Root Bound Ficus

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I recently purchased a ficus tree bonsai...a New England Bonsai Tree. It was in a very small pot. Wiring secured the 18" high tree through the drain holes in the pottery. I want to trim the roots and replant in a larger pot. The problem is the soil is compacted and hard as a rock. I soaked the soil for two hours, but it did not soften at all. Has any one dealt with a root bound bonsai like this? What is the best way to get to the roots for a trim and then repotting. Thanks for any help you can provide.
 

Bill S

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See photo below, and don't be squeemish, it works, and the tree doesn't skip a beat.
 

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Mike423

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While watering down the soil can make it softer I would recommend doing the root work with it dry. This is due to the fact that when wet it will clump together forming bigger balls on the roots when broken apart and cause more stress on them when removing it (not to mention the huge mess). I would say just wait until the soil is mostly dry pull the plant out of the pot (after cutting loose the wire securing it in the pot) and if the plant looks like it has a generally healthy root system other than the fact that its root bound cut off all the roots encircling the pot. Then just slowly and as gently as possible chip away at the soil using a chop stick or root hook.
 

LordEOfBeckley

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I was going to suggest something similar to Bill... my "ficus retusa" is going to get that (or the chainsaw) treatment in August.
 

Bill S

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Just go back with a sharp knife and clean up the jagged cuts that will happen, drier is probably a better time for it as well.
 

jk_lewis

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Yes. Just saw off the bottom 2/3 of the roots.
 

october

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Hello and welcome to bonsai fhoffman2011... I would recommend first cutting the wires that hold the tree in, then gently try to lift it out of the pot. If it will not come out, do not force it. Get a knife or other thin blade and go all around the inside edge where the root ball meets the interior wall all along the pot. You should be able to pull it out then. At this point you might need a saw, however, you will definitely need a chop stick. Try starting from the bottom edge of the root ball and work your way around. If you cannot even get the chopstick in, try sawing off 1/3 or 30% of the root ball. Now, with the cut root ball, see if you can go along the edge along the bottom and work your way around. As you are working around, start working up as well. If you keep going around, eventually all the tangled roots will become untangled as you go to the top. After you have this stringy mass of roots, maybe trim the ends a bit more than put it in some good soil in it's new pot.

NE Bonsai sells tropical and sub tropical soil. You would want to either use that or another soil that is meant for tropicals.

I hope this was helpful.

Rob
 
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I root cuttings off my ficus bonsai's with about a 90 percent rate with just spagnum moss, no hormones... If you end up having to canniablize it, wrap the wounds in spagnum moss, keep moist, not wet. Ficus rot extremely fast with excess water, keep it out of the direct sun for a couple of weeks, or more. I have had to do the very same thing with most of my ficus orientals, which usually by the time I get them, they have been in the pot for way to long. One of them I pretty much stumped, I wrapped it with moss using a plastic grocery bag and some twine, poked some holes for drainage and good air circulation, kept it moist (watering about once a week) out of the full sun, it took off. Make sure you wrap it tight and secure, so when it starts rooting there is no movement and breakage, also use a clear bag, so you can see. HOPEFULLY, you don't have to go this far, but if you do don't worry ficus can overcome just about everything except excess root water, or the dreaded freezing temps!!! Which here in Florida sneek up in the middle of the night... Good luck!!!
 

Bill S

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:D Stacy gotta call you on the freezing temps sneaking up on you over night, I am up in Mass and the other nite when they said temps in the 30's I rolled over and said, well might drop a couple of leaves, you guys must have dropped to 60, did you have enough blankets.:D

Pretty good info otherwise.:cool:
 
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no, what I was getting at with the freezing temps... is that when you live up north you know about sept - october to start making prep for bringing plants inside... we here in florida are use to keeping ours outside majority of the year, end up running out in the middle of the night trying to bring them in... and tropicals are the worst... we did get snow in Orlando though???
 
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