Potting a shrub for Bonsai(Black Locust)

Dex

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Hi all. This is my first post. I'm relatively new to Bonsai. I had one about a year ago that didn't make it due to lack of sunlight. I had kept my fig indoors a little to far from the window. I overwatered it as well, because I wasn't really sure what rules to follow for such a small bonsai.

Anyway, I have two new specimens that I am working with now. I bought a small juniper(about 4") and just this weekend picked up a Black Locust shrub.

My question is regarding the new shrub I picked up. I want to take it from it's 4 gallon container down into something wider and not so deep. How much can I downsize from the container it is in without harming the plant? The shrub is about 3 feet tall from the top of the soil.

Also of anyone has any experience with Black Locust and has any tips or good advice, it would be appreciated. Ive read online that this is a rare tree to use as a bonsai, but the trunk growth really interested me.
 

treebeard55

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Welcome to the forum, and to bonsai! You probably want to include your location in the info everyone can see: this gives others an idea of your climate conditions, and we can give more-informed replies to any questions. You don't have to be specific if you don't want to; something like "north-central Ohio," for example, is good enough.

... the trunk growth really interested me.
Go for it. You are the artist!

I don't have any specific experience with Black Locust (Robinia pseudacacia?), but as a general rule it's best not to repot a deciduous tree/shrub while the new leaves are developing. The best time is when the leaf buds are just starting to swell. If they start to actually open, so that you can distinguish individual leaves (bud burst,) then it's best to wait and let the new leaves develop. Once the foliage has matured -- turned a deeper green -- you can repot. Again, that's a general rule.

That's what I'm doing with a crabapple. By the time I got some other, more urgent repottings done, its new leaves were unfolding. So I'm waiting until the new leaves mature (probably late May) and then I'll repot as soon as they do.
 

Bill S

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Going from a 4 gal. can to a bonsai pot will most likely need at least a couple of rootmass reductions, in order to keep it alive, look at repotting articles they are many and give good info as to the procedures. But if you can, I'd say try to hook up with others local to you, there are bonsai clubs all over the place, good chance you aren't too far away from one.
 

Dex

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Location updated and now viewable. The foilage seems pretty full right now, but I'll give it a little more time before potting to be safe. Thanks for that tip. I'm still wondering how small of a pot I can fit it in. I'll be buying a pot soon, and I don't want to go to small, but 4 gallons seems a little big. Can I drop to a 2 gallon pot, or is that to much? Problem is I can't see how much the roots take up in the plastic shrub holder. I'm assuming I should remove a third of them anyway. I'll be using Sphagnum peat moss and some type of gravel when I go to pot.
 

treebeard55

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Dex, Bill has a good point about reducing the root mass in stages. From what you say about its size, I wouldn't plan to get it into a permanent pot this year. Better to be patient then kill it. Besides, you'll want a chance to (hopefully) spread out the surface roots for a future good nebari.

On the the other fork of the branch, it's hard to guess sometimes what's below the soil level, when you're dealing with a general-nursery shrub. I've learned from experience to have several sizes of container handy the first time I pull it out of the nursery pot!
 

Dex

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I was trying to load a photo on here from my iPhone but I'm having trouble doing it. I pruned the tree yesterday. I used wood glue to seal the wounds, as I've read that it works the same as cut paste, sealing it off from the elements. I will buy a little bit bigger pot for now. I'd like the trunk to thicken up a bit anyway.

If I've just pruned it, how long should I wait until pruning again? I'm pretty sure I want to remove a little more off the top, but I didn't want to do to much at first(I'm nervous to kill the tree, and ruin it's appearance). I'm kind of disappointed to learn that it's not wise to wire this type of tree, but I'll be finding another shrub to work with soon I'm sure. I was at the Tyler Arboretum when I came across this tree and jumped on it without knowing anything about it, other than a quick search reassuring me that it can be used for bonsai.

I've found a Bonsai club near me but they meet on Friday nights and I work then, so no luck there. One other one I've come across seems to have been disbanded or something. The Brandywine Bonsai Society has a site, but it doesn't look like it's been updated for a couple years. I'll keep looking. It'd be nice to have someone local to talk to, but for now I'm glad I've at least found this forum. Next chance I get to load a picture from a computer I will post one for you all to view.
 

Bill S

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First off get putting this in a "bonsai" pot, out of your head for a while, branch growing and root making require more room than the pot that this will go in the end has available, and putting it in a too big of a pot put the roots at risk to rot.

Bonsai pactitioners will tell you that patience is one of the major skills that needs to be kept in the fore front, don't get ahead of yourself. Pruning after pruning isn't a great idea, depending on species, and your location among other things. Keep reading when you get tired and confused read some more, there are a lot of twists and turns, hopefully some in your trunks and branches too.

I'll get you an e-mail for Brandywine, I am pretty sure they are still active.
 

Dex

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Pictures




I wanted to show you all what I'm working with. Here are two pictures. Let me know what you think.

I'm kind of dissapointed I can't put it in a pot yet. If I chose a pot as large as the nursery pot, would it be okay to move it over then? I don't have to put it in a bonsai pot. I'd like to have it looking nice in the back yard, though if it will hurt the plant, I'll leave it as is.
 

treebeard55

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Nice-looking piece of material! I particularly like the trunk movement.

If you want to move it into a pot large enough that the root mass wouldn't be disturbed, you could do that. If you wait until the leaves mature, you could do a light root pruning and move it into something maybe 10% smaller.

Frankly, I wouldn't advise you to do any more this year, especially since you are still a beginner. (No offense intended.) The only exception, IMHO, would be if someone with years of experience with this species were to say otherwise.
 
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Dex

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No offense taken at all. I am taking in everything you guys tell me. I've been non-stop reading since I've purchased this plant. I've learned a good deal in the last two days. I'm glad you like it though. It makes me feel more confident in my pick. I'll definitely be cautious not to disturb the roots much if I do repot. Should I be pruning for ramification, or should that wait as well? I know this plant grows very fast. Not sure if it would get out of control if I let it go without maintenance pruning. Or would it be called pinching?
 

treebeard55

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... I am taking in everything you guys tell me. I've been non-stop reading since I've purchased this plant. I've learned a good deal in the last two days....
Excellent! Kudos to you! Not everyone is so willing to learn.

As for pruning or pinching, I would do nothing further this year except to pinch out the terminal bud of each branch if the tree is growing well. Remember that repotting, serious pruning, significant bending, are all traumatic to the plant. A good analogy is the effect of surgery on a human body. The surgery is necessary, but still per se a trauma. So you need to make sure the tree is healthy enough (which yours does appear to be, from the pics,) and that you don't create too many traumas too close together.

That principle stated, I think I should reiterate that I have no personal experience with this species. I speak from general experience with plants and bonsai. Species differ when it comes to how much work they can tolerate in a given amount of time; a Ficus or a trident maple can bounce right back from a heckuva lot more trauma in one year than most pines can take. So if someone with several years' personal experience with this species weighs in, I'll defer to them. And expect to learn something myself in the process! :)
 

logan3

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Black Locust

First of all, Black Locust limbs are pretty brittle so take care wiring. Next the soil mix you mentioned doesn't sound to good. Your soil mix is going to be very important to the health of your tree.As for your pot you might want to try a Korean Mica pot , they are cheap and will last along time I've used them for training pots for years. Check out Wee Tree Farms or Bonsai Mart online. They both sell the pots and pre-mixed bonsai soil. Good luck with your tree. Pete
 

Dex

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Bill, I found an email for the Brandywine Bonsai Society and emailed them asking for information on how to join. I'm hoping they can direct me to some good places to shop for bonsai material and tools as well. I will check out Bonsai Mart and Wee Tree Farms. I'm actually starting not to mind the tree being in it's nursery container, as I really just want the tree to remain healthy. I will look into doing a slight root reduction as was suggested and maybe downsize the pot a bit to prepare it for further downsizing, but I may wait until Fall or at least mid-summer.
 
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