FREE Shipping all over the USA, CA, UK, TW and HK!

Vol#26 The Importance Of Roots For Bonsais

Japanese maple bonsai in Omiya bonsai village at Saitama, Japan


The importance of bonsai roots・

The quality of a bonsai is mostly reflected by the balance of its trunk structure, branching pattern, and root spread. The tree's robust life force is connected to its roots, which grow and firmly anchor into the soil over time.

Roots, extending in all directions, are an ideal characteristic in bonsai aesthetics known as "Happo-nebari" or "Eight-direction root spread."

In old maples trees, roots often spread in a shell-like or carapace form. For pines and cypresses trees, roots tend to spread over in order to stabilize water flow, conveying a sense of stability. However, an excess of tangled or aerial roots can create an out of balance appearance, undermining the tree's image of strength.

A bonsai with large base and visible old-looking roots

Similar to trunk and branch pruning, roots also require regular maintenance. However, this task cannot be performed at any time of the year. This is something done rather during the repotting process, where root health can be assessed and managed. (See this article for Advices For A Perfect Bonsai Replanting.)

Underground roots cannot develop bark. Once they have grown to a certain extent, they will need direct exposure above the ground. They will then be able to grow bark, creating an older appearance.

During repotting, attention typically focuses on relieving root congestion, adjusting planting angles, and selecting appropriate pots. Yet, understanding root tension and future growth patterns is equally crucial. By carefully shaping and nurturing root spreads, a more refined bonsai can be cultivated.

Huge ancient red pine tree at kenrokuen garden in Kanazawa

Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa Prefecture boasts a distinctive pine tree with exposed roots. Legend has it that this tree was planted by the 13th feudal lord, Nariyasu Maeda. He raised the soil level to plant a young pine, patiently allowing it to grow before unveiling its roots by removing the soil.

Perhaps you've heard of this tree? If you have the opportunity, I would recommend a visit!

 Don't hesitate to share your thoughts or experience about tending to bonsai roots in the comments~


Until next time!

ReBonsai Yusuke Ogawa


Learn more about repotting with these videos : 

Learn more about bonsai with these articles: 

Vol#25 Advices For Perfect Bonsai Replanting

Vol#24 Choosing the Right Fertilizer for Bonsai Growth

Vol#23 Bonsai Care in 2023, A Year in Review


Leave a comment