How to Ground Grow the Telperion Way

I’ve learned a lot about ground growing. And by learning a lot, I mean I’ve killed a lot of trees (as I look over at my dying Scots pine…). 10 years in the ground for many of my trees now so a few are just looking like something worth digging since they were all planted as saplings.

Shout out to @GarryFrey who came out to see the field this past weekend and provided some great tips on larches. It’s great to meet another Mirai member from afar and make the connection.

Here’s my recent ground growing planting sequence inspired by Telperion with details below the photos:

36 24 34 07 35 40 46 55 45 58

Anyways, some small bits I’ve figured out:
-Growing directly in the ground, even if the soil is amended, produces fewer capillary roots and it’s a pain to dig up especially when doing even a couple of trees. It’s like collecting yamdori with yamadori success rates but in your yard. We do have partially clay like soil, but from asking around - doesn’t every yard?
-Planted in 40% Pumice, 30% manure compost, 30% pine bark (I believe this was the telperion recommendation.
-Telperion uses 10" bags from
-I feel those are a touch small for saplings so I bought 12". If you have more established trees larger than saplings you may want to ground grow you may want 14", 16" or 18".
-They are sold in quantities of 10. The 10" were about $2-3 each. Each size up goes up in a price by a bit, but I forget how much.
-Ignore the online brochure that says you have to order by the case, they will sell and are VERY happy to sell in quantities of 10.
-When roots hit the edge of the bag only small feeder/capillary roots go through so grow isn’t impeded, but is actually helped.
-I also called Telperion and they said they plant on a root stopping disc within the bag to keep that flat bass. Anything works, weed mat, wood, dish, frisbee. I found 6" hexagon tiles at lowes for $2 each and put mine on those. So the initial rootball will be flat then it will expand outwards and eventually grown down into the rest of the bag that way.
-I put the tile about 4-6" below the rootball. I have no real basis for this other than 8" seems to deep and less than 4" might meant the tree dries out since I’m not around on this property year round to water after planting and during dry spells.
-I’ve grown on both wood and tile in my field with great success, but the rootbags (new for me this year) will be a welcome addition. Digging up non rootbagged trees can be a bit of work. I have 60 trees in the ground (and counting) so it’s a lot of work every year and I want to get it all switched over to rootbags in the coming years.
-I’m looking forward to popping up these rootballs with a simple shovel like these guys:
-I intend to dig after about three years to check on rootage and potentially to go a size up for the root control bag (maybe 14"?)
-The fence is for the rabbits, who prune my conifers to death in the winter. Another lesson learned.
-I do mulch in mostly for looks, but does keep some moisture and regulate temperature.
-The back four trees were planted without a root control bag for comparison to what I used to do before.
-Telperion podcast here:

-Next on the agenda I want to learn this saw dust heeling in method mentioned in the Randy Knight podcast so I have higher digging success rates as my trees are maturing and I will be pulling a few each year.


Nice post! Let me know when you have some larch ready. I’m gunna start this with a few bristlecones. My problem pest will be deer…


Great read. I’m about to try the same.

Any updates on this post ?

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Listening to the telperion podcast for the 5th time lol. One thing has always puzzled me. They say that they do root work on their seedlings before putting it in a bag. Wouldn’t that involve bare-rooting the tree? However, Ryan says not to bare-root a pine because of the beneficial bacteria around the roots. :confused:

I’m going to be taking my seedling out of its pot and into a bag this spring, so I’d like to do it the telperion way as much as possible.


You can bare root pine seedlings no problem. The Japanese do it and it’s highlighted in the Bonsai Today Master Series Pine book. Since it’s all juvenile foliage and fine feeder roots anyway, the plant bounces back rather quickly. I’ve done several years worth of these where I root prune as soon as the stem turns purple and have about 95% success rate.

I think Jonas has some blog posts on the topic at Bonsai Tonight and Mark Comstock also uses this technique for his pre-bonsai pines.


Okay, sounds good. I think I’ll look into the ebihara technique for this one.

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When transplanting pine seedlings (2 - 5 or so years old), I more or less bare root to trim and arrange the roots, but don’t root wash. I also make sure to toss some of the old soil into the pot. As the trees age I am less aggressive with the root cleaning, but still do a fair bit of work on older trees. However, my oldest pines are probably 30 years old.

I think the root pruning once the stem turns purple is for brand new seedlings to make rooted cuttings.