Updated: Jan 7
I can almost bet you will never see a bonsai professional pot up a tree or re-pot a tree without using wire to tie it into the pot. Why is this and why is it so important? Lets Find Out.
When we re-pot bonsai there are many small steps that have to be taken to ensure good success in this operation including timing, proper root work, good pot choice, good soil choice, anchoring your tree ( todays article ) , Chop sticking etc etc.
If we think of Bonsai Work like a hospital most of the work we do is minor like treating someone for hay fever, but if we think of re-potting this is almost like open heart surgery. We have to be mindful of what we are doing to ensure the trees survival. Many times I've seen people push the boundaries of re-potting timing due to impatience and the tree survives and that is usually followed by the sentence " See there's no rules in Bonsai ". Sadly for that tree though it probably didn't grow a millimetre that season and spent the whole time in shock trying to repair its badly severed root system. Our goal in re-potting is to refresh the trees soil, give it more room to grow and be able to get it back into a healthy cycle as quick as possible. That's why all the techniques that go along with Re-Potting are just as important as each other.
So todays topic is Anchoring Your Bonsai Tree. This is more important the first time a tree goes into a Bonsai Pot but it is just as important if you are doing a general repot. The reason it is super important though on a tree going into a Bonsai pot for the first time is because we do a lot of root work in that first potting and the tree has no stable base at that point. this means that if we just put the tree in the pot and fill it with soil the tree will wobble around in the pot and in extreme cases will fall out of the pot onto the ground, But even if you can manage to get the tree somewhat stable in the pot it wont be enough. You see when we get a tree into a Bonsai Pot we need the tree to be so stable that if we lean the trunk back the pot leans back as well, the tree and the pot should move as if they are 1. The reason for this is the roots of a tree wont grow in an unstable environment. Usually on a good re pot your roots will begin to re grow again after 2 weeks ( given your timing and technique was good ). This means minimal downtime for the tree just before the growing season. If your tree is loose in its pot and moves every time the wind blows past it then the roots wont grow, or if you do get some root growth there is an elevated risk of those new fresh roots tearing. This means the tree could either be at risk of declining in health and dying or it spends most of its growing season trying to grow roots and not putting on new growth. Now when we do a general repot of a tree there is less risk of this happening as the tree has grown a solid root mass and we are just taking small amounts of the sides and bottom and putting in fresh soil, But the tree can still move even with a nice solid base so it is always wise to anchor your tree into the pot using wire and tie down holes in pots.
When anchoring your tree i recommend aluminium wire, now this is debatable but my reasoning is that aluminium stretches, it should only take a small amount of time for your roots to re establish and create a stable environment for your tree so it wont need something that is going to last years and years. we also tend to leave the wire on the tree until the next repot, if we have copper or steel wire that doesn't stretch and the root system begins to pull on the wire as it expands there is a chance it will crack your pot or tear its roots. In the case of this happening id rather the aluminium wire stretching and breaking then the pot breaking or roots tearing. You do have to be more carful when twisting aluminium wire though as it is a lot more prone to breakage if you twist it in the same spot over and over.
There are many ways to anchor a tree into a pot as well and this really depends on the material you are working with. You can attach screws to the trunk, use bamboo chop sticks in the root ball or tie the wire over the nebari, But always be caution of your feeder roots that you are not crushing them or tearing them while doing this task.
Maybe i can do a youtube video soon on anchoring a tree but there are a few videos already on the channel of this being done.
I hope this has helped understand why we anchor bonsai trees into our bonsai pots.
Until Next Time, Enjoy Your Bonsai Journey.