

If they are, you must repot your bonsai because they don’t have enough room to disperse. Repotting is necessary because roots assume the pot’s shape and nutrients in the soil get depleted.

Check for tiny bugs in the roots. For instance, some white bugs called root aphids feed on the sap of roots. Use pesticides to control these or any pests you find.

Step 3: Discard old soil

Remove old dirt from the bonsai roots before you begin repotting the tree. For a start, your fingers will do. This will help remove all dry soil, but it may fall off.

You can use a claw or root rake to make this easier. This helps detangle the roots if they are growing densely together.

A bonsai on hand.
Only dig outward, and for weak roots, use a stick.

Detangle the roots by gently working the rake through the root ball. Only dig outward, and for weak roots, use a stick.

Old soil contains healthy bacteria, so make sure to retain some. You can incorporate some in your new soil.

Step 4: Trim the roots

Trimming the old roots out will encourage your bonsai seedlings and trees to grow healthy. It will also allow more room for the bonsai to bloom and help it develop new roots- hence new twigs and branches.

You will see new roots sprouting from old, dense roots as you remove the old soil. Trim these old roots using clean shears or scissors. Also, ensure you remove any dead or rotten roots.

Be mindful of how much you trim since it may kill your bonsai. Do not cut out more than two-thirds of the Bonsai roots.

If you take out too much, a healthy bonsai will die because it cannot absorb nutrients and water as it should.

So, while it is essential to trim old roots to promote new growth, avoid overdoing it. Also, remember to prune any dying leaves and debris.

Step 5: Prepare the new pot

This step should precede removing your bonsai from the old pot. Find a new pot and rewire it – aluminum wire is the best.

Make drainage holes on the pot’s base and cover them with plastic mesh. To fix the wire on the pot, curve it into a U shape, then run this wire from the inside to the outside via the drainage holes.

A bonsai being prepared to repot.
Find a new pot and rewire it – aluminum wire is the best.

After that, insert two wires from the pot’s base via these drainage holes. These are meant to secure the bonsai tree in the new pot. After placing the bonsai in the pot, bend these wires and shove them into the soil.

Wiring beforehand is crucial because bonsai roots can adapt and balance well and won’t stress the entire tree.

Step 6: Repot your Bonsai

Your bonsai tree is ready for repotting once you finish the leaf pruning and root trimming.

You can add new soil, but pack it with the tree’s roots so there are no air spaces in between. Cover all roots with soil but don’t compact them.

Step 7: Water your Bonsai

Lastly, water your newly repotted bonsai trees. Watering helps settle the newly added soil around the bonsai roots.

Watering also protects the newly repotted bonsai from acute winds. But avoid overwatering your bonsai since you have already trimmed many roots.

A person watering a bonsai.
Watering helps settle the newly added soil around the bonsai roots.

Water sparingly and place it in partial shade because freshly repotted plants tend to go into shock mode. It would be best if you keep it comfortable for some weeks.

Final Thoughts

Repotting Bonsai is easier than it sounds. You can keep your bonsai seedlings and trees healthy and thriving with just a little knowledge.

The most important thing is to be careful with the soil mixture, pot size, and root system.

If you follow the appropriate steps, your tree will grow into a centerpiece that enhances your home’s beauty, just like a piece of painting.

Last update on 2023-06-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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