Anyone use air pots for training?

Bruce Elliott

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I'm curious to know anyone else's experience using air pots as training pots. I started using them a year or two ago, but I haven't yet repotted a tree from one of them, so I don't know yet how the root development will turn out. I first learned about them from Graham Potter of Kaizen Bonsai, and they sound perfect for bonsai development, but I still don't see too many people using them.

For anyone who might not be familiar with them, they are plastic pots that have numerous openings all around surface of the pots. Here are the claimed benefits:
  • The numerous openings promote air flow, bringing plenty of oxygen to the roots.
  • Roots are directed by the shape of the walls into the holes, where they are exposed to the air, dry out, and are "air pruned". This prevents the typical spiral wrapping of the roots as they encircle traditional pots.
  • Because the roots are not allowed to grow long, new root growth is promoted near the base of the tree, which is exactly what we want for bonsai.
  • Because the roots are shorter, the transport of nutrients from feeder roots to the main plant is faster, promoting more vigorous growth.
The ones branded Superoots and Ultra Oxy are similar, consisting of flat sheets that you roll into cylinders and fasten to make pots. There are also rigid pots that have fluted slots rather than spiky holes. I've used only the spiky ones.

The only disadvantage I see is that the increased air flow can potentially lead to the roots drying out faster, so you have to stay on top of your watering routine even more than usual.

Anyone else tried them?
 

LittleDingus

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I've used them. They worked as advertised on a few cork oaks.

Then I switched to grow bags. Media doesn't slip out the holes...I like DE for growing out ant it is generally a finer particle size. They are a lot cheaper. Still lots of air to the roots but don't dry out as fast...which it can get windy here so that's nice. Overall, I find the grow bags fit my "style" better.

I think many on here will suggest collanders or pond baskets as cheaper alternatives that work roughly the same as air pots...
 

Bruce Elliott

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.. I switched to grow bags. ... They are a lot cheaper. Still lots of air to the roots but don't dry out as fast...which it can get windy here so that's nice. Overall, I find the grow bags fit my "style" better.

I think many on here will suggest collanders or pond baskets as cheaper alternatives that work roughly the same as air pots...
Yes - the Ultra Oxy and Superoots pots are crazy expensive on-line (considering what they are), but I found them locally at a hydroponics store for much less - a couple bucks per pot. I had been considering colanders before that.
 

LittleDingus

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Yes - the Ultra Oxy and Superoots pots are crazy expensive on-line (considering what they are), but I found them locally at a hydroponics store for much less - a couple bucks per pot. I had been considering colanders before that.

I forget which brand I have...one of the sheets you wrap into a pot. They seem to take UV and winter cold pretty well. I had a couple of cork oak in them for about 2 years.

Colanders aren't made for the weather. I find they break down too fast.

I never tried pond baskets. I'd expect them to hold up some.

I have some grow bags going into year 3. Still holding up very well. I have many I've emptied and filled with other things. I've only had one tear on me. The tree was frozen to the ground and the bag tore near the handle.

I bought some for the grandkids to grow their first garden in. Grandpa planted the same things they did to compare. They live in another state so it was fun to do the video thing to plant and check progress, etc... :D

My only wish is that they would break down eventually...as in biodegrade. The bags I get claim to be recycled bottles. If that's true, at least I'm not filling the world with new plastic...old plastic is bad enough. I've looked at hemp bags but then we're back into ultra expensive. I wouldn't mind that so much but they are also hard to find reliably :(
 

Vance Wood

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Note my Avatar screen left. That is a photo of my invention patented in the late 80's that is a true air pot. The concept as you can see was easily stolen so I stoped making them but yes they do work well.
 

Pj86

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I'm giving them a try this year. Went with a 50/50 pumice, composted pine bark mix shifted through a 1/4 mesh screen. The goal is to use them as an intermediate pot before a bonsai pot. I was able to find suitable shape ones that once they are ready to transfer to a nice bonsai pot it will be easy. Here is an example of a Black Gum (Nyssa sylvatica).

DSC06886.JPG
 

Bruce Elliott

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Pj86 - that looks great. I do the same - from nursery pot or the ground to an air pot, then eventually to a bonsai pot.

The shape isn't critical, though, since you can put the bottom at any height you choose when you put the pot together. I've got a juniper that came to me in a shallow plastic nursery pot, so rather than giving it more depth than it had been used to, I set the bottom of the pot around 4" below the top edge. The result is about the same as yours, it just sits up higher over an empty space.
 

Pj86

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Pj86 - that looks great. I do the same - from nursery pot or the ground to an air pot, then eventually to a bonsai pot.

The shape isn't critical, though, since you can put the bottom at any height you choose when you put the pot together. I've got a juniper that came to me in a shallow plastic nursery pot, so rather than giving it more depth than it had been used to, I set the bottom of the pot around 4" below the top edge. The result is about the same as yours, it just sits up higher over an empty space.

Yea, did that with a few others that I want to work on their root system for 1-2 years before putting them in the ground.
 

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