Root maker pots

Hi all
I can’t find resellers in Europe for pots like the Rootmaker ones which air-prune roots. Does anyone knows something about somewhere?..

Best,

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It is easy to build by yourself take a look this video, I make pots for my needs .

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Hi @filipepaula . In the UK and Europe they are called air pots. Search air pot garden in google and you’ll find it. I use them all the time and they are fantastic…

Hi,
If you look up ‘pond baskets’ they might be a good alternative. I’ve used them for years with great success. They come in a variety of sizes and both square and round, and offer the same air-pruning of roots that grow out close to, or through the walls of the container

The biggest issue with pond baskets and colanders that work in a similar manner is that they tend to degrade fairly fast in the sun (2-3 years). The various rootmaker and air pots generally include a UV inhibitor so they last longer.

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Hi Keith, I use the airpots for some plants but their holes are so big that akadama, pomice and lava particles tend to escape them. I workaround the issue covering the bottom with plastic net. Have you found any better solution?

Hi Simone, I go with the manufacturers recommendations but with a twist. I use them to accelerate growth rather than putting in the ground. To that end I use 65% horticultural coir mixed with 25% general compost and 10% potting grit. I found using only coir they stayed too wet or in the heat of summer dried out too quickly. By adding compost it helps to retain water. You can substitute the grit for very fine particle pine bark (but it’s expensive by comparison). Some of my trees don’t like coir too much so I use more compost. The horticultural trade simply use coir and have good success.
With the size of the holes it allows loads of oxygen to the roots which as you know boosts growth. I have also found that treating them like an ordinary plant pot and trying to prune too much / gain ramification weakens or kills the tree, so now I simply let them grow with minimal pruning to shape. They are a great way of getting fine roots ready for putting in a bonsai pot. Incidentally they can also be used to gain fine roots before planting in the ground as the tree nurseries do.
I have about 50 on the go at any one time and I’m investing in more this year.

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@MartyWeiser I’ve had several trees in the same pond baskets for 4 years, and the baskets are still in good shape. They look good for several more years at this point. The brand I have are from Laguna.

@Bob_McCarlie good to hear that the pond baskets are holding up well in the sun. I had issues a decade or two ago and my most recent round of colanders did not last long. However, that makes sense since they are generally designed for indoor use.

It sounds like colanders and pond baskets produce fine roots rather slowly if a tree can be left in them for years on end. How much top growth do you get?
With airpots there is lots of top growth and so many fine roots are produced the trees require repotting at least every two years. I have tried to go longer but all the soil is used up and the tree suffers quite badly. Some trees grow so fast in the smaller airpots (1 Ltr) that they need repotting every year. I only used them instead of planting in the ground and becoming a pee post for my old dog (though sadly that’s no longer a problem) and a pair of goal posts when throwing the ball for my younger dog.

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I’ve been reusing the same pond baskets since 2007 or 2008… they look about the same now as they did after the first year. The majority of colanders do indeed break within the first 24 months, but I was lucky with old Japanese colanders that were in service for about 10 years.

The tree I have had in a basket for 4 years is a young JWP. It’s grown a lot each year, although last year it seemed to slow down. It is on my repotting list for this spring. I am very curious as to what the root system looks like. I’ll post a picture when I do the repot. I put a sheet of quarter inch plywood, or rigid plastic/acrylic under the roots ball when I put the tree in the baskets to promote lateral root development.

I also have a couple of Mugo’s in baskets, as well as a couple of junipers. One Mugo and one juniper have been in their pots for 3 yrs, and the others for 2. All have put on lots of top growth each year.

One thing I think I have observed (but can’t prove) is that the trunks of the trees in baskets seem to thicken faster than those in regular bonsai pots. I usually don’t keep trees in nursery pots beyond the first repotting time for them, so a year at most depending on when I buy them.

I believe that the soil mix makes a big difference in these cases. The trunks thicken the best in a very organic mix which is why nurseries use it. However, the roots tend to get long and circle the pots. Root maker and similar pots inhibit this, but the core is still going to lack oxygen and not produce lots of roots.

A granular bonsai soil promotes lots of oxygen so we get lots of fine roots, particularly if it has a scalable component like Akadama. However, the top does not grow as fast. Something we want for a bonsai in refinement.

I am trying to get the best of both worlds by using a roughly 50/50 mix of sifted pine bark and aggregate. The goal is very strong growth a finer root system. The first experiments used diatamaciamacious earth (screened oil dry) in grow bags in the ground. I think it is is working as well I want. I plan to dig a tree or two to check this spring. The second used screened pumice for seedlings potting up in 4" (10 cm) square pots and I got good growth last year. I plan to repot some of this this year into some fairly shallow pots made from 1/8" (3 mm) screen to check the roots and see how they do in my version of a root maker pot.

Hi Filipe

Rootmaker don’t have any European stockists. I was fortunate to hear about them before I last took a business trip to the US and picked up a couple of their seed starting trays. Here’s some guidance on European equivalents:

For seeds

  • The only choice is air pot seed trays AFAIK

For pots

  • airpots, the original and most expensive
  • fake airpots, mostly sold on ebay
  • Ercole air pots, reports suggest there is still some root circling at the bottom of the pot (cheap on eBay)
  • Idel Vinci, I expect root circling at the bottom to occur also due to similarity in construction with the Ercole (recently available on Facebook marketplace in the London area)
  • fabric bags, ‘root nurse’ ‘root doctor’ ‘root pouch’ are all brands of fabric potsand there are other less well known brands/versions

Alternatives
As others have suggested, anything with a lot of holes in

  • Hydroponic baskets
  • Pond baskets
  • Collanders
  • Mushroom or catering trays

Happy to discuss further if helpful - I’ve got a few of each of those I mentioned as I’m conducting an unscientific trial into which is ‘best’ and why.

Hi Bob, if the growth has slowed it does indeed sound as though it needs repotting. Would it not be better to not repot but put the whole thing into a larger basket? This way the roots will have a second growth before needing to be repotted in a couple of years.

Hi Marty, I haven’t found this with airpots. Because air is present throughout then roots are evenly distributed throughout the pot.I’ll try to remember to take a photo during repotting.

Hi Toby, the original and (most expensive) are definitely the best. i’ve seen how the others perform and have stayed clear of them. In the 8 years I’ve been using them I have never experienced root circling at the bottom. I had some at the top when I experimented and left a larch tree for three years. Incidentally I use sizes from 1 Ltr right up to 20Ltr.
I use the airpot seed trays for field grown deciduous. With the energy within the tree and the efficiency of the airpot it creates lots of roots. So many in fact the roots will have to be pruned the following year when potting into its first bonsai pot. I also use the seed trays for transitioning a tree from a normal airpot. It allows the roots to be laid flat as opposed to straight down when preparing for a bonsai pot the following year.

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Thank you Keith, I’ve noted you post a lot of very useful information on the topic of field growing/growing out trees so thank you for responding to my (reply to a) post.

I do expect air pots to be the best, for the other root pruning pots to result in circling at the bottom, and for it to be awkward to remove a tree from a fabric pot. I find air pots are affordable up to 5l but the price then ‘rockets’ above £5 and then above £10 :frowning:

I spoke to air pot recently and they did mention they were rolling out a ‘bonsai range’ may just be the seed trays however +/- a few tweaks.

They told me the same thing 2 years ago. They did send a couple of photos and they were airpots but half the depth. They could b used to gain fibrous roots prior to repotting into a bonsai container. I will of course have to buy a couple to experiment alongside my other airpots.
They are expensive but they are so robust and really do last. Do like I do, when it’s birthdays or christmas I ask for bonsai stuff. I’ve had most off my airpots that way and incidentally most of my books and tools :smile:

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Actually, I was just reading recently about JBP from seed development in Bonsai Today Masters Series Pine book, and they talk about the small colander into a larger colander approach to develop the trunk of the tree.

I have thought about that and have been looking for larger baskets online, but so far haven’t found anything larger than the 10x10" basket I have the tree in now. Nurseries and pond stores are closed for the season here, plus we are in Covid lockdown, so in person shopping isn’t viable.

I’ll keep looking for something that might do. I have been thinking about building a box of some sort with mesh sides and bottom that I could put the pond basket into.