Keeping rescued bonsai alive

Someone gave me three ponderosa pines spp. ponderosa. They were collected in Eastern Washington about 30 years ago. The guy who collected them and turned them into bonsai died 10 years ago. His daughter has been keeping them alive by watering them daily. In 10 years they have never been repotted or fertilized. The trees are still in the Eastern Washington area so they experience temperatures between 100+ and -0 degrees.

The trees are in rotting, cedar pots, the bottoms are gone and the roots are coming out. They were kept on a patio in full sun. The trees are 3 to 4 feet tall. The bark is old and flakes of easily. They all appear to have nicely shaped nebari.

I’ve watched the Mirai video on repotting ponderosa pines. I have dozens of questions but I will start with two and welcome other suggestions.

Should I wait until spring or repot now and when I repot should I use a pot that is close to the same shape and size as the current pots?

Here is a picture of one of the trees.


Awesome gift to receive!!!
Would love to see the others.
Definitely repot them in the spring.
It’s great that they are in somewhat small pots. Repot them in a shallower pot and don’t go any smaller with the outer dimensions.

Welcome Joe! What a great story. Bringing your questions here will ensure a happy ending. I would rewatch and rewatch that video. I would not repot now. I would make sure you have all of your questions answered and have all supplies ready, maybe even an extra pair of hands to help. You will need more than you think. Pots. Wire. Pliers. Bonsai Soil. Chopstilcks for the rootwork. Shears to clean up root ends. I’m probably forgetting something as I type this. The last thing you want to do is start a repot and realize you are missing key things needed to finish properly. That’s like your doctor leaving to play golf while your on the surgery table.

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The tree LOOKS great. Jewel in the rough… Over-pot now to protect the roots until spring. Post photos of the other trees.
@PonderosaJoe , your tag doesn’t say where you are.
There is a great club in Spokane with major experience in Pinderosa.

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Thanks for the tips on tools and supplies. Now I know what to ask Santa for Christmas!

I live in Wenatchee. Haven’t found the other bonsai folks and I suspect the local expert on ponderosa pines died 10 years ago.

I tried to post all three pictures but since I’m a newbie and the forum only allows me to post one picture at a time so I chose the best looking tree. Here is the tallest one - a little over 4 feet tall.

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The pots dont look too iffy. They appear to be stable. Worst case, slip the trees into a slightly oversized nursery pot until spring. No root disturdence.
Its not way late for Fall fertilizing. Hold off in spring. Especially after repot.
It may seem intimidating; however, very doable!
Small steps. Get organized. Get what you think you need. Watch the pine/general repot videos. You do not need a final show pot yet. Go same size and 1/3 shallower.
If you do not have hands on experience, buy a medium size mugu pine and repot if first (next spring), just to see what can be done. (After that, the Ponderosa won’t be a nightmare…)
10 years is NOT outside of happy repot range for a pine. No need to get excited. They look real healthy! After one tree repot, if it is not crazy rootbound, you might decide not to do the other two until later.
Now is the happy time for minor(or major) pondy work.
Watch the videos for Ponderosa fall trimming. Plan a (short term) styling on each tree. Keep notes… I do see one bar branch on the first tree… Minor work now will not affect repot next spring.


Welcome fellow Bonsai lover.:wink:. Mama Mia what a GIFT x 3:astonished:! From what I can see much unrealized potential rests in your hands today. Ten years unrepotted is no big deal. They go a LOT longer in small root conditions as Yamadori natural trees. Wish you were my neighbor I’d love to help with these. I have 11 Yamadori Ponderosas from about 45 years to perhaps 350 years old and have begun to get a feel for them. They are so cool to work with. Waiting till late Winter just as buds begin to show life is when to repot(broken record here) and 100% pumice is the best medium.
Can you post pictures of all the trees sitting about 3 feet or so off the ground please? Not sure if it can be done but send a PM if you want or barring that give email address and I’ll contact you.


Remember what Ryan showed on one live stream with his hands? As you go shallower you go wider. Narrower go taller. Cutting off bottom of rootball sides will need some room to spread out. Also considering size and spread of trees can use wider pots at least during recovery and development and to make less tip over prone.