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How to Repot Bonsai Trees

Bonsai trees, like other plants grown in containers, need to be regularly re-potted. Re-potting keeps the tree healthy by replenishing the nutrients in the soil, regulating root growth, and keeping the soil from getting too compacted. Learning how to re-pot bonsai trees will provide you with an essential skill when undertaking bonsai as a hobby. This learning process will also increase your general understanding and appreciation of your plant's health.


  1. 1
    Determine when your bonsai needs to be re-potted. The primary reason for re-potting a bonsai tree is when its root system begins to choke itself off. To determine whether or not this is happening, gently lift the entire tree from its pot. If the roots have begun circling around themselves, you need to re-pot. Eventually the roots will grow thick enough to displace all of the soil within the root system, and the tree will starve.
  2. 2
    Pick the right time of year for repotting your plant. Repotting should ideally be performed in early spring. At this time, the tree is not under the pressure of maintaining full foliage, and thus will be subject to less of a shock by repotting. The vigorous growth that begins in spring will also help the plant to heal any damage caused through repotting.
  3. 3
    Remove the old soil from the tree's roots. Once you have lifted the tree from its pot and decided to repot it, you'll need to remove as much of the old soil as possible. Knock the soil out of the root system either using your fingers or a specialized tool called a root hook. Gently disentangle the roots if they have grown thickly together.
  4. 4
    Remove some of the bonsai tree's roots. After untangling the roots, prune back some of the longer ones to keep the tree from outgrowing its pot. At this point, you should also remove any roots that appear to be rotting. As a general rule, avoid removing more than 25 percent of the tree's total mass of roots.
  5. 5
    Reposition the tree in its pot. When the roots are trimmed, gently lower the tree back into the pot. Fill the pot to the brim with your desired potting mix. Work the soil into the root structure so that there are no air pockets remaining between the roots.
    • A typical bonsai potting mix will consist of akadama, gravel, and compost in about a 2-1-1 ratio. Akadama is a special kind of granular clay produced especially for potting bonsai trees. You may need to adjust this ratio depending on your climate and tree species.
  6. 6
    Water the bonsai tree. Watering the tree after repotting will help the soil to settle. Keep the tree protected from strong winds for a month or so after repotting.

Community Q&A

Add New Question
  • How do I transplant a juniper bonsai that has been in a pot with no drain hole?
    Answered by Jake Saska
    • Follow the same steps but change it to a pot WITH the drain hole. You just need a little mesh cover over the drain hole so sediment doesn't wash away when it drains from watering.
    Thanks! 7 0
  • What's the difference between a bonsai tree and a bonsai plant?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • They are the same thing; some people just call them different things.
    Thanks! 3 1
  • I purchased a juniper bonsai and learned that it must be kept outdoors. I put it outside and after about 3 days it started drying up and turning brown. We must it several times a day and it is not getting healthier, just drying out. Our weather in Georgia is humid but doesn't seem to help. What can I do?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Try putting it in a window sill inside a container of water. The water will evaporate with heat and create a humid environment for your bonsai, not a dry one.
    Thanks! 6 4
  • My bonsai Tea Tree is extremely hard to water. Otherwise it's healthy. I recently purchased it but feel it already needs repotting in order to be watered properly. What should I do?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • Is there a mounding slope so the water runs off? Try adding some gravel to the sloping mound, which will help slow down the run-off. You can also add a tray with gravel under the pot to help increase the humidity from the run-off water.
    Thanks! 5 4
  • When I repot my ficus bonsai, can I reuse the soil in the pot, or does it need new soil?
    Answered by wikiHow Contributor
    • You need new soil. I suggest purchasing soil specifically made for bonsai. The soil will drain water and hold water at the same time so that the plant has just the right amount of moisture.
    Thanks! 0 1
  • I got a juniper bonsai for Christmas and about a month ago the top branches started to turn brown and I cut the dead ones off and put it outside, now there are a bunch of new growth coming in and I think some one knocked it off the porch and a lot of soil is not there can I re-pot it this time of year?
  • How do I repot a bonsai tree without the rock it’s attached to?
  • Is it okay to repot my tree in August?
  • How do I repot my maple tree into a bonsai pot?
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  • Young bonsai trees will generally need to be re-potted every year or every other year. Mature trees should be re-potted once every 3 to 5 years.
    2 Helpful?  0


  • Do not remove all of the soil if re-potting a pine tree. Removing the soil will also remove the mycorrhizal fungus that helps keep the tree alive and healthy.
    21 Helpful?  10

Things You'll NeedEdit

  • Bonsai tree
  • Container
  • Root hook (optional)
  • Pruners
  • Akadama
  • Gravel
  • Compost
  • Water

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About This Article

145 votes - 93%
Co-authors: 5
Views: 74,894
Categories: Bonsai

Reader Success Stories

  • AJ

    Andrew Jordan

    Dec 17, 2016

    "I am a new beginner at Bonsai and I'm so overwhelmed with lots of good information in here. I don't know what to which one is the best, it's all good information. Just learned how to re-pot my bonsai, thank you."..." more
  • HE

    Hope Elliott

    Jul 8, 2016

    "I feel a little more confident about taking this transplant on, I just don't want to lose it. I inherited it when my Dad passed away, and he loved it."..." more
  • CB

    Colin Branch

    Apr 27, 2016

    "I have a Bonsai, bought as a gift last year. It looks in need of potting, but I did not have a clue. These instructions were very handy. Thanks."..." more
  • SC

    Simon Clement

    Feb 12, 2017

    "Awesome, my late mum used to do bonsai trees,bu. We were recently given 4 bonsai , 2 of which looked dead. The knowledge is awesome."..." more
  • AP

    Amanda Pope

    Jun 6, 2017

    "Your pictures helped me visualize what to do; your directions are basic and not intimidating."
  • DB

    Diane Barnes

    Mar 11, 2017

    "Gave me step-by-step instructions for re-potting my first bonsai plant. Very helpful. Thanks!"
  • CD

    C. D.

    May 23, 2017

    "Just learning about Bonsai and wanted to know if I was doing the right thing. Thanks!"
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