Chojubai Notes: Part 4— Pots for Chojubai

Being a thin-trunked bonsai, most Dwarf Flowering Quince ‘Chojubai’ would naturally make us think, ‘Shallow pot!’ but we’d be just causing grief to our tree…

…or shrub.

Because that’s really the crux of the matter. Chojubai is a shrub, a fact which influences everything about its care and maintenance, including pot choice. You’ve probably noticed photos of beautiful old azaleas in Japan in rather deep pots. Almost all shrubs do better in deeper pots.


Chojubai in a deepish pot, fine for general, year-to-year cultivation. Many pots for Chojubai are even deeper than this.

Why is this? Why do they prefer deeper pots? Shrubs tend to have surface feeding roots rather than deeply seeking roots. Which sounds like they’d do fine in a shallow pot…except that shrubs like Chojubai prefer even moisture on their roots, not overly dry or overly wet. And shallow pots easily create those more extreme conditions.

In some cases a shrub’s root system in a deeper pot will only colonize the top 2/3 of the pot, but don’t worry about that. The bottom 1/3 or so is like a bobber, to float the roots above the area most likely to stay too wet.


Chojubai in last year’s Kokufu show, in a shallower pot for display. Most of these trees are transferred back into a deeper pot post-show. Love this tree. Beautiful natural styling, sucks you in, more about natural beauty than man-made beauty—

Shallow pots might be used with Chojubai, but care will be more exacting, and mostly they are only used for show. The care of many plants in shallow pots, even for those plants we tend to grow in them, like maples, is challenging. For usual care and growth, a Chojubai should be planted in much deeper pots than you’d think.

To sum up, pots for Chojubai should be:

  • Shallow: For show
  • Deeper: Best for year-round growth

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  1. endsurg says:

    Mike, you mentioned the changing of pots from deeper to shallower for a better appearance in a show. I have a few questions about this. First, does the breaking of the new roots by the change in a short period of time adversely affect the foliage? Second, how does one find a pot that will exactly fit both root balls? Third, should this technique be done on other trees that are not going in a show but do better in a deeper pot. I refer here to a previous post in which you talked about have deeper soil for better rooting and mounding up the root ball to achieve this in shallow pots. Philosophically, should we then have two sets of pots for each tree that we think is show worthy: one for the show and one for intershow storage?

    • crataegus says:

      Some exterior root cutting does not seem to adversely affect the foliage. Most growing pots for showable trees are roughly the same length but are deeper. Then you only have to cut the bottom off a bit to fit it in the show pot. The earlier post was about pines, which usually stay in a deep pot for show. Shrubs like Chojubai generally are thinner trunked and look better in shallower pots than pines.

      Some show timing is really not good for trees and they should remain in their usual pots. This is just what is typical in Japan, but a lot of this assumes that the tree will go in a greenhouse afterwards and receive professional care, too. Some are a bit weaker the next year. I hesitate to advocate a procedure like this for everyone and for every show—it’s just something to think about and weigh.

      • endsurg says:

        Speaking of show trees, do you give special care following the showing of a tree? Let’s say, a normal show of 2-3 days.

      • crataegus says:

        Only possibly some protection from strong sun, for a short show like that. It’s the shows that go on for a week that might pop a tree out of dormancy, if in the winter, that then need special care.

  2. Lance says:

    Thanks for the post. Good info as always. I picked up a gorgeous mame chojubai over the winter, its a gnarly little dude, but its warming up here in Memphis and I’m a little concerned. Is it safe to slip pot it into something deeper in early May? Thanks!!!

    • crataegus says:

      Almost anytime a slip pot into something larger is fine-

      • Lance says:

        The tree (and keeper) in question sends their respectful regards. Three 9-12″ runners later it’s gone from crunched and crispy to a healthy lover of slip potting and pumice/akadama blend. There was a brief quiet before the storm….followed by an explosion of shrubtastic jack & the bean stalk greenery!!

      • crataegus says:

        Marvelous! Give Jack my regards-

  3. John A Baugh says:

    Michael. Thank you for your sound advice concerning potting. As of today, I feel good having my Chojubi in a deeper pot – at least I have better knowledge about care of the shrub. I always wondered why it looked so happy and I have realized it looks that way because it is. What a journey bonsai is.

  4. Paolo Macchi says:

    Hi, I will like to slip pot my old shohin clump into a deeper pot but will this rejuvenate the plant to the point of loosing the old bark, etc? What substrate do they prefer?
    Thank you and happy 2022!!!

    • crataegus says:

      Hello Paolo, it is possible that putting into a larger pot or over-fertilizing will pop bark off, but keeping the tree vigorous is more important. Otherwise we can lose the old trunks. They can grow in many things; I use 50% akadama, 50% pumice, with sphagnum moss on top.

  1. […] Michael’s Chojubai Notes for display and care […]

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