Re-Potting Tips and Tricks

Potting Tips and Tricks

Move in a southerly direction 🙂
Boon has made 4 DVDs. Get them and watch the reporting DVD over and over. His technique is very specific, so make notes as to what the steps are. Don’t do anything out of order!
Use fresh potting mixture, clean tools, chop stick the soil in well and lastly soak the tree and pot in Superthrive.
Take a photo of your tree before re-potting. You’ll be surprised what the camera sees that the mind’s eye doesn’t.

Allow soil in the pot to dry out slightly for ease of tree removal.
Layer your soil. Start with a drainage layer of large or course soil on the bottom, medium sized for the majority of the volume and fine to top off the surface, followed by a layer of moss or sphagnum moss.
Never pot with bone-dry soil, especially if you use Turface or a similar product. Before adding soil, add a little bit of water and mix; just enough to slightly moisten the soil, but not enough to interfere with the loose flow of the soil. Properly done, it will still look a little on the dry side. Preferably this is done well before potting, the night before works well. You don’t want the small root hairs and fine roots to get sucked dry by contact with bone-dry soil. Always mix up more soil than you think you’ll need, it always takes more.
Use non-organic soil.

Plants seem to suffer the least when they are potted just when the buds are swelling, before they break into leaf. At this time the roots can benefit from a gentle power-washing. With a clean root ball you can see the defects more clearly and prune the roots with less damage.
Even when it’s cold, the trees are responding to increasing light as part of their seasonal change. So, it means that they start sap flow even in cold frames. You might have to thaw the root ball out in a pan of water, but you’ll find lots of new white root tips at this time of year. Don’t try to chip frozen soil away from roots or you’ll break the roots away as well. Make sure you thaw out the root ball completely. After re-potting, water thoroughly; place the tree right back where it was for winter. It will gradually come out of dormancy as if nothing had happened. I’ve found that this is much better than waiting until the weather truly warms for re-potting. Often, when delayed, the trees don’t have enough time to establish a good root system before the heat comes and they really take a hit in summer.

Always use warm water; it prevents shock to the root system.
Add Hormex to the soak water to jump start root growth.
Never work on the roots and shoots at the same time.
Don’t prune too many roots, especially with pines.
Comb out roots “gently”.
When working the soil into the root ball press down with your fingers working the chop stick in and out, not in circles.
Use a drop or two of Superthrive in water used to soak roots before/after re-potting or in sprayer to keep roots moist.
After re-potting allow the plant time to recover 2-4 weeks in the shade, then another 2 weeks in partial sun, then into conditions best suited to the tree.
After potting, keep the bonsai above 50 F for new root growth.

Wire the trees into the pots.
Tie down wires that are a different color each year. Use a vinyl covered speaker wire from Ax Man, its soft strong and cheap, and holds the plants down effectively in the containers. Tie your trees down as if tying a shoelace, rather than cinching them down using a stiffer wire with a pair of pliers. It’s nice to be able to simply look at the tie down on each tree and know when it was last re-potted.
Special thanks to contributors Chip Sperry, Cheryl Sykora, Bruce Peterson, Chris Pogliano, Terry Bishop, Terry Davis, Joe Monda, Ted Matson and Jim Gremel.