The Bonsai Mother Technique..
The article stands alone, and illustrates a very powerful and simple technique for propagating mothers and fathers, so I thought it could use its own thread here.
This is a very simple guide to successfully keeping a two inch Bonsai mother plant. This technique can actually be adapted for any sized container bonsai’s typically being propagated and kept in up to 6 inch containers. The advantage of the 2 inch bonsai is simple. Propagating a Bonsai in a 2 inch container means that one can keep up to 36 Bonsai mothers per square foot.
A single 2 inch bonsai typically yields 5 to 10 cuttings per cycle, depending on what size the desired cutting is to be.
2 inch Bonsai mothers can typically be used for around five or six cycles, but I would recommend replacing all mothers with fresh clones of themselves, on an annual basis, just to help insure their health and survivability, long term.
This guide is going to follow the progress of a single male clone, started in a 2 inch container, over a period of around 6 months. With this particular male there will never be any cuttings taken., however it will still be pruned according to schedule. This helps illustrate a very important point, with bonsai mother propagation: It does not matter if you are taking every possible clone you can, or not a single clone at all, when you prune the bonsai, you prune it completely. For example if Joe only needs three cuttings and the bonsai has eight good branches, even though he is only using 3 cuttings, he still wants to prune all 8 branches on the plant. Even in this case when there is no cuttings to be taken whatsoever, this bonsai must be pruned and tended according to the same schedule or else it will atrophy and eventually die.
This plant pictured has been rooted in this container for around 2 months, it is almost 2 feet tall and is starting to atrophy slightly from being rootbound. It is time to prune this bonsai for the first time.
We start by pruning all the branches. If we were taking cuttings we would do so now,
taking as many tops as we needed for clones and discarding the rest.
Usually one does not take cuttings in this first phase.
Be sure to top all secondary branches, and top the entire plant as low as possible,
and be sure to leave at least one or two sets of nodes on each branch that is topped.
Try to make sure that all branches and the main top are all at the same height,
any where from 3-6 inches on average depending on the individual plant.
The next step is to prune the rootball, we start by cutting 25% off of each side.
It is best to use a sharp or serrated knife. After that we cut 50% off of the bottom of the plant.
When we are finished pruning the rootball it will look like this.
Once the rootball has been been pruned we transplant it back into the same container that it came from, with fresh dirt.
For at least the first week it is transplanted, and until there is new growth seen, the bonsai should not be fertilized.
I usually soak the plants with a solution of superthrive and maxicrop, right after transplanting,
I do this with all transplants, and while it is not necessary I find that it helps.
Once we see new growth forming we can start with a 10- 25% solution of veg fertilizer depending on how sensitive the plant is.
And once strong growth is witnessed, move up to 50%. In my experience 50% solution works just fine,
if the plant doesn’t green up after a week or two, a stronger solution can be used for one watering.
After 2 weeks to a month the plant will look like this picture.
If you need to, this will be the first opportunity to get a harvest of cuttings,
at this stage one can get around 5 cuttings per bonsai mother.
Now the plant has also had time to grow out a bunch of small little branches,
and once all cuttings have been taken, the plant is pruned as low as possible, again.
Once pruned back it will look something like this. The rootball was not shaved at this pruning,
but will need to be shaved on the next pruning.
This begins the dormant phase of the bonsai. The plant can be held for 2 to 3 months in this phase
before it will need to be cropped and have the rootball shaved again.
Generally, the plant should be pruned back, and the rootball shaved again 3 weeks before cuttings are needed.
It has been around three months since this bonsai was pruned. It is starting to atrophy a bit.
Now it will be topped. And its rootball shaved.
The Bonsai was topped carefully so that branches are all of uniform height.
Once the rootball has been shaved and it is transplanted back into its container,
it will be ready to harvest cuttings in 2-4 weeks depending on the strain.
Again, when we shave the rootball we cut 25% off of each side.
Once we have cut 25% off each side, we cut 50% off the bottom.
When we are done pruning the rootball it will look like this. Note how much dirt has been removed.
Now that it is transplanted back into its original container it will be treated the same way as last time.
In 3 -4 weeks it will be ready to harvest cuttings off of.
Now that it is fully mature bonsai it should have around 10 small uniform cuttings that can be taken off of it.
3 weeks later, the Bonsai is ready to harvest around 10+ cuttings off of.
Now generally the grower will keep 1 bonsai for every 5 cuttings he needs.
This might not seem like a lot but lets think about it for a second:
If a grower needs 45 cuttings, this means he needs 9 bonsai females,
well these 9 bonsai females will take up about one fourth of a square foot of space.
This means we can harvest a minimum of 180 cuttings per square foot of 2 inch bonsai mothers,
and realistically with most strains it is probably more like 360 cuttings per square foot.
Also, we can store 36 mothers per square foot with this method.
This Bonsai is around 6 months old. It can go through another 3 or 4 of these cycles before it will need to be replaced with a fresh one.
Generally speaking Bonsai mothers should be replaced once every year.
The article stands alone, and illustrates a very powerful and simple technique for propagating mothers and fathers, so I thought it could use its own thread…