Tridents for root over rock bonsai

Trident maples make some of the best root over rock bonsai. The roots grow and thicken quite fast so we can get a good result in less time than most species.

Many of you will already be familiar with the Shibui Bonsai method to create root over rock bonsai. For those who would like to review and those who have not seen this check this post –

You might also be interested in the development of these over the first few years –

You can find more posts by searching Root over Rock here.

The bare root seedlings we get from the garden here rarely have suitable roots for starting a root over rock bonsai. They will need a good root prune and another year of growth to develop good long, lateral roots first.

Trees that grow in rocky areas rarely have straight trunks so I feel that root over rock bonsai look best with short, twisted trunks. That means starting with a seedling that already has some good bends or adding some with wire or pruning.

I noticed the nice bends in this one as I was selecting the trees for the group planting shown a couple of days ago. I think it has potential for root over rock so I have pruned the roots quite hard. Thick roots make it really difficult to sit the tree on the rock properly.

I then selected a taller pot to encourage longer roots through this summer.

It helps to have some choices when fitting a tree on a rock so don’t just start one of these. Get a few started and hopefully one will match your rock well. Even better, start a few more and have at least a couple of suitable rocks for an even better chance of a winning combination in a few years.

Bare root trident maple seedlings available from Shibui Bonsai until spring growth starts.

Fused tridents

Many of us want thick trunks as quick as possible. Fusing tridents together is one way to achieve trunk girth.

Trees that are held tightly together while they grow will eventually fuse and merge together as the cambium layers unite. Eventually they will be grafted so well it can be hard to tell the trunk was once separate trees.

There are a number of different variations on fused trunks. Here I will look at just a couple that I have played with.

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Better trident nebari

I have posted this technique before but to save you searching through old posts here it is again.

The principles of this technique are that most trees have the ability to grow new roots when circulation of sap is restricted. When the new roots emerge above the plate they are forced to grow out horizontally to the edges before diving deeper into the soil. This gives us a great start to a shallow, spreading nebari much prized in bonsai. As an added benefit, when trees rely solely on lateral roots the base of the trunk expands to give a buttressed trunk base which in turn gives your tree much better trunk taper. 2 great bonsai assets for the one simple technique.

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Trident maple seedlings

Winter has arrived at Shibui Bonsai and the deciduous trees have (mostly) dropped their leaves for a winter sleep.

There have been increased mutterings from the Head Gardener about how many trident maple seedlings there are in her garden beds. Now is the time to start on new deciduous bonsai projects so we can kill 2 birds with the one stone.

You can see why she gets a bit cranky. Look how many seedlings have germinated in that garden bed among the real garden plants. At least we have managed to let them grow long enough that we now have a huge source of bonsai potential.

trident seedlings!

Trident maples are a great species for bonsai. They are a traditional Japanese favorite. They are resilient so great for beginners learning how to care for and manage bonsai. They grow fast so we can get a good start on a bonsai in just a few years, even quicker if you are happy with a stick in a pot bonsai.

This year I’m offering 4 different sizes of trident maple seedlings:

Small – trunks up to around 3 mm thick. Just 50c each


Medium – trunks from 3mm through to around 6mm (pencil thick) $1 each

medium size – $1 each

Large – 6mm – 1 cm (around finger thick) $2 each

Some of these seedlings managed to evade detection last winter and have continued to grow taller and thicker so this year I will have a limited number of thicker trunks at $5 each.

Please note that thicker is not always better for bonsai. The thicker trunks rarely have any significant taper so they will require trunk chops which will leave large scars for a number of years. Larger trunks often have one or 2 thick roots that will also need attention.

I also have access to Japanese maple seedlings. These are slower to grow so all are in the small and medium size range and all $1 each. Japanese maples are a little less tenacious than the tridents so there are fewer of them available. Choices will be a little more limited so expect to get a mix of straighter and bendy trunks and a mix of small and medium trunks sizes when you order Japanese maples.

All these seedlings are sold as they come out of the garden. Roots may be trimmed lightly so the pack better but final root pruning is up to you. Some may have good lateral roots, others will have a single ‘tap’ root and few laterals. The good news is that maples respond really well to root pruning so just cut fearlessly. You will see some photos of how I cut roots of trident maples in the following posts. Even with very few roots survival rate is very high.

Email to enquire about maple seedlings or other Shibui Bonsai stock.

Due to state quarantine restrictions seedlings cannot be sent to West Australia, Tasmania or overseas destinations.

In the following posts I’ll outline some of the projects that I use trident maples seedlings for. Many of these projects will be suitable for other species too.