Blue Atlas Cedar in Burlap

I bought a pair of Blue Atlas Cedar trees over the weekend—15 gallon cans, thick trunks, four feet tall. I’m pretty sure each root ball is wrapped in burlap. It’s too late to repot these trees in Texas (I think) but is it okay to leave them in burlap for nine months?


I wouldn’t worry about that, yes next year you will damage some roots that grew through the burlap but doing something now would probably create more problems.

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If they came from Oregon be prepared for them to be in a heavy clay soil with few roots in the interior. I have done a partial repot on trees like that with good success out of season to prepare them for a proper repotting. I cut the burlap away about 1/2 to 2/3 way down making sure to keep any roots that are growing through it. I them loosen up and remove the top of the clay ball until I find some roots. This goes back into the same pot or one that is slightly larger with a soil mix composed of about 50/50 bark and pumice - think part way between the typical nursery mix and our soils. The bark holds more water which helps to keep the clay from drying out completely while the pumice promotes better root growth that can be used when the tree is actually repotted. I have then had good luck completely removing the old clay when I actually repot.


I would leave them as is to see how they handle your summer. Here is WI we winter those at 38-42 F. they need dormancy. can you provide a period of cold long enough where you are at in Texas? they also don’t survive in Phoenix (my other experience location). best not mess with them at the moment and watch them. nice trees though! may cut open the top of the burlap and release them from the girdle they are in? cutting open the burlap and leaving them in those pots should be okay.

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Yes, I’m concerned about winter dormancy. However, these are ‘Horstmann’ Blue Atlas Cedars, which apparently are hardy in zones 6–9, which includes all parts of Texas. Here’s what I read about them. Cautiously optimistic, maybe?

maybe. still wait until your spring 2025 before i attempted repot. maybe think big clay pot for first repot? i have no idea what species mine are but they seem to like cold. not freezing though. into the 90s is hot for WI. also humidity matters. i dont see them doing well in houston like humidity. i find it takes a full year for trees to accept an environment change. never rush into things with bonsai

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I’d say you need to find out what soil they are in under the burlap. If it’s the 100% clay, I have had success following @MartyWeiser advice. Although I use 1/4-1/2 perlite and wood shavings (hamster bedding), that’s more of an economical choice where I haven’t seen a huge difference. Although If pumice was a reasonable cost where I lived I’d stick with it and not just give it to “the pick of the liter”. But ultimately what’s under the burlap should drive your decision in my opinion

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When I get a new tree like that I pull them out and take a look. In the picture they are in soil. You tuning they put the burlap in a pot and then put soil over the burlap?

If they are in burlap you at a minimum removed the burlap then put them back in the pot. Look at the shoots to dictate your timing. If shoots are extending then hold off on root work. If buds have just swollen without extensions then you can do full root work.

Great looking trees!!!

Remind me of a YouTube video from Mauro Stemberger.

That could be an inspirational video to watch to design styling concepts.

Can I ask where you bought them?

Give us an update.

Thanks for posting

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I found the video you mentioned—thank you, I’ll find some time to watch it. Oddly enough, I stumbled upon 10 of these trees sitting on a palette in the parking lot of Home Depot. I picked the two I thought best, but might have bought them all if I had deeper pockets. I’ll update when I can.

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:rotating_light: Note: no roots were harmed in the potting of this tree. :rotating_light: :grin:

After considering your feedback I worked one of the trees today. I guess you might call it a slip potting.

The rootball was wrapped in burlap, put in the nursery pot, and then covered in soil (more like a mulch).

Unwrapped, I found a dense, heavy rootball of clay—just as you all predicted.

As I’ve seen Ryan do, I started removing soil from the top, down, until I found the true base of the trunk. The good news is I was able to remove nearly two inches of soil. :+1:t2: The bad news is I revealed quite a bit of reverse taper below the initial soil line. :-1:t2: I’ll deal with that later. I was also able to remove then from the bottom, up, until I exposed some bottom roots.

I then prepared the original pot with screen and a drainage layer of a pumice/bark mix.

The tree slipped back in quite nicely, with maybe 1.5" to spare between the rootball and the pot.

Lastly, I filled in the gap with the pumice/bark mix and cut the pot down to size.

Here, you can see the difference in the original pot and the slip pot—all-in-all, about about half the height (and weight).

Now, I did this tree first because I wanted to (1) see what I was getting myself into and (2) get your thoughts on what I’ve done. Tree number two is a twin trunk so I’d like to make appropriate adjustments if any of you feel I should with the second slip pot. Would love to hear what you think! Thanks. :call_me_hand:t2:


Looks good and I imagine it won’t skip a beat. With that being said. You have an opportunity to run as close to of a controlled experiment as possible by leaving the other one as is. Assuming there’s no health risk on leaving it in the nursery pot. You can see the difference in vigor and if this process is actually “saving” time to get a tree into a bonsai from clay in optimal health.

Looks good. The only thing I would have done (and have done) different is to loosen the outer inch or two of the root ball on the sides as I filled the gap with the pumice mix. That would give a region of mixed old and new soil that will hold more water than the straight pumice, but not so much as the clay ball. Any time you have a clearly defined boundary between soil permeability you will end up with little water transport across the boundary.