Satsuki repotting

Mike Jones

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Hi all

Sorry to jump straight in with a thought, but didn't see a 'say hello' section (does anyone read them anyway?:)

Over the past couple of decades I have had some wonderful Satsuki that sadly died. All were fine until it came to repotting. I've not ever done a bare rooted repot because I never really felt it was appropriate for my trees. All were fine year after year until repotting time.

I know ... the first thought must be I don't have a 'scoob'y about technique. There comes a double edged sword which I'll explain in a moment.

So I have three very nice satsuki, gyouten & two kaho. I have had them for three years and I am going to repot this season but not post flowering; I was intending to do this around about the first week of April (UK) remove almost all flower buds and repot. I use Kanuma, sifted, graded large at the base and smaller as you get towards the rim; I mix in about 10% Sphagnum moss chopped to a good size. On every occasion I have not bare rooted as I felt the root ball was healthy in all cases ... but, all of my earlier repots have been undertaken post flowering. Oh each tree was given a layer of chopped sphagnum to aid humidity.

This time I felt pre-flowering seemed sensible. My question is: To bare root repot or not. If not I would remove around 20% of the depth of the root ball, 20% from the sides and carefully work the surface roots; all the time looking for any damaged roots to remove.

So I would be really grateful if anyone could give me their opinion on bare root pot on or not.

So, now comes the reason/s for the losses I have had. I always felt it was the following Winter, we have had some bad ones these past few years here; and I am in the South West, 'traditionally' milder Winters .... NOT.

I did over winter in an unheated greenhouse and checked for watering once every 2-3 weeks or so, refraining if not required. Indeed when repotted I would drench once and then wait until the tree needed it and also refrained from feeding for 8-10 weeks. Trees tied in using chopsticks for anchor points to save surface or base roots getting damaged. But they all have died. And one was a noted tree ... sigh.

The one thing they all share in common is when I repotted I would soak the root ball in a (here we go, I've been dreading saying this) ... solution of superthrive, around 3-4ml to 5 litres (gallon, near as), pot up and water with a fine rose with the remaining solution containing ST.

OK, I've stopped using it now and have been trialling an organic product especially designed for root stress after repotting from the Netherlands. Far to early to tell, but so far so good (not a rubber boot waved over either Will) nor am I rubbing the pot three times with my left palm whilst standing on one leg.

Repotting 'was' being undertaken in all cases post flowering (I know tree exhausted but all teachings I had studied suggested this other than a weak tree).

ST was used in all cases and I further used ST as a foliar mist to keep humidity going. I am aware of just about everything being said on ST from both sides I should say.

Trees were kept in dappled shade after repotting for 4 weeks, an hour in the morning sun directly and late afternoon. Other than that they were protected from wind, rain and sun. Pots were kept cool.

Apart from the obvious that the ST killed them, what do you think?

Oh and bare root on my three Satsuki or not for repot coming soon?

I suppose I should have added that I have managed many-many repots of varying species of Bonsai and collected material, every single one has survived. yes I used ST on them in the same way.

Thanks

Mike
 
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rockm

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It ain't the Supethrive. It is mostly useless and ineffective at best...It doesn't do any harm, but then it doesn't do any good either. Most likely it is a soil and root pruning issue.
 

Attila Soos

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I would never bare-root an old Satsuki. I have one that is very old (and a few younger ones).

Removing the botton 20% makes sense, and it has to be done.

As to removing from the side of the root-pad, I would cut narrow wedges into it (may be 4 wedges on each side), and leave the rest of the roots intact. This way, there are significant portions of the roots that have not been touched, and the plant can function uninterrupted, without any shock.

I don't touch the top part of the root-pad at all. I have a nice nebari already, and there is moss growing on the top of the soil. No need to disturb that.

I also lost a majestic Satsuki about 7 years ago, due to a bad case of old Kanuma soil that became mud, and waterlogged the plant. That was a recently imported plant, so there was nothing that I could have done. But I've been repotting them ever since, with no problems.
 
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capnk

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Mike,
Early spring is the best time to repot.
No need to bareroot. The plan to remove 20% is the way to go. We use the root texture as the key. Cut back around all sides and bottom to the point that the roots have a stiff texture like a big push broom. Also, don't forget the top dressing. Satsuki produce lots of surface roots and depend on them. Need to take off about an inch of the top soil/roots - depends on the root structure. Then redress the top with a generous layer of yamagoke or whatever moss you have available.

Re the flower buds: don't remove them to soon. Leave them on the tree until they just start to break and show color. Then is the time to remove them.

That's my 2 bits based on lessons from Master Nakayama and 10 years of maintaining several specimen quality satsuki. Hope that helps.
Chris
 

jk_lewis

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To bare root repot or not.
In a word: NOT.

An azalea's roots are different from most other tree or shrub roots, with a heavy may of tiny capillary roots in between the larger ones. Lose these and the tree loses its ability to absorb nutrients.

Listen to Atilla. The wedges cut into the sides of the rootball is the way to go.

Frankly, though, and for future reference, the next time you plant to repot, remove all the buds as soon as they form. The tree has expended a heckuva lot of evergy in forming those buds. Blooming itself takes almost none. But if your plants are healthy, you'll be fine. (If it isn't healthy, don't repot.)

And Rockm is right. It ain't the Superthrive. The only things that benefit from Superthrive are the makers and sellers.

Good luck.
 

Mike423

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"It ain't the Supethrive. It is mostly useless and ineffective at best...It doesn't do any harm, but then it doesn't do any good either. Most likely it is a soil and root pruning issue."

I agree Superthrive really has no practical use in bonsai. The only instance it works is when applied to a plant that has been deprived of nutrients and other elements (which isn't the case with bonsai that are regularly fertilized and taken care of). I have also been told that flower bud removal on the year of repotting is the way to go. Gives the tree that energy it uses twords flowering to recover faster.
 

satsuki

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The best time to repot a satsuki is right before it starts to push growth after dormancy. This is not set time of year, but you know when to when the trees tell you.

When you repot dont let the tree flower!

Good Luck! And dont bareroot.

Andrew
 

Mike Jones

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Many thanks everyone. Indeed then your comments have been really helpful; bare rooting it is not then.

The only area I feel a bit uncomfortable with is the top layer/surface roots, you still maintain it is OK to carefully disturb?

Everything else seems plain enough sailing.

Mike
 

mcpesq817

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Just out of curiosity, how often do you repot satsukis? Last spring I repotted a shohin akemi-no-tsuki that I bought from Dave Kreutz. I actually bare-rooted it and did some good pruning to improve the nebari, and put it into a fresh batch of kanuma with no problems. Maybe I just got lucky, so I would follow the advice of others with a lot more experience when they tell you not to bareroot.

I haven't seen many of this variety out there, but I can say that it's a very slow grower (not sure about the root growth though).
 

Mike Jones

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Just out of curiosity, how often do you repot satsukis?
Only when they need it. Small ones maybe once in 2-3 years, large specimens, 3-5 with 5 being the absolute maximum.

Mike
 

mcpesq817

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Only when they need it. Small ones maybe once in 2-3 years, large specimens, 3-5 with 5 being the absolute maximum.

Mike
Thanks - that's very helpful :D
 

Si Nguyen

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I will echo what everyone had said. Don't bare root, and maybe don't even remove any roots at all if the tree is not in best of health. But, in the process of repotting, try to remove most of the old soil from the center of the root ball at least once in the beginning of your ownership, especially for recently imported trees (like what Atilla said). The old soil gets compacted, anaerobic, and accumulates too much salts, and becomes a dead zone that slowly weakens your tree. The old moss in the soil tends to dry out and become water repellent too, making it very difficult to get water into the middle of the root ball. So even though you don't bareroot a tree, you still should try to comb out the old soil, at least once. Removing all the accumulated salts in the old soil is very rejuvenating for the trees. For old dried root balls, I would soak the pot in water for about an hour, then wait one day, then use a small chopstick to work the old soil out of the center of the root ball slowly and carefully. This should take many hours.

I have killed a few specimen satsukis too. That's the only way to learn this stuff. With your many dead trees, you should be able to examine them and figure out exactly what went wrong. You mentioned that you checked their water status only every 2-3 weeks while they were in cold storage. This doesn't seem often enough. You should check them daily and water them at least once every 2-3 days, even in cold storage. Because after 1-2 weeks without watering, the root ball becomes too dry and actually become water repellent. Then when you come along and water only from the top, the water will just run off to the sides and won't soak into the center of the root ball. After about 2-3 watering cycles like that, in just 1-2 months, the center of root ball gets completely dead. Then you go and repot the tree and cut off the outer part of the rootball, the only part that was alive. That's what killed them! So when the tree is not in the best of health, or has a dead root ball in the center, it is safest to NOT cut away any live roots on the outer edges. Transplanting a healthy tree is different than transplanting a sick tree. You just have to know how healthy your tree is.

Ask yourself a few questions in the post-mortem analysis of your dead trees. Were they in declining health before the repotting? Did you do anything else other that just the root work in the repotting? Did you use fertilisers immediately after root work? I know there are people who said it doesn't matter. But in my post-mortem analyses, and learning from our local Japanese masters, I'd say don't ever fertilize a tree immediately after repotting or any kind of root cutting. Treat them like they are seedlings or cuttings. Wait a few months until you see some good foliage growth, then use only organic fertilizers for the first few years. When you have a strong root ball, it can stand chemical fertilizers.
Sorry for the long reply, but this thread covers too many different topics. Post-mortem analysis of trees is actually very interesting.
Good luck!
Si
 
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Bill S

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Welcome aboard.

I'll add skip the layer of chopped moss on top, it dries out with out wind, and will wick moisture out of the pot. It is important to not let the dry out, they don't like wet all the time, but smaller azaleas roots are fairly fine and can dry out .

On S.T., Nick Lenz doesn't believe it is all harmless.
 

mcpesq817

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Dave Kreutz, who works primarily with satsukis (I think Andrew also studies with him) recommends using chopped yamagoki moss on top of his satsukis. I would follow Kreutz's advice on that. I've used chopped moss on my satsuki the last couple of years and never saw any wicking or drying issues.
 

Mike Jones

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Thank you Si; my reply whilst short is lengthy in the gratitude for what you have included in your post. You have given me some food for thought here.

I would guess your suggestions for more frequent watering during this time while over-wintered is based on it is impossible to over water if it drains well? I understand the repelling that you explained.

One trait in common that I do tend to get with Satsuki; is I find around 30% (ish) of new leaves that arrived last year gained brown tips very quickly. I would consider this a sign of over or under watering?

I fully accept that the leaves fall and turn when doing so. However I note some of the very tiny new signs of life by way of very tiny leaves are already demonstrating this brown tip to the ends.

If compacted, I would assume there is going to be a lack of space for oxygen, I have investigated brown tips without much degree of success; I am just thinking out loud here; could it be lack of oxygen or, salts as you mention may be possible.

Bill

Thanks. I use Sphagnum mainly because I happen to know the Japanese generally swear by this method. Notwithstanding of course, we do not enjoy the same level of humidity.

Mike
 

rockm

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"On S.T., Nick Lenz doesn't believe it is all harmless."

Having been a newbie who thought this stuff was a miracle cure for just about everything for years, I can say it is pretty harmless. For a few years when I started bonsai, I overdosed plants by 100 -500 percent in hopes of getting some benefits (hey, if a little works, A LOT is probably better right? :D--the bottle says its a miracle elixir afterall). I did that repeatedly with many different species, including azaleas and collected plants--for years. I used up a BIG plastic bottle (I think it was half a liter or something) of the stuff in two seasons many moons ago. I had only 15 trees at the time...

In that time, I never noticed any difference in my trees good or bad. Plants didn't make dramatic comebacks nor did they die untimely deaths. The ones that did die did so because of inept root pruning and watering practices--i.e. the ones I hacked 99 percent of the root mass off of tended to die ST or no...The ones I drenched and soaked constantly croaked because of soggy soil and rot...ST didn't help rotted roots...
 

jk_lewis

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On S.T., Nick Lenz doesn't believe it is all harmless.
Does that mean he thinks it is harmful? How?

Lots of well-known bonsaiests use the stuff. None of them have been able to show me that their trees are any better for it, and "it doesn't hurt" simply does not ring my chimes, considering how much you have to pay for a bottle of that stinky stuff.

Someone suggested that it smells so bad it must be good for the tree. I lump it with "Carter's Little Liver Pills" and other back-of-the-magazine nostrums from the 30s, 40s and before -- useless, but fairly harmless. (Of course, the pills, being useless, left the tajkers with the same ailments they had before they started taking them -- so in that respect the pills were harmful.)

Superthrive does as much for trees as Gingko Biloba does for memory -- NOTHING.
 

Shima

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Thank you Si; my reply whilst short is lengthy in the gratitude for what you have included in your post. You have given me some food for thought here.

I would guess your suggestions for more frequent watering during this time while over-wintered is based on it is impossible to over water if it drains well? I understand the repelling that you explained.

One trait in common that I do tend to get with Satsuki; is I find around 30% (ish) of new leaves that arrived last year gained brown tips very quickly. I would consider this a sign of over or under watering?

I fully accept that the leaves fall and turn when doing so. However I note some of the very tiny new signs of life by way of very tiny leaves are already demonstrating this brown tip to the ends.

If compacted, I would assume there is going to be a lack of space for oxygen, I have investigated brown tips without much degree of success; I am just thinking out loud here; could it be lack of oxygen or, salts as you mention may be possible.

Bill

Thanks. I use Sphagnum mainly because I happen to know the Japanese generally swear by this method. Notwithstanding of course, we do not enjoy the same level of humidity.

Mike
In my experience there's an important difference between sphagnum and yamagoke. Sphagnum, when dry, will blow off in a breeze, and yamagoke, which seems to lock onto itself, will not.
 

Harunobu

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Japanese recommend to remove all old soil when repotting.

They use a chopstick and carve away all soil in between the roots. Is that not bare rooting?

Just one example. They all do this.
http://satsukimania.net/index.php/tips/repot.html

All satsuki bonsai books I have seen recommend exactly this.
 
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