No poem is lovelier than a tree and no tree is lovelier than a bonsai. This small majestic plant symbolizes the skills and creativity of a culture which are handed down from thousands of years ago.

Just like a standard tree structure, the bonsai is made up of leaves, stems, trunks, even fruits and flowers for some varieties, and roots. Any method of caring for any part of the plant manifests itself on the general health of the bonsai.

However, caring for its root structure produces the most obvious results. The bonsai grows healthy leaves, bears tasty fruits and springs colorful flowers when in bloom. Caring for the roots involves many steps which are in addition to the typical task of watering.

From feeding the roots to pruning, extra care has to be exerted because of the natural fragileness of bonsai plants. Right pressure and amounts of water, fertilizer and compost have to be applied in order to grow them healthy and strong.

Remember that pruning the roots determines the development of the plant into a bonsai. It is also a necessary step before repotting the bonsai. Following the correct methods in pruning can result in bonsai plants that follow the planned aesthetics and last for hundreds of years.

Root Pruning Tips

How much root should actually be pruned away? This is practically the most basic question that beginners will ask. Considering that they are working on a new tree, it is more likely that the root system is still the standard

one seen on a sapling or a tree that has yet been cultivated for bonsai.

To answer the question, one must determine several points like the tree’s species or variety, its age, the current season when the pruning will be done, and the environmental conditions like location and weather.

It is worth noting that spring is the best time to repot the bonsai and simultaneously prune the roots. This season is the time when nature begins a new life.

    • A basic rule is to gradually clip or prune the roots. Do not attempt to cut away a root that may seem out of place especially when the tree is still fresh. It is likely that the plant will go in shock and may not react well to succeeding treatment and care.


    • Stick to large roots first. Shorten the larger roots and prune any that lie on top of another one. Keep the finer roots intact.
    • Cut the larger roots further back to allow the growth of finer roots.


    • Do not cut the root in order to fit into a smaller sized pot. This will influence the amount of roots that will be cut away. Instead, use a bigger pot or tray if the plant and its root system are still too large to fit in a smaller container.
    • Use sharp tools in order to immediately cut away any root that needs to be trimmed. This will minimize putting the plant under stress and into shock.


    • Spray the roots with water while pruning. This will keep them moist before they are settled in on a new pot or tray.

Ideal Root Structure

In judging the true beauty of a bonsai, the roots play an important role. These generally serve as indicators on the overall health of the plant. Strong roots mean a sturdy plant that is not just sticking out from the ground but has a solid foundation underneath.

As a rule, the root structure should be exposed. This part is referred to as the “Nebari” or “buttressing.” The latter is used as an aesthetic guideline on the spread or flare of the roots from the base of the plant.

Bonsai roots should appear more wheel-like. This means that they radiate away from the base of the trunk. However, the whole structure should not be far away from the tree. The structure refers to the small, fine roots that should exhibit coherence around the inside of the tray or pot.

Exposed root should overlap one another. They have to stick to the wheel-structure in which the pokes radiate away from the center. This can be prevented with the use of proper tools while running away parts of the roots.

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