How to Transplant a Bonsai

Bonsai might not grow that large but it will need transplanting occasionally in order to refresh the soil and to remove any unwanted sprouts, branches, and old roots so that the tree keeps the shape you'd like. Here is how to transplant a bonsai.


  1. 1
    Know how often to transplant. On average, about every two years is a good space of time before transplanting but it will depend on the bonsai you're growing. If in doubt, ask at your local nursery.
  2. 2
    If transplanting to a new pot, then choose one that will allow the roots to grow well.
  3. 3
    Remove from the pot. You can use a bamboo skewer or similar item to help you untangle the roots and remove loose soil.
  4. 4
    Use a pair of clean scissors or garden snips to cut away two-thirds of the roots. You may even want to cut more. Cut off roots that grow upward and any thick roots that are growing down. This will give the impression from the top that the tree is anchored firmly. Leave any thin roots of around the same size. Repeated transplanting will help the sense of stability over the years.
  5. 5
    Place wire drainage mesh at the base of the pot. Pass a thin wire through and secure underneath to keep the drainage mesh in place. Cut off any excess wire.
  6. 6
    Pass some wire up through the base. This is for securing the bonsai.
  7. 7
    Fill the base with coarse soil to one quarter full. The soil should be porous to allow the passage of air and able to retain moisture.
  8. 8
    Put the tree back into the pot. Check how it is sitting and reorient it as required. The trunk base should be placed a little higher than the rim of the pot. Fasten the wire that you place facing upwards, to secure the tree in place. Cut off any excess wire and bend the wire down into the soil to prevent injury.
  9. 9
    Run coarse soil through a sieve. Mix this with finer soil and river sand. Fill the pot to about four-fifths full; use tweezers to push the soil in, and to create airspace between the roots.
    • The soil should finish just below the rim of the pot.
  10. 10
    Water thoroughly.
  11. 11
    Plant moss with tweezers into the soil but not around the base of the tree trunk. Gently pat down using your fingertips.
  12. 12
    Repeat every few years as needed. Always refresh the soil completely and discard of the old soil.


  • Replace old wire and drainage mesh as well, to remove the chance of reintroducing any disease, wear or tear, or rust, etc.

Things You'll Need

  • New pot (optional)
  • New coarse soil, fine soil, and river sand
  • Wire
  • Drainage mesh

Sources and Citations

  • Nipponia, Transplanting a Bonsai, No. 28, 2004, pp. 22-23, ISSN 1343-1196, – research source

Article Info

Categories: Indoor and Patio Plants