How to secure a bonsai in its pot when repotting!

Claude Savard

When repotting a bonsai, a crucial step not to be overlooked is anchoring the tree in its new pot. This step is of the utmost importance, as it aims to protect the delicate roots from unwanted movements, such as wind shocks, which could compromise their health. When repotting, the thicker roots, which play a supporting role in nature, are usually removed, leaving the tree without this natural stability. This is where anchoring comes in, providing the necessary stability in the new pot environment.

The correct attachment of the bonsai to the pot is essential, and there are several aspects to this. Firstly, opt for a pot that is fitted with anchoring holes. It’s best to avoid cheap pots that may lack these holes, as they are essential to securely fix the tree. What’s more, the quality of the pot’s clay is crucial, as poor-quality pots could crack when the wires are tensioned.

Fil de cuivre recuit.
Annealed copper wire
Fil d’acier galvanisé.
Galvanized steel wire.

The choice of anchoring wire is also crucial. High-quality wire is recommended, to avoid inconveniences such as breakage during tightening. Aluminum wire, commonly used for ligating branches, can prove less resistant and brittle when twisted and tightened. Opting for (annealed) copper wire specially designed for bonsai is a better option. It’s essential never to use electric copper wire, as it oxidizes quickly and can damage the tree’s health. In my experience, using 1 mm galvanized steel wire has proved to be a very effective method of anchoring my trees. This type of wire offers several notable advantages. Firstly, it offers exceptional tensile and torsional strength. What’s more, its ability to resist oxidation is an important asset. This specific wire is generally available from quality hardware stores, making it easy to source. One point to emphasize is its strength in relation to its fine diameter, as well as its ability to blend discreetly into the substrate. This preserves the overall aesthetics, as the wire remains inconspicuous while keeping the trees firmly anchored.

In this article, I’ll show you a few effective ways of attaching your bonsai to different types of pots and tree configurations.

How to tie your tree with a pot without an anchor hole.

When a pot doesn’t have anchor holes, some recommend simply using existing drainage holes to run the wire through. While this may work, it’s crucial to consider the underlying challenges. If the pot has only one drainage hole, attaching a wire to secure the tree may seem complex.

A practical solution is to use a piece of heavy-gauge wire, the length of which exceeds the diameter of the drainage hole. Enclose the anchor wire around the heavy-gauge wire, and then pass this anchor wire through the trellis structure holding the substrate, creating a sturdy fastening.

However, this solution has its limitations. Even if you place the wire correctly to secure the tree, there may be a strangulation effect on the bonsai’s roots when you tighten the wire.

To resolve this situation, you can use bamboo sticks to move the anchor wires away from the center of the pot. Then secure the stick using the same fastener you used for your original anchor wire. This ingenious trick helps reduce the strangulation effect, promoting more effective anchoring.

If you have a pot with two drainage holes, stabilizing your tree becomes easier.

However, there is the possibility that only part of the root mass is stabilized, creating a risk of tree displacement in the event of shaking.

To remedy this, we recommend the use of two parallel anchor wires. This will stabilize both sides of the root mass.

You can choose to attach the two wires of the same section on the corresponding side, or cross them to ensure optimum anchorage.

Bamboo is a good choice. This material offers high tensile strength and tolerates moisture. Although not indestructible, bamboo will remain virtually intact until the roots have developed sufficiently in the substrate. Adding bamboo to the pot will in no way hinder the tree’s growth.

In short, attaching bonsai to pots without anchor holes requires ingenious solutions to avoid stress on the roots. By using suitable wire gauges, bamboo sticks and careful planning, you can provide your trees with a solid anchorage while promoting their harmonious growth.

What is the best method for fixing bonsai in pots with anchor holes?

Securing a bonsai in a pot with anchor holes is essential for its stability and growth. Ideally, a bonsai pot should have at least four (4) anchoring holes, depending on its size. However, it is possible to use some pots with only two (2) anchoring holes for bonsai. However, it should be noted that they will be more difficult to stabilize due to the limited fastening options available. These pots are better suited to accent plant such as « Shitakusa » or « Kusamono ». In addition, it’s important to point out that some plants also require fixing.
The key to stability lies in using a high-quality pot. When you tighten the wires to stabilize the tree, the bottom of the pot must remain intact. A good quality pot will withstand this pressure.

In the case of a pot with four or more holes, the method of crossing the wires under the pot is preferable. This involves using each wire to secure the tree, ensuring a solid hold. This technique has the advantage of creating two points of stabilization at the root ball of the tree. The choice between these methods will be determined by the location of your bonsai within its pot.

One way to test the strength of the anchor is to gently lift the tree by the trunk. If the pot stays firmly in place and follows the movement without descending, the anchoring is adequate. If not, adjustments are necessary.

In short, attaching a bonsai to a pot with anchor holes requires a meticulous approach. By opting for a quality pot, criss-crossing the wires underneath and testing for strength, you can guarantee the continued stability and health of your precious bonsai.

How to tie a forest in a bonsai pot?

As you can imagine, there are several steps involved in creating a bonsai forest that fits perfectly into a pot. Trees are not always perfectly aligned with the holes provided for their attachment. What’s more, these trees are often arranged in small groups, leaving few places available for later fixing once one or two trees are already in place. So how do you go about it?

Let’s look at a few examples.

The first step is to obtain bamboo sticks. Then you need to cut them to fit the dimensions of your pot perfectly. These sticks will form the main framework of your structure. In our example, we’ll place three horizontal rods at the height of the fixing holes, then repeat the operation with vertical rods also placed at the same fixing holes (represented by red circles). The assembly thus created must be secured using the same technique as that employed to ensure stability when no fixing holes are available.

The next step is to secure each intersection of the bamboo sticks using a wire (represented by black circles). Once you’ve completed this step, you’ll be able to use these bamboo sticks to firmly anchor your trees by following the method of wrapping the anchoring wire around the bamboo sticks, depending on the layout of your trees.

By following these steps, you’ll be able to anchor a miniature forest in a bonsai pot, even if the challenges seem complex at first view.

In short, the process of anchoring a bonsai during repotting is crucial to ensuring its long-term stability and health. By choosing an appropriate pot with anchoring holes, opting for quality wire and following best practices, you’ll guarantee your bonsai a solid foothold in its new environment, promoting its growth.