time to overpot a spekboom – again

Sneak Peek

The Spekboom, or Dwarf jade, is a wonderful bonsai subject. They’re almost impossible to kill (if you don’t freeze them in winter), and they grow vigorously in the summer heat. That means you have to repot them pretty frequently.

Time to Overpot a Spekboom – Again

A year ago this Spekboom, which started off as my original nub of a cutting back in 2018, got overpotted into this neat little Kintsugi pot. It was starting to look like something, and I figured it could use some room to grow.

(Some of you may be wondering what criteria I’m relying on to pronounce this specimen overpotted. There are two in this case: one, the pot is almost as long as the tree is tall – typically you’re looking for a pot that’s one-half to two-thirds as long as the tree is tall; and two, the height of the pot in profile is roughly five times the trunk thickness at the base – these measurements should be very close to one another.)




Here’s how the tree had progressed by December of last year. You can see it’s filling out well – the ultimate shape (broom-form) is getting established.

And now a year has passed since the first photo above was taken. Take a few seconds to compare the two shots. In addition to becoming more or less a bush (an elephant bush?!), notice how much thicker the trunk has gotten. My eyeball says 50% or better.

Now this is pretty remarkable. Once trees get into bonsai pots, they don’t typically put on much trunk heft. That’s what you get when you grow out trees in the ground. Yet here’s this relatively small Spekboom (just over 12″ tall) growing in a rather confined space and its trunk is thickening! Well, I’m pretty excited about that.

The other thing you may or may not have noticed is that the pot this tree is in is now somewhat small in its surface area relative to the mass of the tree. When I picked it up to take it to the work bench, it was very distinctly top-heavy. Your typical bonsai should have a good balance to it when you lift it from the bench; it shouldn’t feel like it’ll tip over if you accidentally incline it one way or the other. This one for sure did.

So the first order of business today was to trim back the rank growth and open the tree up – meaning remove crossing branches and branches that have no future; downward pointing branches and upward pointing branches that have no future; and so on, to further refine the design.

This is the ticket. Leave about half that foliage on the bench!

The final step for today was to overpot this tree yet again – as they say, I have a plan!

But first, a little history on this unique pot. Back in the early 90’s I discovered Richard Robertson, a.k.a. Rockpot Pottery up in Maine (Richard passed a few years ago). Richard was one of who knows how many American potters doing bonsai pots, in an era where the level of interest was much less than today. I started ordering from him regulary, because he did great work and I thought my trees deserved nice settings. In those days the Internet was not yet with us, and so you either ordered from a catalog (by mail!) or by phone. I would order from Richard pretty regularly, to get a variety of sizes, styles and glazes so I’d have the stock I needed when it was time to pot up trees I was working on. But what came in was sight unseen.

I remember clearly when I unpacked this pot. It has a lovely, creamy matte finish, the glaze with hints of gray, blue and brown. I thought it looked like a mushroom because of the color and finish, and I still do. But the odd part is, over the past 30 years I haven’t come across a tree that goes really well with the pot. It’s more a white pot than anything else, and only certain species look good in a white pot. I’m thinking Spekboom may be one of them.

So this guy is now overpotted again and on to the next phase of development. My goal is a taller and heftier tree. With the space available in the pot, I’m thinking by this time next year I should have a much more substantial specimen. If all goes well, I’ll be posting about it again by that time.

Meanwhile, I’d love to hear what you think. This is one of my favorites, if for no other reason than it cheers me up sitting on my desk when winter arrives.