How Bonsai Works

Giving Your Bonsai Tree Roots

Once the roots are trimmed, you're ready to give life to your plant.

  • Place a layer of bonsai potting soil over the gravel in the pot. There are prepared mixtures you can use, but if you want to experiment with your own, bonsai soil is usually composed of equal parts sand, peat and loam. It's important to understand the requirements of the specific tree you have selected for bonsai to know the soil mixture to use. Achieving the proper chemical balance in the soil will be important for the healthy growth of your bonsai tree.
  • Spread the trimmed roots of the tree evenly around the pot and use the wire to hold the tree's trunk in place. You'll be removing the wire later, so keep the wiring simple. It's easy to damage the trunk and roots when wiring the tree in place, so use caution to turn the wire carefully.
  • Fill the pot to the rim with soil, tapping the pot a few times to level the soil and remove air pockets. Firm the soil in place around the base of the tree and then out to the edges of the pot. The soil should reach the very top of the pot when you're done, and the crown of the tree, the part where the trunk stops, should be at the soil line.
  • Place your new bonsai tree in a shady spot for a week to allow it to adjust to its new pot and shorter root system. Be sure to remove any covering you placed over the drainage hole before you water. Move the tree into a sunnier location gradually. Start with a couple of hours of morning sunlight about a week after potting and work up from there.
  • Now that the roots of the tree are shorter, it's important to provide water to the tree regularly. Many bonsai trees need soft water that's tepid, not cold. Be sure that water is draining from the pot after each watering. Allowing a bonsai tree to sit in water for an extended period will result in rotted roots and the death of the tree.

You must provide those things that your new bonsai can't get for itself. In nature, the roots of trees are protected in winter with a thick layer of soil. To keep your bonsai safe from weather extremes, you must keep it in a greenhouse or provide it with a protective enclosure or insulation. Another area in which your bonsai differs from a tree in nature is that it can't send its roots deep into the soil to look for water. Providing enough water is an important function of keeping a healthy bonsai tree. It's a commitment, almost like keeping a pet, because some bonsai trees need to be watered often in hot summer weather. When your tree starts to take shape, your efforts will be rewarded.


For more useful tips and tricks on keeping your bonsai tree healthy, take a look at the next section on caring for bonsai.