Repotting a cascade Japanese maple


Cascade Japanese maple in autumn color. Photo by Pete Jones.

My uncle Pete currently has 53 bonsai in training and a vast array of stock material to propagate and create more bonsai.  Unfortunately this requires a lot of maintenance and Pete had fallen behind on some of his repotting chores, so I offered to lend a hand repotting his larger pieces.

Pete with his tree on display. Photo by Caecilie Jones.

This unusual cascade Japanese maple is 32 years old. Pete’s friend Bill Daly gave him this tree when it was 5 years old and Pete has been training it since then. It is currently 13 inches tall and cascades 40 inches. This blue pot was recently replaced with a custom made pot by another friend of Pete’s, artist Ron Lang. The new pot is 12 inches tall and 13 inches wide.

Five years ago this tree was displayed at the annual Potomac Bonsai Festival at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum in Washington, D.C. Since that time Pete has let this tree rest and it is overdue for a repotting.

Our workstation.

Pete cuts the tie down wires.

I was surprised that the root ball slipped right out of the pot. All of the other trees had to be cut out of their pots.

Greg on left and Pete on right. Photo by Caecilie Jones.

The machete is usually reserved for cutting the root ball out of deep pots. Because this tree is severely root bound we shave of a few inches on the bottom and all four sides. Normally we would just use the root hook.

Photo by Caecilie Jones.

Now we can use the root hook to bust up the root ball.

Roots are now ready for trimming.

The root ball after trimming. We removed about 3/4 of the roots.

The tree was placed in a B-1 solution to soak while we prepped the pot and new soil.

Pete uses a unique soil mix foe each tree depending on it’s growing needs. This tree receives a mix of equal parts lava rock, Turface, fine pine bark and Virginia red clay. Pete also added a pinch of Micronmax-Micro-nutrients to give the tree a boost.

While Pete mixed the soil I cleaned, disinfected and rewired the pot.

An inch of lava rock was placed in the bottom of the pot for drainage.

Soil was added and the tree tied in place to stabilize it in the pot. We then used a large stick  to work out the air pockets in the soil. We normally use chopsticks but this pot is very deep.

The potted tree was then placed back in the soaking mix and Pete brings the water level to the top of the pot. The tree is left to soak for about 15 minutes.

Here is the repotted tree back on it’s display stand. Pete is going to trim the branches and pull the cascade down a little more after the tree gets settled back into the pot. We repotted 8 large trees and 2 medium size trees in two and a half days.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: