The Importance Of Nebari In Bonsai + 2 Methods For Healthy Roots

Nebari is a Japanese word that describes the roots that can be seen on the surface. You can also find the related term tachiagari, which refers to the lower part of the trunk and where the trunk widens to join the shallow roots: Nebari.

Shallow roots help us see how old a tree is. Young trees generally do not have visible roots.

They are still underground, but as the shallow roots grow and thicken, they will likely start to appear above ground level. The older the tree, the more roots we will see on the surface.

Bonsai roots that are fully exposed or projected at odd angles are not necessarily good nebari. The roots should look natural as if they really grew there.

The roots can sometimes be exposed by erosion in nature, but they usually do not grow into the ground and fall back.

In the vast majority of cases, we shouldn't see any space between the roots and the ground, as this seems to make the tree appear unstable.

Some characteristics of a good Nebari bonsai include:

  • Only the upper surfaces of the roots appear above ground level.
  • Roots of the same size instead of very thick ones mixed with finer roots.
  • Roots that extend in all directions.
  • The roots are spread evenly, rather than crossing and tangling.
  • All the roots are at the same level. Try to avoid one or more starting points being higher than the others.
  • Roots that divide and spread evenly as they grow further away from the tree.

How to develop a good Nebari

Root pruning is the number one technique to help develop good nebari on our bonsai. The earlier you start, the better your results will be.

Remove as many vertical roots as possible in each reporting session. When we remove the downstream roots, the tree has to rely more on the shallow lateral roots that remain in order for those roots to grow faster.

As a bonus, the base of the tree tends to protrude towards the roots, making the trunk appear even older.

Having only 2 or 3 big, thick roots sticking out of the trunk is not very good, nebari. We really want a lot of roots of the same size, so more root pruning is needed.

By cutting the lateral roots, we can encourage the tree to grow even more roots from the trunk. The pruned roots will also sprout new roots from the cut ends and this will help produce roots that divide and spread.

Currently, 2 methods are used to graft roots:

1. Approach to grafting:

Cut a crack in the bark of the tree where roots are needed. Cut the bark on one side of the seedling very close to the roots.

Place the seedling in the indentation so that the injured parts meet, then tie the seedling securely to the main tree. Nails or pins are often used to hold the approach grafts in place while they heal.

Since the main tree and the sapling can grow on their own roots, they will both remain alive while the graft is attached, so precision is not entirely necessary for this to work.

Once the graft has healed well, the top of the seedling is removed, leaving new roots that feed the bonsai through the graft.

2. Wire graft

make a hole in the root or trunk where you want new roots. Pass a tall, thin seedling through the hole so its roots are where it needs new roots.

Keep everything in place and close the holes to prevent water and air from getting in while the tree heals. Again, both parts can come out through their own roots while the graft takes time to fully heal.

As the hole in your tree heals and gets smaller and as the seedling grows and thickens, the 2 parts are compressed. Eventually, the exchange of both trees will come together and the sap will be able to flow from one to the other.

Once you are sure the grafts have come together, the top of the seedling can be removed, leaving the roots as a new part of the bonsai.

We hope you enjoy this video about how to Bonsai - Develop Nebari - Surface roots:

Source: OrlandoBonsaiTV

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