drzaiusx11
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soil of pre-bonsai/pre-trained "trees"

Hello,

I have some bonsai's-to-be that are probably a few years away from being ready to begin training / re-potting into real bonsai pots. My question is this: should these trees (a 5 year old conifer, and two 2 year old deciduous trees) be in "bonsai" soil (ie the arguably "standard" equal parts N-P-K with course/mostly inorganic mix)?

Usually when purchased at a nursery these pre-bonsai plants/trees/shrubs/etc are in "potting soil" that has more nitrogen in it than anything else. From what I've heard this helps promote growth which might be good for pre-bonsai plants--but not so much for bonsais already at their desired sizes. Is this true? Should I keep my trees in nitrogen rich organic soil? They seem to be quite happy in it...

I ask because it seems that the bonsai soil sticky thread seems to contain a wealth of info on soils for bonsai's that are already in their appropriate bonsai containers, but not for trees in pre-training stages.

constantstaticx3
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Ok, first thing. Basically as soon as you decide you want your tree to be a bonsai it is technically in training. It doesn't matter what age size or shape your tree is, It must be cared for differently than a regular plant to be transformed into a bonsai, this does include the type of soil it is potted in.

If you are to plant it in rgular potting soil then the tree may grow fast but the growth will be long and leggy rather then short and bushy, and ultimately healthy. Regular potting soil compacts over time and does not allow for the drainage and airation the tree needs. The whole point of using mostly inorganic and loose airy soil is to promote good root growth, fibrous roots that is, and so you can regulate the amount and type of nutrients they need through fertilization.

When you repot your trees, this also gives you an early chance to sort out any root problems early on before they become so bad they cannot be fixed later on.

If you do not plan to style your tree until later, I emphasize style because that is only another part of the training process, then you will need to mostly let it grow and then trim strategicaly to direct the growth of the tree the way that you want.

One of the most important aspects of a bonsai is the trunk and rootsystem. If the trunk is not the thickness that you would like then you need to repot either into a large pot or in the gound so it gives the roots to grow and thicken up the trunk. Once the trunk and roots have developed then you can begin to really refine the tree into its final shape.

Another way to help thicken the trunk is to leave some sacrifice branches lower on the trunk that help to thicken it. These branches will not be in the final design they will be removed when the desired thickness is achieved.

Finally, a lot of time is needed to create a bonsai and this may be longer than a few years so penty of patience is needed.

Post some pics and the exact species of your trees so we can help you to decide what should be done with them.

I'll look forward to your response and some pics with it :)

Tom

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drzaiusx11

Hello, glad to hear that you are doing some research. Tom has made some excellent points, particularly regarding the importance of establishing your nebari early on. It is said that the second year of a seedling or cutting determines it's future as a bonsai. This is because it becomes more difficult, as the years pass, to correct poor roots.
My question is this: should these trees (a 5 year old conifer, and two 2 year old deciduous trees) be in "bonsai" soil (ie the arguably "standard" equal parts N-P-K with course/mostly inorganic mix)?
I think that you are confusing two different issues here. Fertilizers are rated as to the content of their three main components, N-P-K. This is different than the composition of your soil. A primarily inorganic, coarse medium has distinct advantages over an organic mix, especially in a shallow pot, but requires a more dedicated fertilizing plan.

Since your trees are so young it would be a mistake to rush them into a bonsai pot too early, this only serves to slow their development. As Tom mentioned an appropriately sized growing box or even planting them out, if you are able, will speed their development. Please read this; [url=https://www.evergreengardenworks.com/earthpot.htm]Why the Earth is not like a pot.[/url]
From what I've heard this helps promote growth which might be good for pre-bonsai plants--but not so much for bonsais already at their desired sizes. Is this true? Should I keep my trees in nitrogen rich organic soil? They seem to be quite happy in it...
This is a similar concept to the bonsai pot issue. A young tree, such as yours, needs to put on strong growth if it is ever to thicken into the impressive trees that you may have seen. Any attempt to restrict growth at such an early stage is counterproductive. Even this is an oversimplification, as most of these truly impressive trees are cut down not grown up.

Norm

ynot
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Re: soil of pre-bonsai/pre-trained "trees"

Hello drzaiusx11,

Welcome :D.

Excellent post Tom.

drzaiusx11 wrote: My question is this: should these trees (a 5 year old conifer, and two 2 year old deciduous trees) be in "bonsai" soil (ie the arguably "standard" equal parts N-P-K with course/mostly inorganic mix)?
To answer your question- IMO Absolutely :D.

WRT N-P-K Which are components of fertilizer. Not a structural component of the soil. These are not something you add by the handful to your soils composition so to speak [Such as IE: grit], But instead they are added via a fert routine that you continually repeat.
Usually when purchased at a nursery these pre-bonsai plants/trees/shrubs/etc are in "potting soil" that has more nitrogen in it than anything else.
Is this just a regular old nursery? It is only natural that they would be in regular potting soil. It does not mean it's the best thing for bonsai though.
From what I've heard this helps promote growth which might be good for pre-bonsai plants--but not so much for bonsais already at their desired sizes. Is this true?
I don't know where you got that but ...No, If your aimed at bonsai.
IMO [particularly for your conifers] A looser [well aerated] more inorganic soil structure is more resistant to compaction & more conducive to promoting a lot of those little white feeder roots that are so important in having your trees root system be as efficient as possible within the confines of a small pot later in life [and generally for that matter].
Should I keep my trees in nitrogen rich organic soil? They seem to be quite happy in it...
You could [and they would survive with good care] but IMO- No.
Personally in my bonsai pots [Or training pots also] I don't use a speck of -IE: 'dirt','regular garden soil','potting soil' whatever you want to call it. [Technically on occasion there is some in things I have not had a chance to repot yet. ;) ].
Nitrogen promotes foliage growth but excessive nitrogen can give you long internode lengths that are inappropriate for bonsai. Besides the issue of excessive water retention [Which you must be cautious of w/ an overly organic mix]. Any nutrients can be provided through a dedicated fert regimen.

EDIT: Oops! I accidentally erased this last bit from my post.
I ask because it seems that the bonsai soil sticky thread seems to contain a wealth of info on soils for bonsai's that are already in their appropriate bonsai containers, but not for trees in pre-training stages.
I will have to re-read [And perhaps edit] that as it is emphatically not intended to seem that way. Thank you for the heads up on that. :D

[url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3530&highlight=soil]Here[/url]is another thread that addresses soil.
[url=https://www.walter-pall.de/galerie.htm]Here[/url] is the photo gallery of the trees of a guy who uses entirely 100% inorganic soil all the time. :D

Glad your researching, Keep posting 8)

ynot

drzaiusx11
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I think that you are confusing two different issues here. Fertilizers are rated as to the content of their three main components, N-P-K. This is different than the composition of your soil. A primarily inorganic, coarse medium has distinct advantages over an organic mix, especially in a shallow pot, but requires a more dedicated fertilizing plan.
Sorry, I had (wrongly) assumed that Nitrogen (N)/Phosphorous (P)/Potassium (K) levels were chemical components of the soil instead of an "additive" that is added to the soil mix after-the-fact according to some fertilizer regiment.

So now I plan to repot to "bonsai" soil. Any recommendations for pot size for a pre-pot-training/pre-styling 6", 5 year old White Cedar, 3" 2 year old Boxwood and 3" 2 year old Ficus?

PS. I have three 6" deep clay pots that I was planning to use...

PPS. I'll post pics as soon as I can...

ynot
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Sorry, I had (wrongly) assumed that Nitrogen (N)/Phosphorous (P)/Potassium (K) levels were chemical components of the soil instead of an "additive" that is added to the soil mix after-the-fact according to some fertilizer regiment.
You are correct, In a highly organic soil [Full of decomposed material] they are present in abundant qualities. However when the potting medium consists of a high % of inorganics there is not nearly as much available to the tree so it is maintained through a fert regimen.
So now I plan to repot to "bonsai" soil. Any recommendations for pot size for a pre-pot-training/pre-styling 6", 5 year old White Cedar, 3" 2 year old Boxwood and 3" 2 year old Ficus?

PS. I have three 6" deep clay pots that I was planning to use...
Those sound good provided that they are not a lot bigger than the current pot size as OVERPOTTING has its own risks.

Read this. https://www.evergreengardenworks.com/overpot.htm

ynot



PPS. I'll post pics as soon as I can...[/quote]

drzaiusx11
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After some more research it turns out those pots I have aren't appropriate (two were too large and all three didn't have proper drainage). The local nurseries didn't seem to have much either, but I found these two online:

https://www.stargazerperennialscatalog. ... ductId=411

https://www.stargazerperennialscatalog. ... ductId=410

The larger would be used for the White Cedar, the smaller one (I'd buy two) would each be for the Boxwood and the Ficus.

Also, I picked up some shale-based inorganic "bonsai soil" from BonsaiBoy.com:

https://www.bonsaiboy.com/catalog/product1129.html

Any thoughts on these choices? Am I heading in the right direction?

PS I'm going to pickup some balanced "feed"/fertilizer at the nursery this weekend

PPS I'll post pics soon, I promise....

-- Dr. Zaius
Last edited by drzaiusx11 on Mon Apr 09, 2007 5:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

constantstaticx3
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It's good you're doing research but I think you could save money for now and buy plastic pots. It will be a long time before they will be ready for a bonsai pot. Here is a site that I bought some bulb pans from https://store.quarteracreorchids.com/bupaandotorp.html
You can buy all sizes and the way the pots are, short not tall, they help you develope a more lateral root system.

Tom

drzaiusx11
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It's good you're doing research but I think you could save money for now and buy plastic pots.
I am partial to clay pots. They trap in just a little more moisture (when unglazed)--PLUS they look nice! :wink:

Also, those "bulb" pots don't seem to have any feet to keep the drainage wholes off the ground (so it can drip into a tray, instead of staying trapped inside the pot). Is this something I should be concerned with? Or am I worrying about nothing??

Also, I took your advice and found clay pots that are wider than they are tall (to promote lateral root growth as you say). Also they're pretty cheap:

https://therefinedgardener.com/catalog/index.php?cPath=1_12&osCsid=ee3dbe943655374ff114d2b287420736

Unless anyone thinks this is a bad idea, I'm probably going to put an order in for 1 medium and 2 smalls of this type sometime this week.

-- Dr. Zaius

constantstaticx3
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Nope no objection they will do the same job. I just thought I'd give you my opinion. Your right those pots will be more visualy appealing, this is just something I'm not worried about right now as my trees are not exactly visualy appealing right now either :wink:

The bulb pans do drain fine though, they have plenty of holes and there is a space between the holes and the ground. Just thought I'd give you another option :D .

Tom

drzaiusx11
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Nope no objection they will do the same job.
Great!
The bulb pans do drain fine though, they have plenty of holes and there is a space between the holes and the ground. Just thought I'd give you another option
Good to know--It was hard to tell from the images on that website. Since these bulb pans are on the order of less than a dollar a piece, I'll pickup some for my hardy trees that I'm growing on my patio (buying fancy clay pots for every plant isn't really a good financial decision).

Thanks for the input Tom. :)

drzaiusx11
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UPDATE: with photos!

here are some photos I took of my tree's re-potting process.
NOTE: links have in-line "notes" (I love that flickr feature :D)

[url=https://flickr.com/photos/drzaiusx11/467159031/][img]https://farm1.static.flickr.com/174/467159031_a49bffa0bf_m.jpg[/img][/url]

[url=https://flickr.com/photos/drzaiusx11/467159101/][img]https://farm1.static.flickr.com/218/467159101_d6f318cd46_m.jpg[/img][/url]

[url=https://flickr.com/photos/drzaiusx11/467159023/][img]https://farm1.static.flickr.com/220/467159023_b872a1c2af_m.jpg[/img][/url]

[url=https://flickr.com/photos/drzaiusx11/467158967/][img]https://farm1.static.flickr.com/189/467158967_4e942f6f9a_m.jpg[/img][/url]

[url=https://flickr.com/photos/drzaiusx11/467159017/][img]https://farm1.static.flickr.com/185/467159017_e4cb4c639a_m.jpg[/img][/url]

[url=https://flickr.com/photos/drzaiusx11/467158959/][img]https://farm1.static.flickr.com/167/467158959_5616079027_m.jpg[/img][/url]
Last edited by drzaiusx11 on Thu Apr 26, 2007 1:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

ynot
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Re: soil of pre-bonsai/pre-trained "trees"

Dr,
{Love your SN :lol:, I actually use 'Cornelius' as one at another forum 8)}
drzaiusx11 wrote: My question is this: should these trees (a 5 year old conifer, and two 2 year old deciduous trees)
I didn't notice this earlier as you mentioned the actual species long after this statement but, Re-reading the entire thread today I have to tell you that:

You do not have "two deciduous trees", Neither Ficus or Boxwood are deciduous. Ficus are tropical and Boxwood are temperate evergreens.

The ficus comes inside for the winter, All else needs to sleep in the cold [Dormancy].

A few things to consider:
I hope you kept the root system moist while doing the repotting, It does not look to be so in some of the pics..?:

You will need to keep a far better eye on the moisture content of the pots now considering the drainage properties/water retention capabilities that your new soil [should have].

As was noted earlier: Putting them in [small] bonsai pots will slow down their development..But that ship has sailed :P.

ynot

drzaiusx11
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You do not have "two deciduous trees", Neither Ficus or Boxwood are deciduous. Ficus are tropical and Boxwood are temperate evergreens.

The ficus comes inside for the winter, All else needs to sleep in the cold [Dormancy].
I had just recently learned that "evergreens" were not exclusively pines--thanks for the reminder ynot :)

As for the boxwood I had previously thought it to be a tropical like the ficus, but after some more research I found that there's only one species of Boxwood that can be grown entirely indoors (with a mild 50ish dormancy temp in the winter)--and my boxwood is not of this "harlandii" species.

I found a nice image depicting the differences between two common species of boxwood:
[img]https://site.voila.fr/babadubonsai/docum/docbuis3.jpg[/img]

Mine is supposedly a buxus microphylla (sold as a 'japanese boxwood') but its hard to tell the microphylla, sempervirens and balearica species apart. They all look very similar.

This site [url]https://bonsai-bci.com/species/boxwood.html[/url] gave me some useful insight into overall care. Just can't really tell which mine is quite yet.

PS. [url]https://bonsai-bci.com/species/indexcommon.html[/url] is a goldmine of bonsai info

ynot
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Dr.

Yes, I am familiar with BCI 8).

Your splitting hairs wrt your box species and there is really no need, The general care is identical. :)

The primary difference between the 'Japanese box' and the 'Common box' is that the Japanese version grows slower, No big deal.

It is excellent to see you are researching :D :D.

ynot

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