maple layering success

Sneak Peek

This Swamp maple, Acer Drummondii, has been developing nicely for the past year. But there’s always been a problem with the base. Time for a layering!

Maple Layering Success

This Swamp maple has developed quickly since we collected it in Winter 2020. In just a year, I’ve gotten a nice branch set established and the leader is coming along. All’s well, right? Well, not quite….

Yes, I know we don’t view our bonsai from the side, but doggone this base looks butt-ugly!

The obvious answer is to layer the tree above the ugly base. Layering doesn’t always go smoothly, but the technique I’m going to use here is very, very reliable.

First I removed a strip of bark around the tree where I want my new root base. Bear in mind when you’re doing this that the roots will emerge from under the bark at the top of the strip, not the bottom. So make sure you cut in the right spot.

A slit nursery pot, enough soil to thoroughly bury the area I’m wanting roots, and good old duct tape!

This photo was taken at the end of the process, by the way, not the beginning. You can see the difference in the foliage from the above photo.


You will need at least six weeks for most layering attempts. When enough time has passed, dig down carefully looking for roots. I did that before doing this.

This is what you want to see, a nice new set of roots where you removed that strip of bark. Sometimes you don’t get roots all the way around; you can re-wound the area missing roots and re-bury the whole thing, and give it another three weeks minimum.


And here it is, after cutting off the ugly root base and putting the tree back into its pot. I did remove some foliage before undertaking this operation, so as to lighten the demand on the new (less-developed) root system. This is a must.

Layering is a very useful tool in your bonsai kit. If you don’t have any experience layering, pick a tree that doesn’t thrill you and have at it. Practice makes perfect!