Bonsai Tips with Justin Case – More Damn Elm Roots   4 comments

For this entry I asked Justin Case to come up with a blog post showing how to handle elm roots for growing out of plants. I’ll let Justin take it from here;

Elm roots respond very well to root cuttings and large trees can be started straight away without waiting for trunks to fatten. Start with thick roots and save three or four years. This giant clump of elm roots came out of a cut down fifteen gallon container. It was full of huge pieces of Cali-Dama used as a drainage layer. On top of that was a good 6 inch layer of lava and smaller cali-dama. The pot and elm weighed about 85 pounds. It was a beast. The elm had grown thru some of the drainage holes and had to be cut free of the nursery can. The entire large drainage layer part of the tree had caused the roots to intertwine in between the large chunks of hard-pan.

Once the tree a free of the can, there was not much fine soil in the drainage layer. It was composed of large chunks and roots with only the small soil covering the top of the trees finer roots near the surface.


Here is a good shot of how large these pieces of hard-pan were. The size may have helped get the great movement in the roots though.




I took the ole trusty Chicken hatchet to the root ball and cut two-thirds off in two whacks.




After removal of the bottom portion of the root mass it was torn apart reserving the best parts for new plants. These were saved in a bucket of water.


Here are a few up on the table. There is enough material here to make hundreds of trees. Yea I said hundreds. A six inch long root will make four trees easy. Just cut into sections and plant. Even if they are planted upside down the shoot will come out under the soil, right itself and poke up out of the dirt in a couple of days. These things are tenacious.


I used mostly the larger roots for this project since I need more elm root cuttings like a hole in the head. I already have 8 really good shohin sized trees growing right now so making 6 to 8 trees now will be manageable. I cut away the large parts of the roots and keep the best part as the trunk.


When I get done trimming it up I throw it into a new bucket full of water.


Roots like this with neagari (exposed root) type properties will make nice penjing type trees for attaching onto rocks or to just grow out for a stand alone plant.


Heres a couple more, just showing the size of the trunks on these as a starter.




I like this one a lot. Nice short trunk, good little movement down low and already fat at about one inch+ across.


Here they are all planted up in a colander with their little heads poking out of the soil. These will be great trees in two to three years. They grow really fast since they have really good and strong root systems  and the plants are well established.




Here is what it looks like on top of the soil. This was a raffle prize donated by Glenn VanWinkle which now explains what he does with all those crappy horse turd sized nuggets of hard-pan that don’t make it thru the crusher. I think there is a cool kifu sized elm group on a turtle back type tree here. I will play with it another year and see what develops. I do know that I need to work on a few branches, since every time I prune it, which seems to be monthly, I cut everything off of it.



If you have some elm trees and with repotting around the corner, save some of the roots to plant out as new material…Justin Case.




Posted January 13, 2015 by California Bonsai Art in Bonsai Tips with Justin Case

4 responses to “Bonsai Tips with Justin Case – More Damn Elm Roots

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  1. So, if I go and chop off a section of root on my 15′ tall Chinese Elm and stick it in a pot I’ve got a pretty good chance of it growing?

    • Yes. There are ways to improve success. Make sure the root has some small hair roots on it. And keep the root longer if possible. Plant two thirds of it under the soil and leave just one third or less sticking out of the soil. It will grow, that you can take to the bank.

      • Thanks! I’ll be “rooting” around this weekend then for some material. Just in case he doesn’t read this, please thank Justin for me..

  2. Spot on Justin. These make for sensational mame’ sized bonsai and are really rewarding in a very short time.

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