When to did up a Mugo Pine

I have a Mugo Pine that has been growing in my garden for 15 years. I just cleaned the tree to allow air & light in to the inner part of the tree. It is very leggy but has a super cool trunk. I’m wo dering if I should allow the growth to happen the garden this year or try and dig it out now and pot it in a box. I live in PA.


Hey @Bstrehse,
Welcome to the forum. A picture would help to get a sense of what you are working with.

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Regardless of timing, one strategy for digging plants with unrestricted roots is to do a 2-3 year process of digging 1/3-1/2 of the roots, filling the void with new, uncompacted soil, and allowing for some new growth in that sector. Do that over a couple of years and you can greatly improve collection success. Since it’s in your yard, could be a viable approach.


Mugo%20trunk Mugo%20garden

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Thanks - do you know if the tap roots on a Mugo go straight down and should I expect with a perimeter cutting of the roots to hit a substantial amount of roots with this first year?

Sorry, no personal experience with this specific kind of yardadori, but I’m sure someone on this forum does!

Welcome abroad the bonsai love boat called Mirai.

The tree could have a single tap root but it most likely has a number of roots growing straight down. You could do an initial exploration of where the roots are coming off the tree by gently raking away the soil at the trunk. We are looking for an area where the roots ring the trunk. This is the ideal find but rarely happens. One has to compromise. Since time is on your side you could use a sharp shovel and cut around the drip line of the tree’s outer foliage cutting any lateral roots. Then try to carefully dig under the tree (about 1-1.5 feet) without breaking up the root ball and cut any roots growing downwards. Avoid cutting very thick roots.

You can leave the tree for the summer and fertilize heavily for the growing season or pot in an Anderson flat or make a grow box. The safer bet is to let it grow for a year then pot it. See Ryan’s videos on potting yamadori. They are very important. Most mugo’s come from garden centres but they go to people’s homes, grow and make great bonsai material. l collected a monster out of concrete planter over
10 years ago and it is doing great. Good luck…

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Thanks David - if I do dig it up and put it into a box for a couple of growing seasons how much of the original soil should I keep and what do you recommend for the new soil mix when adding soil?

Would love to see a pic of your Mugo - can you post it?

My mugo is still in winter storage and will be for a couple of weeks living in Canada and all. l’ll post a pix then.

As for your question, it is a judgement call but try to see that you get a fair amount of roots in the collection and decide on a container size from there. Better error on more than less. lt is often hard to judge how many fine feeder roots you have inside without ripping the root ball apart - which is a dangerous business. l guess one thing to look for is if you are cutting a lot of small roots, more could be inside the root ball indicating a ramified root system. As l said earlier, don’t cut vital large roots. That would be like cutting an artery.

You could also stick in a grow bag and replant and give the tree two years to grow new roots than would be contained inside the bag. Please review Ryan’s video on potting yamadori.

A root bag is a great idea - since it’s in my garden I think that is the best route - thanks for the advice - looking forward to seeing a pic of your Mugo when its out of winter storage.

l admire your willingness to take the longer but better route.

I’m not able to make any recommendations, but this Graham Potter blog post was interesting when I read it and might be relevant to you too:


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Bstrehse, l got this big boy out of winter storage. 37" tall.


Very nice! Did you dig this up as a yamadori? Really nice canopy.

Urban yamadori. lt was in a concrete planter outside a building slated for demolition. After hours of sledge hammer and bolt cutter work, out it came. Just repotted it today making the old back the new front.