Bonsai vs Potted Plants

I’m trying to come up with a plan this year to get a handle on the increasing number of trees and shrubs I’ve been buying… I’m trying to figure out which ones will be appropriate for bonsai vs as potted trees and it led me to wonder what bonsai practices would be appropriate for trees that were destined to stay in pots for most if not all of their lives.
I’m trying to simplify my life a bit and be able to really focus on bonsai the right way (less variables…) so I would really like to divert some trees to just be pleasant little trees that will stay in fairly large (like up to 40 gallon) pots. What things would you all do to keep these trees healthy and happy in a containerized environment but without having to go full on akadama and cut paste on them?
Thanks for the help!

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I would say put some of your lesser quality trees into big pots and let them be there. By that I mean ones with some flaws or ones that are just aren’t worth trying to bonsai. I think we can forgive flaws in landscaped potted trees a little easier.

And who knows, maybe after they grow for 5-10 years and you have more bonsai skills, you have a desire to try bonsaing them. Or not, and you can just enjoy them in the landscape.

As for how do you keep them healthy? You can just pot them up with potting soil. Use a slow release fertilizer a few times a year. You can add them to a drip system. A big enough pot won’t really have an issue with overwatering (though you still want to be careful)

That’s a great answer. Thank you. What about how to keep them small (ish)? Regular root pruning when I repot?

Yeah but you probably won’t repot them very much. Keep the tops trimmed too and they won’t go crazy on you.

I agree with Nick. The nursery trade hardly ever repot so you could in theory leave you non bonsai trees to grow quite happily. As you aren’t worried about shape / style etc you can prune in the autumn when you can see the development. But I think after a couple of years you’ll be looking at them one sunny morning while having your first coffee of the day and suddenly become inspired by one (or more) and then you’ll have another bonsai to play with.

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Another beginner here. Agree with everything said so far. I plan to do most all of this with some small trees I had bought last year. What I want to add, Don’t go any larger than a 30 gallon pot. If anything, maybe look at 15-25 gallon pots. I have 2 trees in a 47 and 30 gallon pots I got from nurseries. I can only drag the 30 gallon pot, the 47 gallon pot is a joke in how large it is. They are hundreds of pounds and seem to large for the trees.
Get a 15-25 gallon(even smaller if you like) put extra holes in the bottom. Potting soil and adding a extra pumice is my go to for young trees. Then put them somewhere where they will not move for a couple years. Let the roots grow into the ground to increase the trees vigor. When even you decide to rework the tree in a couple years, you lift the pot and cut the ground roots off the bottom of the pot. You end up having a much smaller root ball to either up pot or transfer into a bonsai pot.

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I think what you are trying to do is Niwaki… or japanese garden trees.
I have been studying what I can do for my land scape trees that I want to have trimmed to represent man and nature working together. This is one link that talks about the many options. Basics of Japanese Niwaki | Bonsai Tree Gardener :thinking:

Yep. In the back of my mind, that’s the plan. To look at them one day and change my mind and turn them into bonsai. But for now…I need to scale my projects back so I can actually achieve some of them. My project of raising a three year old seems to have sucked all the time out of my other hobbies…

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Good tip about the large pots.

I sort of am, but I’m also trying to find a middle ground between intensely managed trees and ones that are just left to grow. I got really interested in Niwaki a few years ago but decided that bonsai was a better way to learn some of the same techniques. Ive always felt that I could probably create sone Niwaki if I had a firm understanding of bonsai but not the other way around. Plus there aren’t any Niwaki clubs near me…