Instructions for Rooting Bonsai Cuttings


Some bonsai plants, especially rare or endangered species, cannot propagate successfully from seed.

Reproduce from seed, but regress to a less desirable ancestor.

Finding a desirable bonsai plant for which seeds are unavailable is also common, necessitating the development of alternative methods for propagating the bonsai.

Propagating bonsai from cuttings is the quickest and most successful approach when only a few are needed, such as for houseplants or usage in a small garden, but starting from seed is the best option when a large number of plants are required. Almost every bonsai plant can be propagated this way, including those that must be grown from seed.

When beginning a bonsai using this method, the quality and hardiness of your cuttings are paramount. Use only healthy, vigorous plants as sources for your cuttings. They should be harvested at the tips of shoots, often known as “new growth,” because these parts have not yet hardened with age.
Bending the stem between your fingers, it should snap (like a green bean); if it turns and doubles without breaking, it is either too old and will not readily root or too soft and will almost certainly wilt or decay.

Depending on the type of bonsai and the species being propagated, the cutting length should be between two and four inches. It’s best to tilt the cut end to place it more easily into the cutting box.
Except for certain bonsai trees, they can be severed either near or between a joint or eye. The lowest leaves should be removed thoroughly, and the remaining leaves should be trimmed back if they are too long. This will reduce the likelihood of the plant wilting.

Keep the cuttings in the shade and mist them if required to keep them from withering until they can be planted in the propagation medium. I once got some chrysanthemum cuttings from a fellow florist who thought they were too withered to root. After submerging them in water for many hours, they returned to life, and I could root most of them successfully.

Rooting cuttings are often done in clean, medium-coarse sand like those used in construction. It needs to be fine enough to hold the cuttings securely without being too coarse to allow too much air to dry them out.

Create a flat four or five inches deep, like the ones used to start seeds. Fill the bottom with an inch or two of gravel or coal ashes, then a thin layer of moss or an old bag, and finally, a thick layer of clean sand. Do this, and soak them well. It only needs an hour to dry up before the cuttings begin.

Put marks in the box at regular intervals (about two or three inches) and then push the cuttings in as tightly as you can without touching them, going down about a third or half their length. Use a dibber (a small, pointed stick) to drive them in securely. Wet them down so the sand may be packed in tightly around them.

The ideal overnight temperature for the cutting box room is between fifty and fifty-five degrees. However, ten or fifteen degrees of bottom heat and the seed box will be pretty helpful. A means by which this bottom heat can be increased.

Shade the cuttings with a piece of the newspaper during the heat of the day if the box is kept in a bright sunny spot to prevent withering, and if the weather is so hot that the room is warmer than seventy degrees, a light sprinkle of water every once in a while will help to keep them fresh.

Keep the sand from drying out, or your efforts will be for naught. Every morning, you should give it a good soaking.

When cared for properly, cuttings can begin to root in as little as eight days (depending on environmental factors and cultivar). Please do not leave them in the sand once roots have formed; instead, pot them immediately, ideally before the roots grow longer than half an inch. Even if not all cuttings have roots, those that have a coarse appearance around the point of origin can be safely potted off because they will likely root once placed in soil.

The strategy above is the standard one used. However, there is another that is just as simple and yields more reliable results, especially in locations where bottom heat is difficult to obtain. The “saucer” system of dissemination is the term for it.
Create the slices in the manner above. Pack the sand and the trimmings as tightly as possible into a deep, watertight container like a glazed earthenware dish or a deep soup plate. Please put the word in a warm, bright area and wet the sand until it resembles a mud. While temperatures could rise, unlike when playing in a sandbox, there would be no need to seek shelter. The key to successfully using this method of rooting cuttings is ensuring the sand is always wet. When you see roots developing, transfer the plants to a pot.

Autumn and spring are the most common times to take cuttings using the above methods. If new bonsai are needed in June, July, and August, “layering in the air” is the technique that must be used to guarantee success. Instead of completely severing the cutting, leave a tiny amount of wood and bark on it to prevent it from withering. However, the cutting must be kept upright; otherwise, the end of the shoot will begin to turn up, resulting in a U-shaped shape. They are left in this semi-attached position for about eight days or until the cuttings are properly calloused. Then they are removed and potted like rooted cuttings, but with a little more sand in the soil and less water. For several days, they are naturally shadowed.

Now that we’ve gotten our little bonsai plants through the initial stage of their development without a hitch, we need to take special care in establishing them as individuals and equipping them for future success in their not-inconsequential world.

Bonsai has always been a source of inspiration for Jason Dempsey. Feel free to visit if you want to learn more about using the internet to help your bonsai collection thrive.

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