Peter Tea January Write-Up

January 2014

Happy New Year.

2014 is here and it’s the start of another new year in Bonsai!  I hope you all had a fun and safe Holiday Season.   Amazing how time flies and before we know it, it’ll be 2015!   Hopefully by then, we’ll have increased our bonsai knowledge, gotten some good bonsai work done and our trees looking better.  I’m excited about this month and I hope you are too.  Now what can we do?


For most of us in the Bay Area, we can start repotting in January. The reason why is because of our mild Winters.  Though we can get some freezing nights, it is not consistent and our trees, even freshly repotted can handle it.  Of course, if we do get random periods of hard freezing, we would have to protect the trees.  If you’re in an area where it freezes every night, then I would push the repotting into February or March.   Repotting is very important to our trees.  We use this technique as a way to control growth in the trees.  Sometimes we repot the tree to slow them down, and other times, we use repotting to reinvigorate the tree.  Just like cutting and wiring,  how you repot the tree will affect how the tree grows.

What Can We Repot?

We can repot just about any tree at this time.  I recommend starting with the deciduous trees first, then move on to evergreen trees.  Hold off repotting tropical trees till the early Summer.

Soil Components.

Soil mixtures are important in Bonsai.  It’s all about understanding how much water the soil mix holds.  A general rule is that if the soil holds more water, it will cause the tree to grow slower whereas if the soil holds less water, the tree will grow faster.  This is true for most trees in varying degrees.  If you would like to get a good amount of
information about soils (if not too much information), please read this blog post I wrote on the subject during my time in Japan:

To keep things simple at this point, here is my soil mix recommendations:

Conifers/Evergreens – 50% Akadama, 25% Lava, 25% Pumice! Deciduous/Tropicals – 75% Akadama, 12.5% Lava, 12.5% Pumice.

For Conifers:

A drainage layer is important so have a separate bag of medium size pumice or lava.  Be sure to sift your soil and remove as much of the dust as you can. You should also sift your soil to size so that you have a small and medium size mix. This is especially important when working with conifers.

Sphagnum Moss:

Sphagnum moss is good to have for repotting.  After repotting, the trees will be sensitive to dry conditions so the moss will help in holding more water while the tree recovers.  Once we move into Spring and the tree is growing, the moss can be removed.

Tools and Materials Needed for Repotting.

Container for the tree.

Aluminum wire.

Plastic screen.


Soil scoop.

Soil sifter.

Root rake.

Root cutters.

Root scissors.

Root hook.

Bent tip tweezers.


Soil Tamper.


Container to catch excess soil.

Other Things to Do.

If you don’t plan to repot this month, there are other things you can do.  January is a great time to wire, cut and style conifers and leafy evergreens.  Pines can still have needles pulled and thinned as well.

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