New to bonsai, air layer propagations into pots or into the ground?

Dagon

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Hello, I am very new to bonsai and I live in N. California Sacramento Valley. I am trying to find some good species to work with in my area so I thought I would harvest from some established trees. I have several cherry trees, Japanese maple, wisteria, and juniper on my property that I am attempting to air layer to get new trees from. I just started the air layering yesterday. I am looking forward to getting those trees started. Does anyone have advise on whether to plant these new trees in the ground or in pots to get them growing for bonsai? Also any opinions on net pots vs regular pots vs grow bags.

This is my first attempt at air layering, I wanted to get thicker branches to have a nice thick trunk to start with, most branches are about 2-3 cm in diameter, I also selected branches that had a nice shape or branched just beyond the propagation site. Any advice on how to select branches for bonsai when air layering?
 

Wires_Guy_wires

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Put them in the ground if you want thickening. Put them in pots if you want to do anything else. Pots allow for more control but their size restrcits growth to a certain extent.

I have some plants in bags, but I prefer plastic.. Bags move too much and the soil shifts with it. Terra cotta is cheap and does wonders because it breathes, I'm transitioning everything to unglazed terracotta because of that trait.

As for selecting branches, good bends and low branches are spot on. But you can always wire a branch and then air layer it; instant bonsai!
 

BrianBay9

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It may be a bit late in the year to expect to separate before winter. Be patient. If they don't have enough roots you can leave them on the tree until next spring.
 

sorce

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Daggun @Dagon, no offense, but this entire process needs reevaluating.

Welcome to Crazy!

My first thought reading the title was....neither, you can prepare a propagation container in a manner in which you don't have to do anything but sever the base flush with the bottom of the container and set it down. No risk messing with roots whatsoever.


Further, the best thing about an airlayer, is it allows the acquisition of something as close to a finished tree as possible, and I'd argue the safest too, if you remove all risk of course.

Removing something that was basically in the ground, to put it back in the ground, is not only (whatever word you choose to call it after you read that), but also tacks on some unnecessary moving risks, risks of roots getting too large for design, dog pee, blah blah blah....

Let the tree in the ground already power the creation of a right nice piece of damn near finished new tree. Then layer it!

Pics!

Sorce
 

Dagon

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Good advice, I like the idea of shaping the branch by wiring and trimming on the tree, layering it then separating. I thought I might be able to thicken the branch more once it is removed from the tree but that may be faulty thinking. Yes it is a bit late for me to be layering but I got excited about the idea and figured I would give it a try. @Wires_Guy_wires , why would you prefer terra cotta over a plastic net pot? I figured the net pot would allow more air to the roots for air pruning, terra cotta breathes but you can still get swirling roots in those types of pots. What is the real advantage of the "breathability" of terra cotta? ( I have lots of terra cotta and I LOVE it, mainly just for the look)
 

Wires_Guy_wires

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For some reason I can explain, fungi and soil microbes love terracotta. They love the air, humidity, slow transition from wet to damp to dry, they get time to adjust and prepare that daily routine and they quite literally will thrive.
My conifers do amazing in terra cotta and other unglazed clays, not so well in plastic.
Net pots are cheap too, and they can do a good job. But for bonsai soils, they're a bit too airy for my taste. If you can keep up the watering, sure, they're good. If you have a work schedule, then they can become problematic. This is a personal preference though! I have some pond baskets and they do their job well enough. But the kind of root systems I pull out of clay pots are just a lot healthier.
The thing with pots and especially conifers with sensitive roots, is that movement is a bad thing. My pond baskets are pretty flexible, and my soil with granite and lava rock can get pretty heavy. I have killed trees by lifting a pond basked twice in the same week. That's too much of a risk for me.

There is no wrong in the bonsai world, there's just preferences and personal convictions. So I'm not saying you can't or shouldn't.. I just have a strong preference for whatever works for me.
 

Shibui

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There are so many variables in layers that I don't think it is possible to make a one size fits all recommendation.
Layers with plenty of roots can go straight into the ground if you think that would be beneficial to increase trunk thickness etc. but some layers will be removed with fewer roots. Pots will usually give better options to control care so will be a better option for those that appear weaker or need special help.

Not all layers are of well formed material. Often layering is used to propagate special varieties, not always ready formed bonsai. In that case ground growing is a valuable route to follow.
I've found that even branches that look really good on a garden tree suddenly look far less attractive when it has been potted up. I've never actually had a worthwhile bonsai from a layer off any garden tree without years of growing and improving after removal. Most were soon passed on to others as I recognized the many faults and problems with the structure, shape or lack of taper.
Best layers have only come from existing bonsai for me as bonsai have usually been developed with shape, taper and shorter internodes in mind.

Removing something that was basically in the ground, to put it back in the ground, is not only (whatever word you choose to call it after you read that), but also tacks on some unnecessary moving risks, risks of roots getting too large for design, dog pee, blah blah blah....
This does not make sense to me. I frequently dig trees from the grow beds and replant them back again. Root pruning far from unneccesary risk. It can be valuable to manage and improve nebari. Pruning the trunk and branches is also far easier when the tree is out of the ground. IMHO more growers should be practicing dig and replant for ground grown trees.
 

sorce

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from the grow beds and replant them back again.

....🙄...I know, you do it the BEST!😊

I appreciate that, I just personally don't like the risk I have in association with it. I guess I'm largely against ground growing because the majority of ground growers act as if it's a set it and forget it ordeal, you've overcome this problem to the....you're the only person I know who puts the WORK into the effort.

I would think @Dagon would take all this advice and formulate a large action plan, built with bits of each.

Practice first of course, cause without it, you will have a bunch of ready made to layer trees on a ground joint that will die upon removal.

Take the first, say, all the cuttings needed to start developing on tree material as layers, and throw them in the ground. 4-10 practices. A couple years.

Then with confidence go after the larger stuff that has been created.

The most difficult thing to explain for me, especially with your excellent method standing in a very sensible defiance of my more lazy idea....

Is this method of utilizing airpruning baskets to do this root ground work. Which are both methods to keep the Nebari from becoming overly large. Which also has to be one of the best reasons to take layers in the first place, a surface root spread that is much smaller in proportion to the trunk that you can achieve with really any other method.
I key into this idea because of all the overly large roots that most people end up with from NOT putting in the ground work you do. This is one of the largest aesthetic problems for me.

I know that baskets/airpruning pots take probably twice as long, but they save enough face in the dirt time to start so many more, and I still haven't found an instance in any aesthetic adventure where going snail slow doesn't end up making a better product.

I guess I'm rather odd, and quite contradictory in that, I am a freak to "do it fast", which I guess is, "better material" for me, (on tree layer building)is just "faster" material.

Then that time saved allows for the much slower, and less risky IME, basket growing.

This way, I land still with finished product in the same timeline, only with much less work and aesthetic defects of fast growing.

🤔

I guess the overlying point is ....

Skin more cats than this dude!

Then fall into the method that works best for your, soil, schedule, aesthetic ends...joy, etc.

Sorce
 

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