Digging out trees from mountains and forests

In Japanese: “Yamadori” - Sometimes trees that remained small can be found in nature, due to natural circumstances such as a lack of nutrients.

Yamadori Bonsai video

How to collect Yamadori Bonsai trees

Although it can be hard to successfully dig out the trees and transport them home, these are trees that often possess extraordinarily qualities for Bonsai purposes. Note that it is likely illegal to dig out plants from forests; permission should be granted by the landowner.

Step-by-step plan for collecting trees from forests:

  1. First step is to carefully dig around the tree with a spade, be careful not to damage its root system (see picture 1, below).
  2. Carefully lift the tree and put it on (preferably slightly moist) sheets. Now wrap the sheets around the root system to prevent the tree from drying out (see picture 2, below). The tree should be potted as soon as possible once you arrive back home.
  3. Collect some of the original soil mixture where you dug out the tree, which should be used to prepare a soil mixture for the tree.
  4. Choose a rather large pot with a drainage hole and fill it up to ¼ with a mixture of fine gravel and akadama in a ratio of ½ to ½ (read the Bonsai substrate article for more detailed information on soil mixtures for different species of trees, climates, etc.).
  5. Carefully unwrap the sheets around the root system and place the tree in the pot, now fill the empty space on the sides using the collected original soil mixture mixed with akadama in a ration of ½ to ½ (see picture 3, below).
  6. Finally, rinse a considerable amount of water over the tree, but be careful not to disturb the soil surface by using a fine nozzle.
Bonsai propagation collected trees from the forest
Carefully dig around the tree with a spade.
Collected tree yamadori
The tree should be potted as soon as possible.
Bonsai propagation by collecting trees from forests
Choose a rather large pot.


For most Bonsai tree species the best time to dig out Bonsai trees is during the early spring, just before the tree starts growing.


Put the pot outside protected from direct sunlight and keep it damp, but not wet. Leave the tree untouched until the next spring, when it can be styled or repotted for the first time. Small quantities of fertilizer can be used during the first summer.

For reference material about training collected trees, check the Progressions part of this website. Or read the Bonsai styling section for background information about techniques like pruning, wiring etc.

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