Growing better shohin roots and trunk

The technique shown in the pictures here and below, is usable for younger trees started as seedlings or cuttings. To develop a good nebari (surface roots) and trunk thickening at deciduous trees like Japanese maples or as shown here, European Beech (Facus sylvatica), a simple technique can be used.

The trick is to let the roots grow over an item, stopping them from growing directly downwards. this will enhance the root spread and lower trunk thickening. In this example a young piece of European Beech is used. A plastic screw cap from a bottle is used. It is fixed underneed the  trunk, forcing roots to spread equally outwards. The growth outwards will enhance the root growth and trunk thickening at once, if correct pruning of the tree is done at the same time. This is dome by pruning back the trunk when in good growth, allowing a low placed branch grow freely for some seasons until the desired trunk thickness is achieved. The trunk will thicken below the strong growing branch, so be sure this is positioned low enough to secure a good tapering of the trunk upwards.

The plastic cap will be overgrown by the trunk and roots when time passes and will do no harm, so just let is stay.

First the tree is potted in a shallow pot, to force the strongest roots to grow downwards when they reach the pot. These will weaken then at this point, letting weaker inner roots grow and equalize the strength, forming a better root base. Later, after one or two years depending on development and growing speed, a wider flatter pot will be selected, so enhance the development further.

See the step-by-step photo guide below, and try it out at home 🙂 After a few years the base for a good shohin is achieved with a little luck.


  1. Bert says:

    Hi, like the write up. Very informative. One question, the medium in which you are potting these into. Is that grit and peat?

  2. King Dave says:

    Will this work on a Green Island Ficus plant?

    • Morten Albek says:

      Hi King Dave

      It will work on any decidious trees, that are able to have a good root spread and trunk thickening. Ficus certainlay qualifies.


  3. alfredo espino says:

    Many thanks for the tip, Morten. I´ll give it a try, it looks easy to do.


  4. Looks god the way to do it and a easy way to get the best neabari on trees.

  5. […] better shohin roots and trunk Morten Albek has just posted a practical guide to growing better roots and trunks. It’s for Shohin bonsai, but you can apply the techniques to larger bonsai as […]

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