Creating bonsai from stumps.

How to start a bonsai tree from just a stump. There are many ways to start a bonsai. You do not have to start from a seed as most people think. Here are a few ways you can start a bonsai:
  1. From a seed.
  2. From a cutting.
  3. Using a stump you dug up or bought
  4. From nursery stock
  5. Buy pre-bonsai stock from a specialized bonsai nursery
  6. Buy a developed tree.

Each one of the above mentioned points have pro’s and con’s. I listed them from one to six. One taking the longest and six being the fastest and easiest way to get started with bonsai. I have to say using the first two methods is very time consuming. When using the first two methods, use big pots or grow it in the open ground. After that you can plant it into bonsai pots. This will speed up the process.

Today I want to focus on method number three. For years I use to collect small tree from relatives gardens and from the side walks around my neighborhood. I would plant these trees in pots, cans and used bottles. I would allow these trees to grow and then start working on them after a year or so depending on the health of the tree. This worked well and I liked this way of collecting stock for bonsai as I did not have to spend money. After joining our local bonsai club I saw what others were doing and wanted to have trees with nice thick trunks and beautiful movement.

I did some research on starting bonsai trees. The one method that I liked or that stuck to me was starting a bonsai from using old stumps. I know how this sounds but it’s a great way to start bonsai. Here are a few photos of trees that I started from stumps.

Some of these trees have been with me for more than five years now and as you can see they only starting to gain shape now. The one upside is that the thunk line and movement is already there I just need to fill in the gaps to complete the picture. Yes this might take some time before they can be classified as bonsai or even ready to view at a show but it’s worth the wait.

How does this process work?

  1. First find a stump that is suitable. Look for a nice thick trunk that tapers towards the top. Next thing you need to bear in mind is the type of tree that your looking at. I find that trees used as hedges or landscaping trees are the easiest to use as they do not mind if you disturb their roots.
  2. Get the necessary permission to remove the stump. Just because it on a side walk does not mean you can just take it. I find the best place to collect tree stumps are from construction sites as they will give the tree to you willingly cause that means its one less trip they have to take to the dump site.
  3. Make sure that you keep as much roots on a the stump as possible. Trees might take a while before they start to show signs of growth. Water them regularly. Do not over water as there are no leaves on the tree the roots might rot if the water in the container is not drained.
  4. When you start seeing signs of growth do not reach for your pruning tools and start choosing which branch stays and which must be removed. Leave the tree to grow. You can prune back long growth but do not remove entire branches. Just enough so that the tree/stump buds back closer to the trunk.
  5. After a few years of pruning back branches and allowing you tree to grow you can start styling your tree. Now you can decide what you first branch will be and place branches according to the rules. Note that branches do not always grow where you would like them to be so bending and grafting might be used to get the branches in place.
  6. Repot the tree every 3 years and fertilize regularly.

Using this method is not for everyone as it can be a very timely and slow process. I enjoy this method cause it allows you to be creative and play around with different kinds of horticultural techniques. Not all the stumps survive this process but the ones that do are worth all the effort.

Thanks for reading this blog. Hope you enjoyed it. Share your stumps in the comments below.



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