Can I repot this pine?

I just bought this Austrian Black Pine (think Black Pine but hardy to zone 3). It’s horribly root bound. The soil feels like a solid rock. Water does not permeate well and I live in Colorado where I would have to water this very frequently to keep it from drying out. So, based on the candle extension photo - can I repot this somehow so that I have a better chance at keeping healthy roots all summer? If I cannot repot now, when is the next soonest window in which I can repot? I know some pines are dug in the summer. I have the ability to totally baby this thing for weeks until re-established.


Thank you in advance!


I hope someone tells me I’m wrong because I’m in a similar situation, but I feel as though it would be best to use the tape method to aid with percolation and then repot early next year. Although, if I recall correctly, I think I heard Ryan say you can repot pines like this, but the more the needles are formed, the less likely the success you’ll have.


I agree. The tape wall to increase the soil column will be the best for the situation.


Can anyone point me to the Mirai Live stream or a blog on the ‘tape method’ which I’m not familiar with? Thank you! Any other thoughts on getting away with repotting this tree?

What about a mid or late summer report?

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Here’s the video for the tape wall:

The goal is to make the rim of the pot taller with tape so water doesn’t immediately run off the surface and out of the pot. The water pools up on the surface and will slowly percolate through. (increased “gravity column” + time)


The first step before taping though would be to remove ~1/2 inch or so of the surface soil. The goal is to get past the broken down organics and/or surface soil. This will also give you an extra 1/2 inch of rim to hold water and may not require a tape wall.

As you clean, try to keep the soil surface horizontal if possible - the goal is to prevent water from just running off.

Once you’ve cleaned the surface, add some new soil + top dressing. Make sure to leave a generous 1/4 inch lip - the more water we can keep from running off, the better.

Water gently and slowly from the center, let the water build up just enough pool on the edges but not run over. That pooled water will soak in within a few minutes. Repeat this after the water has soaked in until you have a good amount of water coming out of all of the drain holes in your pot (that still might be a slow drip).

How many times did you have to water to get full percolation? Was it more than you have patience/time for? How about someone watering for you over the summer? If it takes too long, then a tape wall should help cut it down to 2 passes. You might also wait on taping until the next time it needs watering - if the soil was excessively dry the first time, this process may be faster the second time.


To your original question - I would wait to repot. If you don’t know what the situation is beneath the soil, it will be better to wait until late winter/early spring when you have the most leeway to deal with whatever issues you may find. Your tree still seems to be very healthy from the photo (color correction makes that hard to be sure). Just pay more attention to this tree this year.

I went through this last summer with a big Ponderosa. 7th year in a bonsai container, still with a core of field soil. Percolation wasn’t bad the year before. First real watering of the year in the PNW didn’t come until late April / early May for this tree. Water just ran off and very little was absorbed. Cleared the moss and the top ~1/4 inch of surface soil until friable akadama, top dressed, tried watering again and it was only marginally better. Cleaned further, added surface soil and top dressing.

That got it to 3 passes to get water through the container, which was acceptable for me. 2 passes would give me a few drops of water out of the bottom, 3 would give me steady drips.

I considered a late or fall repot and am very glad I didn’t repot early. I didn’t do the initial potting and there was a lot more field soil at the core to remove than I expected when I repotted this spring. I managed to get rid of all of the remaining field soil, but would not have been comfortable taking that much in the fall.


This is great, thank you all for the answer to my question and the resources too. I also hadn’t considered a repot may discover more issues with I wouldn’t be able to properly deal with which may create further problems down the road.

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