Repot Black and Red Pines

It’s been two years that my seedling cuttings have been growing in their very small nursery pots. It’s time that I give them more room to grow, so I’ve decided to repot them all into colanders. I’ve had a lot of casualties this winter, a lot of black pines and even my white pine died.


Utilizing Small Colanders

I found a store which had small colanders in stock, so I ended up purchasing twelve of them in preparation for repotting this Spring. Now is the time to put these colanders into good use. I had some Japanese Quince cuttings growing in a pot along with a few Shimpaku Junipers cuttings for two years now. Since they’ve survived two winters, I’m pretty sure they have some roots and are viable. Transferring them to colanders will help them further develop finer roots to support more vigorous growth.

When I pulled the plants from the pot, there was a big mass of Japanese Quince roots. It is to be expected that deciduous trees tend to put out roots more readily than conifers. The challenge was to separate out the Shimpaku cuttings from the root mass without damaging the Shimpaku roots.  After an extended period of teasing and combing out roots, I was able to separate the six Quinces from the Shimpakus. I cut back the Quince roots heavily to promote more fine roots growth. I largely left the Shimpaku roots intact, with the exception of cutting short a few running roots, to try to balance the thickness of the roots (or else the running roots will significantly thicken in the expense of the other roots). All the Shimpakus fit comfortably into a single colander. Since Shimpakus roots tend to grow slowly, I’m not too concerned that they’ll be too intermingled.

I also had another Japanese Quince which seemed too over-potted into a big colander. Also, it was potted in the crappy potting medium I had last Spring which tend to breakdown quickly and saturate the pot. So I decided to repot it as well, it now looks more inline with the size of the colander.


The two years old Japanese black pine (JBP) seedlings have also started moving as their candles extend. I figured I’ll pick a few to repot into the colanders to see how they respond in comparison to the other JBPs which remained in their nursery pots. The most vigorous JBP looks to be a year or two ahead of its cohort, so I started with it first.  Indeed, it had a very healthy root system, but the roots are somewhat tangled, it’s timely that I decided to repot them now, or else the roots would have gotten too thick to reshape.  With some wetting of the roots, and some persuading, I was able to rearrange the roots into a radial form around the trunk. Hopefully, in a few years time, they would develop into a nice radial nebari.  I saw some books that suggests tying the roots down to a rock would force the roots to grown sideways rather than down. So I decided to tie the roots to a ceramic dish, but I quickly found out that strings are really difficult to maneuver, especially around a round dish.  So, I decided to use wire instead.  Just one piece of wire is sufficient to hold the tree down against the dish.  I just need to ensure that I cut the wires as the trunk thickens.

All in all, I repotted three JBPs. As I go from the most vigorous to the least, I began to noticed that there are substantially less roots as well. The other remaining JBPs will have to wait till next year before they’re ready to be repotted into colanders. For the second JBP onwards, I didn’t even bother with the string, and just went directly with using the wire to secure the tree to the dish. After securing the tree into the dish, then it’s just a matter of tying down the combo into the pot the old fashion way, using the cork screw method to secure it all down. I purposely left the wire ends longer, such that they can help hold down the dangling roots. These JBPs will be resting under shade for a week, before they’re reintroduced to the sun.

Needle Pluck and Wiring of Pines

Autumn is the time to needle pluck and wire pines. The Japanese White Pines and Black Pines Seedling Cuttings I started two years ago, are now ready for their initial needle pluck, and styling. In total, I have around twenty trees to work through.

Pines ready for needle pluck

I started with the strongest among all the seedlings. It has put out a lot of needles this season.

Healthiest Black Pine

Plucking the needles on the tree will promote back buds where the needles were plucked. Also, with all those needles, it’ll be difficult to wire the trunk. So, I proceeded to pluck all the needles on the trunk, except leaving some at the top of the tree. After plucking the needles, I need to find the front of the tree. The wiring and styling of the tree will depend greatly on the front of the tree. The front shall be the side for which the roots look most impressive. I’ll be looking for the side with the most roots emerging from it, and the roots should not be protruding directly to the viewer. I had to remove some of the top layers of soil, to find the roots.

Black Pine Roots

After a close inspection around the nebari, I’ve decided this will be the front of the tree.

Black Pine Roots Uncovered

Now that I’ve found the front of the tree, I can have a good feeling how the tree will look like in the future. To wire the tree, I secured the wire to the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Since the trunk is relatively thick, the one wire wasn’t sufficient in holding its shape. It turned out well, since I needed another wire to shape the first branch anyway.

Black Pine Need Plucked and Wired

When wiring, I ensure the wire was on snug, but not too tight. It’s okay for the wire to bite in a bit, it’ll help the tree hold its shape, and also help it thicken faster.

Black Pine Wiring

After two days of work, I’ve finally finished wiring all twenty or so trees. In retrospect, I might have taken off too many needles on the white pine. Since they’re less vigorous than the black pines, they would’ve done better if I left more needles on. On the other hand, the needles on the white pines were so dense, I wouldn’t be able to do any wiring if I didn’t remove sufficient needles. Only time will tell whether I’ve set the trees back by over-plucking.

All Eighteen Black Pines Plucked and Wired

Black Pine Needle Plucking

To ensure the health of the black pine, I plucked away last year needles to ensure energy is directed to the new growth. I also left several long branches as sacrificing branches at various levels. They will each help to feed the trunk, and as a result, thicken the trunk below the sacrificing branch. By having sacrificing branches at varying levels, trunk tapering can be accomplished.

Black Pine Needle Plucked

Japanese Black Pine Repot

I’ve had this black pine for several years now, and I’ve been putting off repotting it last year. This year though, the roots have literally pushed the plant up from the pot. I think it’s time to repot, in hopes of giving more room to grow roots, and hopefully the bigger pot will also speed up its development. I plan to do the repot, then let it grow undisturbed for the rest of the year. I dug the tree from the ground, and looked at the growths, they were showing a good green color, and has began to move, so it looks prime for a repot.

Japanese Black Pine Unearthed

There’s a big sacrificing branch to the left that I’ll allow to develop further, which will effectively help to thicken the trunk. The tree has many healthy roots, so I’m happy with the health of the tree, and am very confident that it’ll survive the repotting exercise. There is a big mass of roots near the top of the pot, I’m somewhat amazed the roots didn’t reach further down into the pot.

Japanese Black Pine Repotted

Repotting the tree into the colander makes the tree look very small, but that’s a good thing, since I plan to let the tree grow in the colander for many years to come. Also, since I’m using a pure inorganic medium, I don’t have to worry about the medium decomposing and suffocating the roots. Also, the colander will allow for a lot of air to permeate into the medium, which, from last year’s experience (with other trees in colanders), helps immensely to roots development.

Aftercare of black pines should be taken with caution, since they can be very finicky to insults. The tree currently is resting in shade (only gets 3 hrs of sun), and will be slowly moved out to more sunshine in the coming weeks.

Black Pine Needle Pluck

I plucked the needles on my black pine to encourage more vigorous growth, and hopefully forcing it to put out more new buds. I basically went in with my tweezers and removed all of last year’s growth. When I brought this tree to the May meeting, David Johnson commented that he liked my design. It’s always assuring to get encouraging comments from senior members of the club.

Black Pine Needle Plucked

Black Pine Training

The trunk on the black pine is awfully straight and uninteresting. After inspecting the roots, I’ve decided on a new front. I wrapped the trunk with some thick gauge wire, and started bending. The last time I took out the wires, the tree popped right back into it’s straight form. I’ll try to leave this wire on the tree for as long as possible. As such, I tried to wire it losely, such that it won’t start to bite into the trunk in the near future.

After making the first bend, the tree actually looks more interesting using the main branch as the new leader. I then decided this will be my new tree. The new apex also has more compact internodes. In a few more years, as the tree gets thicker, this should turn out to be an interesting tree.

For the time being, I’m leaving the sacrifice branch in place. I’ll be removing it later, potentially early next Spring. I’ll be using another back branch as the new sacrifice branch.

Black Pine bent sideways

A closeup of the new tree.

Black Pine with new leader