Root Pruning in Bonsai tree: Essential Part of Bonsai Tree Care

This article is the second part of my article titled Pruning in bonsai where i have discussed different types of pruning which are essential part of a bonsai tree care.

Roots are important to any plant and specially to a bonsai tree. It is the part of the plant which is not visible to eyes in normal circumstances but plays the most important role in plant’s survival. So when you its your turn to prune roots you should be very careful. I would try to explain the process of Root pruning by answering these following questions:

Bonsai tree care root pruning

Why should I prune the roots?

The basic purpose of root pruning is the same as that of the branch pruning. As in case of branch pruning (where small branches starts to develop in place of regular sized ones), Pruning of roots stimulates growths of more smaller roots which are crucial for the look and survival of the plant, this is basic tree care learned in most gardening lessons.

Tap root is vital to the plants which grow in nature. It acts as an anchor for the plant. But in case of bonsai trees this root has very little importance. Here the support is provided form outside (Read wiring in bonsai for details).

Also, the presence of thick root inhibits growth of any other smaller sized roots and thus lead to sparse branches with little foliage. So root pruning is absolutely necessary for the aesthetic look of the plant. It is an integral part of making the bonsai style.
How often to do?
The frequency of pruning is not fixed for every plant. It varies upon the variety and species. Some plants grow very slowly and don’t need pruning that often whereas others need it quite a few time in a year as they grow vigorously.
The frequency is also related to pot size and the environment. Smaller the pot more frequent is the pruning.
When to do it?
Before starting root pruning you should consider this. Pruning does hurt water intake capabilities of the plant. So it must be done at a time when the stress on the plant is less; like during the period of quiescence (for tropical plants) or at the time of early spring.
Growth of roots doesn’t depend on light. Rather It is only dependent on soil temperature and supply of nutrients in the soil.
How to do it?
Once you understand the concept of root pruning the rest of the bonsai tree care will seem very easy to you.
First you need to know about the equipment. For pruning roots, use a root hook. It is a single tined tool and is probably the best way to untangle the roots with minimal damage. If you don’t want to buy it you can prepare it in home too.
You need to let off most of the thick roots and concentrate on the smaller and hairy roots. They are the essential for plant’s survival. Bonsai plants require a very shallow root system when compared with other container plants.
Sometimes, especially for a beginner it seems impossible to shift the plant directly into a bonsai pot. This is okay. You can do it step by step. By lowering the depth of the pot over time. Start small and you will progress to severe pruning once you gain confidence.

Don’t get tempted to put water into the root ball to remove soil. It might work for some species but for most of them it cause more damage to the finer roots than cleaning the soil.

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