Yearlong hiatus

Hello everybody,

I am moving from California to New York City for a year and none of my outdoor bonsai are going to be able to join me on this adventure. While I am there, I was hoping to store my favorite trees at my parents house. They are gardeners but have never looked after bonsai before.

I have maybe 10 trees that I will want to keep down there and can hook them up to automated watering. However, the automated watering never seems to work perfectly for bonsai that are in small pots with bonsai soil because some trees need less water and others need more. In order to try to compensate for that, I was going to plant them into deeper planters with normal soil (similar to planting in the ground) and have automated watering hooked up to those. I also plan to purchase an outdoor Nest camera (or similar camera) to watch and make sure it doesn’t turn into a disaster or that the watering malfunctions for days at a time.

The trees are all less than 2-3 feet tall. A photo of the the planter I am planning on using is attached.

Has anybody tried this before? Any recommendations or can you foresee any potential pitfalls?

If i might offer a couple of suggestions.
" Best option would be a friend who keeps bonsai"
If having others water then try this.

  1. Ensure all Bonsai have free draining bonsai soil , either repot or change surface material. Check the drainage holes in the pots for obstruction etc.
  2. Make sure the " Planter Box " has free drainage and water does not pool in the bottom.
  3. Fill the planter box with screened pumice. Remove fines and larger particles.
  4. Set Bonsai into pumice level with lips of the pots.
  5. Shred sphagnum moss and cover surface area of planter and bonsai pots.
  6. Have parents water thoroughly when the sphagnum moss dries out.
    This should provide reasonable moisture levels without overwatering. The sphagnum becomes the measuring stick as to when moisture is needed.
  7. Consider placement that balances the needs of the species. Likely a mix of morning sun and afternoon shade with your location.
    This assumes someone will check regularily and water only when needed. Automatic watering will usually overwater even with rain sensors in place. This setup is quite forgiving if overwatered as moisture does not pool anywhere.
    Best of luck, others may have better ideas.
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Thank you for all the thoughts.

It sounds like you are thinking I should place all the bonsai with their pots into the planter box. My plan was to simply repot the trees into soil. I could then fill the planter box with soil and have it be similar to planting the trees in the ground. The planter box looks pretty deep and would allow the trees roots more freedom to find water.

Any additional thoughts related to that?

That is possible and will eliminate any risk of pooling water within the pots. Also may allow for more even access to moisture! Only drawback may be the expansion of root ball over the time frame. Not so important fro slow growing species but young maples or similar fast growing trees may expand their footballs considerably in all directions.

I would be okay with the root ball expanding during the year. At this point, I’d prefer to just keep the trees alive during that time. It’s good to know that the root ball may expand a lot though. When I go to transfer back to bonsai pots, I could then prepare to pot them in larger pots and maybe have to spend a couple seasons to prune the root ball back down to a manageable size.