Pussywillow Starter 1 of 2: Replanting [Bonsai]

in Team Bonsai2 months ago


Recently, I replanted some of my potted trees.

These are the ones that I found were tipping over most frequently on windy days. Even when they tip over, the soil barely spills out, and this tells me the roots are probably tightly bound up.

So here I'm going to show how I replanted one of the Pussywillow trees to continue growing as a future bonsai.

Selecting a Bonsai Pot


This purple ceramic glazed pot looked like a good choice. It's not much bigger than the current plastic pot, but it's much heavier and sturdy.

I cut out a piece of screen to cover the hole at the bottom.

No wire was needed to secure the screen. When the screen is cut to the shape of the entire base, there is not much risk of the screen slipping off the hole.


A shallow layer of bonsai soil was used to cover the bottom.

Whenever I repot a tree, I save the old bonsai soil and dump it out in a dish, where it sits in the sunlight all summer long. Here I am reusing some of that old soil. It has bits of needles, debris, and bark mixed in with the gravel bits pumice, lava rock, and akadama clay. Any big chunks of debris, I pick it out by hand.

For my vigorous trees, this sun sterilized used soil is sufficient to suit my needs. Here, it really only has to serve as a basic drainage layer to let water escape quickly.

Checking the Roots


As I suspected. Severely root-bound.

It even held the sharp edge of a crease over the lip of the pot. The only visible soil is on top, protectively hiding the living roots from the sun.

The base of the tree has been shifted slightly. The roots have pressed the tree completely up along one side. This also caused the tree to tip over more frequently.


When the tree is this root-bound, I prefer to come out the root ball entirely to sort things out.

With Pussywillow, I am a complete savage.

Remove the long trailing taproots I cut off straight away.

Cut out any snarly ingrown roots blocking roots that are trying to grow outward. This includes messy roots balls snarled up inside. Roots that keep circling in and around, they are problematic strangling roots and need to be removed.

Sometimes I will even remove roots growing in close parallel, and leave only the better root from the pair remaining. Roots need space, right?


Before I use my root pruners, I do not want to dull the blade crunching through rocks and sandy soil.

So to further clean the roots I even go so far as to swish the roots around in a bucket of water. It allows more of the old soil and gravels to be dislodged from the roots.

Do not go overboard washing the roots. Leave them slightly muddy, to ensure beneficial bacteria, fungi, and microbes remain alive to feed the roots. Try not to work in the shade, as direct sunlight will also kill the roots and microbes.

Chop, Snip, Cut


Final cuts are to reduce the size of the root mass to the dimensions of the new pot.

Some roots were removed from the base of the tree to expose more of the neck of the trunk.

When replanted at the height of the first strong roots, it will eventually develop into a thick root flair. Over the years the thick surface roots will provide plenty of strength to hold the tree upright. It will also increase the value of the tree, due to making the tree look older and wider at the base.

Normally I do not like having multiple shoots growing from the base, but in this case, I allow it to remain. Perhaps the trunks will merge into a single trunk eventually. Another option is to one day slice the side trunk off, with the attached roots, thereby creating two separate trees.



With a combination of the old soil and the new soil (there wasn't much of the old soil, mostly root!), future health of the tree is better ensured.

Using a chopsticks, I viciously attack the soil. Packing the soil to fill in all the open air pockets between the roots ensures the tree will have a tight grip within the soil. I did not use a wire to hold this tree in place, so I make sure the soil is pack in tightly, allowing the tree almost zero wiggle room.

A top layer of new soil generally makes for a neat and tidy appearance.

Final Results


Isn't it interesting to look at a freshly planted tree?

Here in the Autumn, I can see three colors of wood. The dull gray wood in the center is the old cutting the tree started out as. The berry red wood on the central leader, where lots of growth energy is stored for new leaves. The greener shoots are the whips that grew out this year from the strongest buds.

Trees made from cuttings, I generally save for a couple years, and then hope to find them a new home. They can make a nice gift to give someone perhaps.

Pussywillow is not the best for classic bonsai, but I enjoy it as one of the easiest to grow in my climate. Fasting growing trees offer quick rewards. For beginners, they are much more forgiving when pruning mistakes occur.

I probably will not wire this tree or prune the branches. In February I will be looking for furry Pussywillow buds to harvest. The catkin covered branches do make a beautiful indoor seasonal decoration.

Photos in this post are all #originalworks by @creativetruth, unless stated otherwise.

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You can also fashion the branches to make it look like an old tree @creativetruth.