Repotting into a smaller pot


Hi everyone!

I was curious about any specific procedure you follow when repotting into smaller containers (let’s assume 4 inches in length) than the tree’s actual pot.

Usually I try to choose pots at least equal or larger compared to the current container but I am not sure about the best procedure to revert this tendency.

Would you reduce/cut the root mass, even if it is healthy, just to fit the container size or loosen the soil and move the roots to the side?

Thanks and good repotting season to you all!

(Jonas Dupuich) #2

I definitely cut lots of healthy roots to get trees into smaller pots, but it can be hard to know which pot works best until the root work is complete. I usually address the roots first and then select the pot (which can be tricky if you don’t have extra pots around).

Combing out some soil to further compress roots is also a common technique.

(Mateusz Hudzik) #3

Might this help you a bit.

Tree in training pot before cut.

Tree after cut

View on the rootball from bottom after cut off about 30-40% of root mass

Tree after work on roots

Amount of offcuts

Size of rootball compare to training pot

Tree in “new” smaller bonsai pot

I think I’ve cut off about 60-70% of root mass. But I left enough roots to support tree for oncoming season. Next year I plan planted tree in even smaller pot

(Jonas Dupuich) #4

Fantastic repotting article Mateusz - thanks!

(Frank Corrigan) #5

Well done and documented


Thanks for the analytic example!

(Lani) #7

I would like to mention that cutting off that much root mass would not be a good thing to do on conifers, only healthy deciduous. That was my mistake early on not knowing that the two should be treated differently at repotting time. Well, I’ve really set a few trees back or killed them and through studying (and seeing my results) have learned. Also doing so late winter/early spring!

(Douglas Moran) #8

What a great tutorial. Many thanks for sharing this!

(Ανδρέας Γάβρης) #9

I will disagree with placing this tree in a smaller pot.
You cut all the branches and you must build from the beginning branching. The tree needs more space and more soil to develop the new branches. In a smaller pot we place it when we have almost ready bonsai.

(Jonas Dupuich) #10

I usually link the size of the pot to the size of the growth I want out of the tree. If I want a lot of thickening, I use larger pots. If I just want new branches, I’ll use a slightly large pot.

Another way to look at it is to consider how many roots there are. Often when digging up a tree, there are very few roots which allows the tree to fit in a fairly small pot and still have space for new roots to develop.