From cuttings

Grow trees from cuttings as Bonsai cultivation technique

In Japanese: “Sashiki”

Cultivating trees from cuttings is very popular amongst Bonsai growers, as it is an inexpensive way to propagate new trees. This method will reduce the time it takes to grow trees from seeds by about a year, while also giving you the benefit of knowing in advance which characteristics the cutting will posses.

To start with, suitable cuttings need to be collected. Most types of trees are easily propagated using cuttings; select a branch of an existing tree and cut it off (see photo 1, below). The size of the cuttings should be about 5-10 cm tall (about 2’’-4’’) and 2-5 mm thick (see photo 2, below). It is possible to take larger cuttings as well but the chance of getting them to root is slim.

 

How to grow Bonsai trees from cuttings

 

When?

Generally, spring and summer are the best times to cut-off and plant cuttings. Some hardwood cuttings can be prepared and planted after their growth season (late summer). Read the bonsai tree species guide for timing.

 

How?

Step-by-step plan for collecting and planting Bonsai cuttings:

  1. Choose a pot roughly 15 cm (6’’) deep with a hole for drainage.
  2. The bottom layer (roughly ¼ of the pot) should consist of fine gravel and akadama in a ratio of ½ to ½ (read the Bonsai soil article for more detailed information on soil mixtures for different species of trees, climates, etc.).
  3. Fill the rest of the pot with akadama, fine gravel and potting compost mixed together in a ratio of ½ to ¼ to ¼.
  4. Now remove any branches or leaves on the lower half of the cuttings. Thick cuttings should be cut slantingly, to improve their capability to absorb nutrients (see photo 2, below).
  5. If available, dip the cuttings in rooting hormone (available at most Bonsai shops) before placing them about halfway in the prepared soil mixture, leaving enough space between them (see photo 3, below). Please note that using rooting hormone is not required, it will simply increase the rate of success.
  6. Finally, rinse a considerable amount of water over the cuttings, but be careful not to disturb the soil surface by using a fine nozzle.

 

 

Taking bonsai cuttingsBonsai cutting at an angleBonsai propagation prepared cutting compost

 

 

 

And then? Aftercare

Put the pot outside protected from direct sunlight and keep it damp at all time, but not wet. It will take a few weeks before the cuttings start growing; remove cuttings that died and leave the rest untouched until the next spring. Your rate of success will depend on factors including the species of tree and the size of the cuttings. As you gain experience more and more cuttings will survive. You can start using small quantities of fertilizer during the summer.
After one year the cuttings can be separated and put in bigger pots; it will take one or two years of unrestricted growth before the cuttings are ready for their first training (see photo 4, below).

 

 

Bonsai from cutting after 3 years

 

 

 

 

From young plant to Bonsai

Once you succesfully propagated trees from seed or from cuttings, the next step is to train the young plants throughout the years to become well shaped Bonsai trees. This will be a test of your patience, but it is a great way to style Bonsai trees without the need to prune thick branches (which is often inherent to styling Yamadori or nursery stock).

Read the "Bonsai styling" section for detailed information about techniques including wiring and pruning. But first, six images of a Criptomeria tree that was grown from seed into Bonsai over the course of 15 years. Thanks to Jose Ontañón for sharing these inspiring images.

 

 

Bonsai seedlingBonsai seedling after 2 yearsBonsai 3 years old

The Criptomeria Bonsai, at 1, 2 and 3 years age.

 

 

Bonsai at 4 years oldCriptomeria bonsai age 10 yearsCriptomeria bonsai from seed

The Criptomeria Bonsai, at 4, 10 and 17 years age.

 

 

 

More information

Go to the basic bonsai growing techniques forum.
Return to the bonsai cultivation and propagation section.