Surface roots

The root flare of Bonsai trees

A very important aspect of a Bonsai is its Nebari (or: root-flare), the surface roots that provide visual balance to a tree. Ideally, the surface roots are visible on all sides of the trunk.

Bonsai surface roots (Nebari)

How to create a good Nebari on Bonsai trees

Creating a Nebari can be done using two methods; by regularly pruning the downward growing roots or by applying a propagation technique; air layering. Both methods will be described in detail below.

Regular root pruning

By removing large vertically growing roots every time you repot a tree you replace growth to the sideward-growing roots. In doing so, over time these roots will grow thicker and ultimately create a natural looking Bonsai Nebari. Some growers place their trees on a stone when growing young material, to force a tree to grow its roots sidewards. But when repotting regularly, pruning the vertical growing roots should be enough to stimulate the surface roots.

Nebari on a bonsai tree
The Nebari is crucial for the design of Bonsai.
Nebari on bonsai
Closeup view on the Nebari.

The tourniquet method

This air layering method involves tightly wrapping copper wire around the base of the trunk, partially blocking the stream of nutrients from the roots. When the trunk grows thicker the stream of nutrients will decrease more and more, forcing it to grow new roots just above the wire. Apply a tourniquet during the spring. Read the step by step guide below for detailed information.

Bonsai tree
A nebari helps to create a sense of stability for (Bonsai) trees.

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Key take-away

Whatever technique you use, growing a nice Nebari takes many years. The only quick way to get a nice Nebari, is to look for this feature specifically when purchasing new material.