Unhealthy Black Pine

Hey guys I’m new to all of this! I recently purchased this Black Pine off Ebay. The pictures looked nothing close to this bad. The soil looks like an organic mix with some type of bark. What could be going on here and what should I do moving forward to make sure this tree becomes and stays healthy. Thanks in advance.

It may be possible that there are some issues going on with the needles or the tree just needs some TLC.

If it were my tree, I would repot it with proper bonsai soil, using the size and ratio recommended by Ryan for JBPs. I have had some neglected trees respond very favorably to being put in fresh soil. Watch the repotting lecture on this website if you are able before doing it to make sure you are going about it in the right way.

Right now is a good time to repot JBPs. Good luck!

Thanks for the reply. Just ordered some adequate soil and will be repotting soon.

Take some time and look at some of the repotting videos before diving in. A root mass this small (presumably from the pictures of the tree) still is still not trivial. Observe the principles of working on roots.

I am curious what the best move would be if this situation was outside the “ideal repotting” window for JBP? Kind of dealing with the same issue but the recommended repotting window has closed?

Any thoughts @MartyWeiser @bentleythekid you guys have been very helpful with nuanced situations for me thus far and I am sure I missing others. Any advice would be appreciated

I have done a modified slip potting of trees outside the ideal window that need to be repotted to solve root related issues such as compacted soil. In this case I pick a pot that is about 2"/5 cm wider and 1"/2.5 cm deeper (can just use the bottom of a deeper pot). I then loosen the roots around the edges and on the bottom going in about 1" (less for a small tree, more for a bigger one). I then pot up the tree in the new pot being careful to spread out the loosened roots and work the new soil in among the roots. For trees in organic nursery mix I normally use a mix of bark and pumice in the 3 - 9 mm (1/8" - 3/8") size range. The goal is to have better soil, but not have too big a difference between the old soil and the new soil. This is a variation of Ryan’s first repotting of nursery stock at the optimal time which is designed to get the tree into a smaller pot while building a ring of good roots so the core can be changed out in the future. However, he normally uses the appropriate bonsai pot mix while I am using a developmental mix to help the tree recover. I also work a chopstick down into the central root ball a few places to help with water penetration since it will always be harder to water than the new soil.

Thanks. I wouldn’t have have thought about chop sticking for penetration or using anything other than pumice for added soil.

Thanks again and one last question.
If I don’t have a pot that’s a good match size wise, is there any was issues with building a cedar box, I assume no… but I’d rather not assume incorrectly if I don’t have to?

The cedar box should work well.

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For trees that are already in bonsai soil, I’m a fan of Ryan’s vacuuming technique, where you loosen as much soil around the perimeter as you can without disturbing the roots too much, vacuuming out the debris and backfilling with fresh bonsai soil. Your idea of using a thin bamboo stick to try to penetrate the root ball in a few places is a good one as well.