Peter Tea’s March Write-Up

March 2014


March is still a good month to repot.  Most of us have already repotted our deciduous trees and they should start to, if not already, leaf out. If your deciduous trees have not leafed out yet, then you can still repot them this month.

March is a good month to repot our conifers and evergreen trees. Even if some of them have started pushing, it is still okay to repot them. Just be aware that if the tree is starting to grow, you should not be as aggressive with the roots.

Re-potting as a Technique

Repotting is just like any other bonsai technique we use to develop our trees. Think about how you can use repotting to attain your bonsai goals.

Example 1:  Refined Deciduous trees are repotted every year to slow down vigorous Spring growth.

Example 2:  Refined Conifers are allowed to become root bound to slow down vigorous Spring growth.

Two examples of how repotting or the lack or repotting will help in slowing the growth of a type of tree. Of course, that’s only if your goal is to slow the tree down. What if your goal is to increase the growth of the tree? Then the technique is going to change.

In the case of Example 2: repotting conifers more frequently yields a stronger and more vigorous growing tree.  Again, think about what the current goals of the trees are and apply the necessary repotting schedule to achieve that goal.

Example 3: Trees that are in soil mixes that holds water for longer periods of time will grow slower.

Example 4: Trees that are in soil mixes that holds water for shorter periods of time will grow faster.

Repotting and soil medium is a fundamental part of bonsai and should not be overlooked in your path to creating beautiful bonsai. You may just find that it’s the reason why our trees are not developing the way we want them to, or the quality of the tree is no longer increasing year after year.


Spring is right around the corner and for many of use, we’re already seeing its effects on our trees. Its an exciting time because we’re starting to see our trees grow again and a sign of relief that we didn’t kill our trees during the repotting process (joke).

Deciduous – Other than pruning to focus growth onto certain areas, there isn’t much to do with deciduous trees this month.

If the tree is finely ramified, and you’re trying to control growth, then now is a good month to pinch the tree back.  Pinching should only be done on ramified trees. If the tree is still in development, hold off working on it till the Spring leaves have hardened off (around April-May).  Do not air layer deciduous trees if they have already started pushing new growth.

Conifers – For this month, conifers can still be repotted, cut back and wired. When wiring, be careful not to disturb the new growth. Some of them can be very soft and will break off easily.

Do Not wire high mountain pines during this month if the candles are starting to extend.  (High mountain pines are any pine species that grow in high elevations) Wiring and bending high mountain pines when the candles are growing is extremely stressful to the tree and can cause die back of the branches or total death of the tree. You can still lightly prune, pull needles and repot the tree if needed.

Broad Leaf Evergreens – This month is still a good time to work on any type of leafy evergreen. We can repot, prune and wire the tree during this month. Many people like repotting their Oak trees during this month as well.

Water Consumption

Once the weather start to warm and Spring is in full effect, the trees will start to pull large amounts of water.  We will see our soils drying out faster which requires us to water our trees more often.  Keep an eye out on your trees and be sure to water them when they need it. This is especially a sensitive time for trees that have just been repotted.  If the soil gets too dry, the tree may die due to the sensitive root system.

Remember to only water trees when they need it. Take time this year to really understand how much water each tree takes during the different seasons and adjust accordingly. Having said that, I do understand that many of use cannot water our trees at the perfect time due to work or other aspects of our lives. Do the best that you can and come up with a strategy to fit both the trees and your personal schedules.

See you all soon!

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