Rock Scapes - Bonsai Lesson Plan


Rockscapes can be created in many shapes and sizes. You can either do a singular specimen or a multi planting this basically creates a scene from nature in miniature. A multi planting as in tray landscape is at ground level. A rockscape gives the impression of a mountain scene or large outcrop of rock on a hillside.

There are 10 essential steps:

  1. Selecting the stone and developing the idea.
  2. Placing wires to secure the tree.
  3. Applying the muck.
  4. Planting the main tree.
  5. Planting other accompanying trees.
  6. Planting the companion plants.
  7. Covering the roots with muck.
  8. Completing the planting with the placement of moss.
  9. Maintenance and care.
  10. Shaping and transplanting.


  1. Selecting the stone and developing the idea: In Bonsai art, creation does not start from the baseline, but instead, the materials at your disposal set some constraints at the outset. It is important in your arrangement to have your main tree already trained. As well as having decided on the rock that will be used.
  2. Placing wires to secure the tree: Until the roots of the tree grow enough to hold the tree on the rock you must find a way to anchor it artificially. The ideal method consists of anchoring wires on the rock that can be used to secure the tree in place. Obviously, you must first decide where the tree or trees are to be situated and then place wires at key points. There are several ways to do this. The traditional method uses small lead pellets (fishing sinkers) as follows: after placing the wire into the crevices of the rock, place a led pellet over it which is then flattened with a hammer and punch so that the wire is secured. Nowadays epoxy is used, this is a more convenient and faster method and it allows the wires to be set in areas other than the crevices.
  3. Applying the muck: From now on the roots of the tree or trees and companion plants are going to live on the rock, so it is vital to be sure that there will always be soil that can hold water and nutrients. For this reason you are going to use a mixture of 1 part clay to one part Akadama and one part worm humus. Added to this would be a desert spoon of slow release fertilizer, Osmocote plus is good. After mixing the ingredients add water to the mixture until it reaches a pasty consistency. Then proceed to apply it on the rock making sure to press it in with your fingers to ensure the crevices and cracks are totally filled giving the root systems the maximum area for growth.
  4. Rockscape

  5. Planting the main tree: Once the muck has been applied, place the tree on the rock. It is the last opportunity to position the tree and this will be your final decision. Remember while making this decision continue to mist the root system to prevent it drying out.
  6. Planting other accompanying trees: Once the roots of your remaining trees are cleaned, repeat the process, remembering that this is your last chance once they are anchored. Do not forget to mist the root systems of the remaining trees.
  7. Planting the companion plants: Once having made the decision on the main and secondary trees it is now time to place your companion plants. The process is the same as the tree plantings. A layer of muck on the rock then place the companion plants in the muck.
  8. Covering the roots with muck: Now is the time to anchor all your plantings with the anchor wires. Tie the wire around the base of the trees, twist them together and tie them down. Apply the second layer of muck. Give a generous layer over the root systems and smooth and shape. Make sure that all the roots are covered just as you did before; press the muck down firmly with your fingers to make sure that there are no air pockets left. You can cover the root base of the trees with muck since in this style of bonsai it is not important for the surface roots to be seen.
  9. Completing the planting with the placement of moss: If the surface of the soil is not covered with something that holds moisture, the muck will harden, preventing the roots from growing. Moss fulfills this protective function. In addition, it will also prevent the soil from being eroded when watering. It is preferable to use different types of moss in your arrangement, varying in height and colour. Avoid having all the moss completely flat, it is more natural to have undulations as you would see on hillsides in nature.
  10. Rockscape

  11. Maintenance and care: The cultivation of bonsai on a rock is different from that of bonsai in a pot. You start at the base with a small amount of soil and as a result, a lack of available nutrients and water. The most important elements of care are watering and fertilizing. Never let the soil dry out, this may need watering several times a day in summer. Rock plantings are usually placed on water trays in order to create a humid environment. Fertilizing as in watering has to be kept constant, I use a liquid feed once a week beginning from September to the last week in March. This consists of 15 mls. of Maxicrop to 15 mls. of nitrosol mixed in two litres of water. One cup of the mix to each tree once a week.
  12. Shaping and transplanting: The main task in this style is pinching since you are never going to transplant the trees again. By pinching regularly you will be able to keep the trees and plants in proportion with the stone, thereby correcting distortions of proportion that may have been created in the beginning. This should be meticulous and constant.
  13. Aftercare: For the first few weeks it is important to mist or water the moss frequently to encourage rooting. Place in a semi-shaded position for six to eight weeks, and then slowly introduce into a better position.

"Bonsai is the creation of living art and the blending of elements"

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