Air layering for Shohin bonsai

There are a number of ways to create your own Shohin bonsai. One of them is using a shrub or tree that already is trained for bonsai. You can cut that down and regrow it, if it is a species that tolerates this, and is able to produce new growth despite being cut back hard.

Another way to use the same type of material is to air layer it. This way it can be shortened so it fits the 20 cm / 8 inches height categorising Shohin bonsai.

In 2019 I received an Ulmus with cork bark characteristics. It was previously grown in a raised bed and I knew I would like to shorten it. Therefore I cut the top and a few larger roots right away, before putting it into a training pot.

The Elm had a good fat trunk, branches positioned well but still in development and were grown for a full season before I wired and trained the main branches the first time. The Elm is a strong grower so it was pretty fast I was allowed to do some pretraining work.

The main flaw was the base roots, the nebari. There were some huge roots and then opens spaces. The best solution for this was to regrow all the roots, and this is done with air layering.

Air layering is simple but it might also fail. Depending on the species, the timing and doing it precisely and with care of details. Just before spring, the air layering was done, and now it was time to separate the top from the bottom and hope for enough strong roots.

In this month’s tutorials just published, we go through the process of separating and look into the aftercare and future of the tree. A Shohin in full glory within a few years I hope. The start is promising.

View it all with a detailed description at the Monthly Bonsai Magazine.

I also added a list of species suitable for different air layer techniques for the members. You find it here:

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