How to Rock Plant a Bonsai


Bonsai started in ancient China, but in the 13th century, it was the Japanese bonsai masters who took the art form to a new level. Bonsais are trees that have been shaped and pruned over years into miniature trees. Rock planting a bonsai portrays an illustration of a tree's struggle in nature to survive. It can take months or even years to complete the project, but many find the results are worth the meticulous time spent caring for the bonsai.

Step 1

Choose the type of deciduous bonsai tree that will be used. Pick deciduous trees with small leaves and strong lengthy roots that grow quickly. Go to a nursery and peruse the deciduous tree selection. Ask for assistance if you are unsure.

Step 2

Find a rock for the deciduous tree to be rock planted. Search the ground while taking a walk. Look at construction sites for a sizable rock to be used. Make a trip to a bonsai equipment store and purchase a rock if you can't find one.

Step 3

Mix together the growing medium, which is a 50/50 mixture of soft clay and fine peat. Press the mixture into the rock's fissures and cracks with your hands. Remove the soil from the tree's root ball until the root is exposed. Tuck the roots into the rock's cracks. Keep the roots moist by misting them with water from the spray bottle. Apply plastic wrap to the top of the rock covering the roots and securing them to the rock. Leave the bottom of the rock unwrapped to allow the roots room to grow downward through the rock.

Step 4

Place a plastic bag with drainage holes in the bottom around the base of the tree. Fill the bag with fertilized soil until the it reaches the top of the bag. Secure the bag shut with string around the bottom of the bonsai's trunk. Peel down the sides of the plastic bag gradually to expose the tree's roots. It can take several months or years for this process to be completed.

Step 5

Transfer the bonsai into a deep pot after most of the roots have been exposed. Bury the rock deep enough in the pot so that the bonsai's roots will be covered in soil. Watch for when the roots have reached out of the bottom rock and entered the soil.

Step 6

Replant the tree into a shallow bonsai pot. Cover the roots with soil to ensure continued growth. Prune the leaves and branches of the tree, shaping it into the desired mold imagined.

Tips and Warnings

  • The rock's size determines the final appearance of the bonsai; larger rocks will overshadow the tree giving the illusion of a struggle, while a smaller rock will indicate closeness and strength of the bonsai tree. The plant, leave, rock and pot size need to be taken into consideration. These components contribute to the overall expression of the bonsai. Do not prune the tree during the time it is growing in the bag. Top growth promotes root development.

Things You'll Need

  • Deciduous bonsai tree
  • Rock
  • Clay
  • Peat
  • Spray bottle
  • Plastic wrap
  • Plastic bag
  • String
  • Soil
  • Fertilizer with medium phosphorous
  • Deep bonsai pot
  • Shallow bonsai pot


  • American Bonsai Association: Rock Planting a Bonsai
  • Bonsai for Beginners: Chinese Elm Root over Rock Style Demonstration
Keywords: rock plant bonsai, replanting bonsai tree, shape pruning bonsai

About this Author

Since May 2009, Christina Delegans-Bunch has been pursuing her career as a professional writer. Her work has been published on eHow and GardenGuides. She holds a certification in floral designing and wedding consultation from Harcourt Extended Learning.