Trident Late budding and Screen side pots


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Macon, Georgia U.S.A.
I have a bunch of tridents I am growing on that have not broken dormancy . I have others in a "regular" clay or plastic pot that budded out several weeks ago. It seems that the ones not budding out are potted in a screen sided pot of some kind (pond basket, vance wood type of screen sided pot, etc). Both were kept in the same location this winter. I am afraid that the tridents not budding out are dead. My Japanese black pines in pond baskets are just fine and pushing out 1 inch or longer candles.

Has anyone experienced this with screen sided pots and tridents?


How did you overwinter the screen sided pots?
Are any of the potted ones that made Tridents, you guys had a worse winter than I did up here, we need pretty good overwinter protection for tridents.
They were kept on my screen porch covered by blankets. We had a harsh winter here in Ga. When temps dropped under 25-30 degrees, I put a 25 watt light bulb under the blanket. I have used that technique for years.

The tridents in regular nursery pots came thru the winter just fine. The screen sided pots were situated along with those in regular nursery pots. Both were potted in the same bonsai soil mix of turface, granite, bark. Both were watered the same.

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The trees in the screen sided pots seem to have had some "issues" with overwintering. I'd suspect they dried out faster than their solid pot companions--Frozen soil can give up moisture even though it's frozen--especially in colder conditions. The screen may have allowed that to happen faster, as solid pots can shield evaporation somewhat.

Also, not to be a nag, but blankets and porches are a very poor overwintering media. Blankets don't retain moisture (moist roots are critical to overwintering trees as water in the soil protects roots) and provide no protection against cold. Plants have no internal heating mechanism--blankets cannot trap heat that isn't there to begin with...Pots on the porch are also not protected from the cold as a raised porch is exposed not only from the sides, but also from underneath. It's also subject to more temperature fluctuation.

Mulched plants on the ground against the house or in a protected area on the ground is more suitable. I've overwintered tridents here in No. Va. when temps ranged well into single digits and even below zero by mulching pots eight to nine inches deep in a cold pit a foot deep.That keeps temps evened out and the mulch retains moisture--I allow only snow and rain to water them.

I'd not give up hope on your trees. Keep them moist and in the shade until the end of June. See what happens. They may surprise you.
rockm Thanks. For what it is worth, my screen porch is not elevated but built on the ground. I placed the trees up against a wall of my house. I have a remote reading themometer inside the blanket so I can monitor temperatures.

Doesn't make that much difference if it not raised. The porch's slab is not a great thing for overwintering trees either. The slab's surface can get extremely cold and stay that way as the surrounding soil freezes. In general, porches are not a great option to overwinter trees. Blankets are pretty much useless--unless you keep them wet...

I've found that overwintering below ground level--even if it's only six inches (provided there is drainage underneath the pots), with mulch six to eight inches deep over the pot is a pretty bullet-proof method in overwintering trees here the Middle Atlantic states.
I suspect Mark is right about the trees in question not breaking bud...a tridents' root system is almost always the weak link while being over wintered. Early in my bonsai days, I kept some tridents in an enclosed porch in zone 6 MA. I lost some of them when the trees broke dormancy too early then had the soil freeze on them. The two tridents I brought to GA last year spent the winter outside next to my house, mulched up to the trunk with leaves, survived low temps in the single digits, and have been pushing leaves for 3 weeks.

I can't tell you whether your trees will recover or not. I have found that the bark on dead trident branches will start to wrinkle as the tissue beneath it starts to dry up. I find this to be a much more reliable means of assessing branch or trunk death then the scratch test. Good luck,

Rule of Bonsai #24: NEVER throw anything out until AFTER Labor Day. :D
Exception to rule #1 - unless it has rust or borers, then use it for the fourth of July bonfire kindling.:mad:

Kidding aside what Dav and rockm said sounds spot on, pond baskets definately dry faster than pots., and mulching in works very reliably.
We had a HORRID winter and I thought my lack of attention to my trees was BAD.. I live in a small apt on the 3rd floor, but have lone access to the roof.. All my trees including my tridents came through it with flying colors.. They were snow covered for weeks, went through nasty wind.. So I'm guessing normal bonsai and squat pots are a better bet.. I'm just basing that off of I didn't water my trees or touch them from November til February..
Here in Georgia I cannot use snow cover like you did. I do water while in winter storage. I had plenty of trees survive (azalea, bald cypress, juniper, pines, maples). Only trees in pond baskets have failed to leaf out.
I think the roots froze in the pond baskets.. I don't think it was enough insulation.. The wind and cold air probably went right through the pond baskets..
I think the roots froze in the pond baskets.. I don't think it was enough insulation.. The wind and cold air probably went right through the pond baskets..

I let my tridents, along with all my other hardy trees, freeze solid every winter. They all stay on the benches until the temps are approaching 20F before receiving any protection. When trees die or are weakened over the winter dormancy period, many assume that the winter cold was the culprit. Sometimes it is, but usually there are other factors at play. The fact that the only trees affected were the trees planted in the screen sided pots, and other relatively cold sensitive trees like azaleas did just fine in the same place BUT in a more moisture retentive pot is the most important point to consider here. As Mark first noted, the soil in these pots more then likely had less moisture then the others, and this can actually make the roots more sensitive to sub freezing temps. Brent at evergreen gardenworks has a great write-up on this subject. The short story is that all the moisture in the soil must freeze before the soil temp falls below 32F. The more moisture in the soil=the longer the soil takes to freeze=the longer the rootzone stays at or above freezing. Other things come into play, like the size of the pot, the amount of roots in the soil, etc., but you get my drift.

Apologies if this is slightlly off the topic of maples, but I typically overwinter my trees (zone 6 -eastern PA) by burying them, pots and all up to the the trunk or higher then mulch with fallen leaves at least halfway up the trees. I typially do this early - on Thanksgiving weekend. This has worked fine for the most part, occasionally I have lost an apex, and this yyear was fine even though the tough winter was good test. The biggest problem I have is with my azaleas. I always seem to lose the flowers. They rarely bloom and when taken apart the center of most of the flower bud is brown. I've been told they need extra protection, but I am not sure how to accomplish this. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

I think ive had the same problem. I had some tridents that i took out of a garden last winter. I put most into a forest scene, but one i put in a pond basket 8" square, and 5" deep filled with bonsai soil. The ones in the forest came out of winter just fine, with leaves everywhere. I gave the one in the pond basket to a good friend after winter, and told him to plant it in the ground, pot and all. He said it doesnt have any leaves on it. He is going to look at it to see if any buds, but definately looks like its slowed it down, or killed it. I put them on the south side of my house this winter, with cypress mulch up to the lowest branches, covering pots and all, checked with chop sticks, and watered accordingly.
I'm curous if there alive or not,have you tried the scratch test?I live in MD,and i believe this is the worst winter we have had in my 37 years and my trees survived,most with minimal protection,i hope your trees pull threw.
Just out of curiosity, why are you guys using pond baskets for tridents? With tridents, I don't think you need extra drainage, and the root growth on tridents is so good I'm not sure you need the air pruning effects of a screened planter (though I could be wrong).
"I told him to plant it in the ground, pot and all."

"by burying them, pots and all"

This is extremely bad overwintering advice and may be some of the cause for dead branches, apex and entire trees. Many people do it, but it's a very bad way to overwinter trees. Burying the pot in the ground defeats the pot's drainage--unless you get lucky and the holes remain unblocked and precipitation finds somewhere to go once it's fallen on the tree. You're basically placing the bonsai pot into a container of soil--The surrounding soil has nowhere near the same drainage capability as the soil in the bonsai pot. That means water (rain, ice, and worst of all snow which can keep the ground soggy for weeks if it's deep enough) will drain through the bonsai soil faster than the surrounding ground can soak it up.

That means you've created a pothole swamp--which kills roots, which causes die off of branches and large sections of trunks, apexes, etc.

I overwinter my bonsai on the ground, but place them up on bricks --placed at either end of the pot suspending the pot over the soil. I THEN cover them with mulch. The bricks insure a void space under the pot that allows precipitation to drain through. My foot deep cold pit has a drain built into the bottom and is mostly covered by a plastic cold frame

Tridents can stand frozen roots--down to the single digits for short periods--as long as they're insulated well and kept moist (not soggy or dry). Exposure to the first frosts and shallow freezes in November (And probably Dec. down South) is also important in helping them prepare for winter dormancy.
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Just out of curiosity, why are you guys using pond baskets for tridents? With tridents, I don't think you need extra drainage, and the root growth on tridents is so good I'm not sure you need the air pruning effects of a screened planter (though I could be wrong).
I tried screen sided pots for the air pruning effect. Vance Wood and others have touted the benefits so I thought it worth a try. Now I am not sure about tridents in these pots. My pines in these types of pots came through fine. Only tridents had a problem.

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