Bonsai Styles: Roots over rock

A 'Deshojo' Japanese maple


There is no quick way to produce a root over rock bonsai. I would advise that if you want a tree in this style, cutting's are your best method.

In the first year plant your cutting in a deep container to allow the roots to get long enough to be wrapped around the rock.


Year two and you can place the young tree over the rock. Before doing so a little preperation work is called for. Mix a paste of clay and peat and smear it over the rock in the places where you want the roots to be, taking care to position the roots around the rock, not just to one side. Cover the roots with more of the paste and wrap the rock in a string, of a type that will rot away over time and not damage the roots. Sisal string is ideal for this as it will rot away.

To achieve the maximum thickening of the roots as soon as possible, plant the tree in the ground and water it in well, or plant it in the biggest container available.

While in the ground, begin to develop the trunk and branch structure. The ideal way to do this is using the 'clip and grow' method,

Allow the tree a few years to thicken, then pot up an start to style the top.

Here we see two young spruce, planted on a rock. The roots do not go down into the dish, the soil is all in pockets of rock. The dish is only there for the rock to stand on.

Bonsai like this need to be watched, as they can dry out very quickly.

A root over rock Trident Maple

A root over rock juniper

The roots of coniferous trees will take longer to swell and clasp the rock, than their deciduous cousins and here we see a maple over rock with a good root structure.

Here we see a Maple under development. After a few years in the ground, it's in a training pot to make it easier to work on.

The real thing, a Yew growing on the rock walk at Kew Gardens outstation at Wakehurst Place, West Sussex in the UK, Its one of many trees growing this way.

Another example from Wakehurst Place. The light grey area in the middle of the picture is a wall of Beech roots about 8 feet high.

Allen. C. Roffey Saturday, June 16, 2018 8:40