Pruning and Repotting Bonsai Made Easy

At first, pruning and repotting bonsai can be scary. Even the most experienced bonsai expert can get worried when it comes to removing your tree from its warm pot, untangling and cutting away roots, and then precisely packing in the new soil mixture. However, pruning and repotting bonsai is critical to your plant’s health, and if done correctly, your bonsai will thrive in its new container.

pruning and repotting bonsai

It’s critical to repot, or a transplant, and prune your bonsai frequently to avoid it becoming pot-bound and starving to death. When a tree uses up all of the available nutrients in the soil, its roots develop to fit the shape of the pot. The trees stop growing due to a shortage of room and nutrition, and if nothing is done, they will perish. Pruning and repotting bonsai will replenish the nutrients the tree requires to thrive. Continue to read the full article to know more about when, why, and how to perform pruning and repotting bonsai.

Signs for Pruning and Repotting Bonsai

  1. Previous seasons’ poor rate of bonsai growth 
  2. Difficulty in soaking the soil Reduced summer water uptake 
  3. Leaf size is rapidly shrinking. 
  4. Autumn leaf fall that occurs early in the season 
  5. The foliage has slight yellowish discoloration. 
  6. Reduced gloss on the foliage 
  7. During the winter, fine twigs dieback 
  8. On the soil’s surface, algal slime and liverwort grow. 
  9. The root ball is progressively emerging from the pot, reducing the viability of the leaves (discolored leaves and dropping of leaves after a few weeks during summer).

Frequency of Pruning and Repotting Bonsai

  • pruning and repotting bonsai frequency is determined by the pot size and Bonsai species. Fast-growing trees require repotting every two years, if not earlier. Mature trees require repotting every 3–5 years.
  • Pruning and repotting bonsai should not be done regularly. Remove your bonsai from its pot in the early spring. Your bonsai needs to be repotted if you see the roots circling the root system.
  • If the roots are still contained within the soil, leave it and check the following spring again.

Season for Pruning and Repotting Bonsai 

Late winter is the best period for pruning and repotting bonsai trees. Most bonsai tree species are normally repotted in mid-February, and they can be repotted again as needed during the growing season. 

Bonsai trees can be stressed by severe transplanting and root cutting. You should do pruning of bonsai roots before the growing season begins because this is when the cut root ends begin to mend themselves.

Root rot and other illnesses are more prevalent during this period.

  1. Deciduous trees: August – September;
  2. Evergreens: September – October; and March (for many species);
  3. Tropicals (and some Australian natives): October – December;
  4. Cedars: August only.

Choosing Soil Mixture for Repotting Bonsai

The right soil composition is critical for the health of your trees. It should allow enough water to drain to keep the roots from rotting while still absorbing enough water to keep the tree hydrated. Some tree species require unique soil mixtures.

However, the following combination is adequate for most trees: a 1:1:1 ratio of akadama, pumice, and lava rock. You can easily get these items from online portals if locally unavailable for pruning and repotting bonsai.

pruning and repotting bonsai

Choosing Pots for Repotting Bonsai

It is also necessary to learn about bonsai pots, as repotting involves replacing the soil rather than the container. When pruning and repotting, choose the correct bonsai pots. You must examine the depth and general size of your bonsai tree.

  • Good bonsai pots have drainage holes and wire openings.
  • Ceramic or porcelain bonsai pots are common, while some growers utilize mica, clay, wood, and stoneware.
  • Metal pots may emit dangerous chemicals, so consider alternate options.
  • The length of your bonsai pot should be two-thirds the height of your bonsai tree.
  • If the height is less than the spread or breadth, the length must be at least two-thirds the width.
  • Typically, the container’s width should be somewhat less than the spread or width of the bonsai tree’s longest branches on both sides.

Materials Required for Pruning and Repotting Bonsai

Because pruning and repotting bonsai is a sensitive technique that causes the roots to dry out quickly, it’s good to have all of the necessary supplies ready ahead of time. You’ll need the following items: 

  1. A work area with enough room and a new pot 
  2. Bonsai soil mixture 
  3. Screenings, and grit root hook or root rake to remove old soil and untangle root balls a 
  4. Root pruning shears or cutters 
  5. Mesh to cover drainage holes 
  6. Chopsticks or pencils for removing air pockets from new soil
  7.  Water bottle for spraying roots wire for attaching the tree to the container

pruning and repotting bonsai

Stepwise Guidance for Pruning and Repotting Bonsai

Step 1: Get the Pot Ready 

  • Thread a length of copper wire through the wiring holes and fold the ends over the pot’s edge until they are out of the way. You will use this wire to secure the tree to the container, so make sure it is long enough. 
  • Cover the drainage openings with drainage mesh. This will assist reduce soil loss and prevent insects from entering through these gaps. 
  • Cover the pot’s bottom with screenings or another material that allows for good drainage. Place the second layer of bonsai soil or compost on top. Set aside the pot until needed for pruning and repotting bonsai.

bonsai pot

Step 2: Take the Bonsai Out of The Pot 

  • Remove the tree from the pot by carefully cutting the fastening wire at the bottom of the container. If it is truly root bound, it may become attached to the pot’s sides. Gently run a root knife or something similar between the soil and the pot to free the plant. 
  • Examine your tree to see whether it needs to be replanted. Repotting is required if the roots are lengthy and wrapped around the edges.
  • You can leave the tree in its pot for another year if there is still enough room for the roots to grow for pruning and repotting bonsai.

Step 3: Root Pruning 

  • Gently remove the surface soil from the roots with a gentle brush or root hook and delicately disentangle the clump as much as possible without causing harm or fracture. (It is crucial to note that you should never remove all of the soil.) 
  • Pruning back lengthy roots encourages the tree to create a more compact root structure. You should also remove any rotting or particularly huge roots, keeping everything balanced.
  • If you discover an uneven root structure, strive to prune in a way that restores balance as much as possible. Typically, the goal is to remove roughly one-third, or 33 percent, of the total root system from the sides and bottom of the mass.

Remember that the roots may quickly dry up, so keep a spray bottle of water nearby if they need to be moistened again and again.

Step 4: Plant the Tree

  • Place your tree slightly off-center in the dirt, ensuring it is at the proper height for your design and form. If necessary, add extra soil below the plant. 
  • Wrap the copper wire around the root ball and twist it together until the tree is securely fastened. Make sure the wire is positioned such that it is not visible after the remainder of the soil is added. 
  • Add the new soil in little amounts, carefully working around the roots with a chopstick or pencil. Continue to fill the pot with the bonsai mixture until about 1 centimeter from the rim.
  • Continue to fill any gaps and remove any air pockets with the chopstick.

You must entirely fill the container, but the soil should not be compacted so tightly that aeration is hampered. Avoid this mistake while pruning and repotting bonsai.

Step 5: Aftercare for Pruning and Repotting

  • It is typically poor aftercare, rather than incorrect pruning and repotting bonsai, that causes the most damage to a tree.
  • It is critical to thoroughly water the plant immediately after repotting to help the soil settle and remove any leftover air pockets. To further preserve your bonsai, it is generally recommended that you add a fungicide to your water. 
  • Keep your tree in a shaded location away from direct sunshine and high winds for at least one month. It will take this long for your bonsai to recuperate from the trauma of repotting. Therefore you should protect it as much as possible.
  • Ensure your bonsai gets enough water to absorb the nutrients from the fresh soil for easy restart after pruning and repotting bonsai.

Do not fertilize your tree for four weeks after pruning and repotting bonsai, as this may cause root burns and damage to your tree. 


(You might also like- Stepwise Guidance to Repotting Anthurium)


Pruning and repotting bonsai is a time-consuming and difficult task, but the more comfortable you get, the more you do it. Your repotting experience will succeed if you follow the step-by-step directions, and you will have beautiful, healthy bonsai.Root pruning can be the scariest aspect of bonsai culture for beginners.

It is very difficult to explain how to do it with words. The above guidelines should help, but the best thing to do is watch someone do it before attempting to prune and repot yourself. You can also find someone with experience who can help you the first time. After this, take small steps to gain confidence, and you will soon have the craft of pruning and repotting bonsai mastered.

(Also Read- Beginner’s guide on Repotting succulents )

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