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How to Repot a Bonsai

How to Repot Bonsai Tree? Step by Step Guide by Experts

Repotting the bonsai tree is critical to ensure that your tree stays healthy and thriving. Every bonsai tree needs to be repotted every few years. Repotting a tree is an essential step in bonsai culture, and the art of repotting is very rewarding to bonsai growers.

For many first-time bonsai growers, repotting may seem intimidating. No doubt, any time you have to bother the tree’s roots, there is an amount of risk to the tree’s health. But if you do repot correctly, there is no reason why your tree should suffer. 

Therefore, here I am going to share with you the correct repotting guidance for your bonsai tree. So keep reading; in the end, your bonsai tree will be happier with fresh soil and more growing space.

Why Do You Need to Repot Bonsai?

Apart from watering, feeding, and pruning, repotting is one of the biggest responsibilities. Therefore, any bonsai grower must get familiar with and perform repotting regularly.

In a natural environment, a tree has ample space to spread its roots and absorb untold nutrients from the earth. Whereas in a confined container, based on what kind of soil mix you have, the soil decomposes slowly and roots fill the pot. Not introducing fresh material and not pruning roots is a recipe for damaging your bonsai tree.

What Tools Do You Need to Repot Your Bonsai?

You will require a few things while repotting your bonsai tree. Also, ensure you have them all within your reach so that when you start the process of repotting, you don’t leave the roots exposed while you look for your tools.

Following are the tools that you will need during repotting,

Root rake
Pruning scissors
Wire cutters (if your bonsai tree has been wired into the pot or will be wired)
Wire (if you will be wiring the bonsai tree into the pot.

How to repot a bonsai tree?

As your repotting tools are ready, let’s get to the steps you need to take while repotting your bonsai.

Step 1: Remove the bonsai tree from its pot

The first step is to get your bonsai tree out of its pot. If you have used the wires to secure your tree to the pot, you must cut those wires before removing the bonsai tree from the pot.

Give your bonsai tree a little jiggle to loosen it up a bit. After that, push from underneath through the drainage holes to lift the tree from the pot.

Step 2: Check the roots to see how much root pruning is necessary

After removing the bonsai tree from the pot, check how much pruning work needs to be done.

If your tree and its soil are coming out of the pot as a unit and roots are circling inside the pot, that’s the sign that repotting and pruning are needed.

Step 3: Remove the soil from the roots

Place your bonsai tree on the workbench and use a chopstick to loosen up the soil. Start from the sides and move to the bottom. Do that gently, so you don’t damage the roots during the process. Also, make sure to keep the roots moist while working.

Tip: if you are working on a pine tree. Do not remove all the soil, as the tree needs some of the original soil and mycorrhizal fungus to survive.

Step 4: Start combing the roots.

After removing most of the soil from the roots, use a rake and gently comb out the roots in a radial pattern. Make sure that roots fan out evenly from all sides. This is one of the vital steps to help develop a balanced nebari (root base/root flare) of the tree.

Step 5: Root Pruning

With your roots combed out, prune off any roots that are notably longer than the rest. You can also trim the roots, so they fit nicely into the pot.

While pruning roots, never remove more than ⅓ of the root system. After that, cover the roots with a damp cloth under a shady space until your bonsai tree is ready to place in the new pot.

Step 6: Get the pot ready

To get the pot ready, place mesh over the drainage holes and, with the help of wire, secure it.

Also, add another long piece of wire through the drainage holes with the point towards the top of the tree. This wire will secure the bonsai tree to the pot. This is a vital step because, after the repotting and root pruning, the bonsai tree will not be established correctly in the soil yet and will start to grow new roots.

And a sudden gust of wind will be enough to loosen your tree or even pull it from the pot. This may damage the fragile developing roots and even kill your bonsai plant.

After the wire and mesh have been included. Add some of the bonsai soil to the center of your pot.

Step 7: Place the bonsai tree in the new pot

Once your pot is ready, place your tree in the desired location on top of the mound of soil. Take your time to get a position that best shows off your tree.

Next, choose the front side of your bonsai tree and ensure it is aligned with the front of your pot. Once satisfied with the placement, use the wire to secure that desired position.

Step 8: Add more soil and water 

Now fill up the pot with bonsai soil. Cover all the roots and use the chopstick to work with the roots. After filling the pot and gaps, give your bonsai tree a good watering. Provide enough watering so that all the soil gets wet and water runs out of the drainage holes.

When to Repot a bonsai tree?

Repotting should be done routinely. Repotting of the tree depends on the species of bonsai, the size of the original pot, the tree’s age, and growing conditions. However, the younger tree needs repotting every 2 years, whereas the older or mature tree is more every 3 to 5 years.

The key indicator is to look at the roots to know when to repot. The tree needs repotting if the roots circle the root system. In the early spring, evaluate the roots and decide whether it needs repotting. If roots are well contained in the soil, you can leave the repotting until the next year.


1. What is the best time to repot the bonsai tree?

Late winter is the best time to repot a bonsai tree. Generally, repotting is done in mid-February. During the winter, the bonsai is dormant, and the tree rests for the spring. 
During the growing season, repotting can be stressful for your bonsai plant. Therefore, pruning of roots should be done just before the growing season begins because that is when roots end and begins to repair themselves. 
If you prune roots in early dormancy, the root will remain unhealed and open and susceptible to root rot and diseases.

2. Why should I repot my bonsai tree?

A bonsai tree is grown in a very small container. Its entire world is bound by the dimension of a small bonsai container that can quickly become root-bound. As the tree grows, the root system takes the place of what used to be soil.
A bonsai plant cannot grow well if it does not have a proportionate amount of soil. As new roots develop, older roots become ineffective and should be pruned off.

3. How often should I repot?

Usually, once a year for young bonsai trees and up to every three years for mature trees. You won’t know until you evaluate the roots, but most bonsai trees are repotted every February. Moreover, they can be potted again if needed.

4. Should I put my bonsai tree in a big container?

Not necessarily. Repotting does not always mean replacing the container; consider it as replacing the soil

5. Does cutting the root hurt the bonsai tree?

Yes, pretty much. But pruning and combing bonsai’s roots does not mean cutting the roots. Instead, the purpose is to prune back ineffective old and new roots if they have become too long.

6. What kind of soil should I use for the bonsai trees?

You can use a potting medium that is specifically blended for bonsai. Also, they are worth the money. They are balanced and mixed so that your bonsai is well-drained.
You can also get one that has been “double sifted,” which means the big chunks of stuff have been sifted out. For example, dust from peat moss can choke out tender new root growth.


Repotting is a vital process while growing a bonsai tree. It keeps your tree healthy and thriving in a small pot. But the most important thing to keep in mind while repotting is the timing. The early spring is the best time to repot your bonsai tree, just before the growing season starts.

If you are a beginner, repotting will first look like a scary attempt. But with the steps mentioned above, you can do it correctly. 
Moreover, if you need help, don’t hesitate to contact us at Abanahomes. We will be glad to help you in your bonsai journey.

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