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 How to Prune a Bonsai Tree

 By Erik A. Olsen

When growing bonsai, the key to success is pruning. In this article, we will discuss how to prune a bonsai tree so you can have an amazing tree, one that people marvel over! Keep in mind that different species of trees are suitable for different styles so learning how to prune a bonsai tree the right way is essential not just to appearance but to the overall health of the tree. What you will find is that function and form walk a fine line when it comes to bonsai, requiring a perfect balance of science of growth and art, something that takes time to learn.

The first step in how to prune a bonsai tree is that you always want to make sure you are pruning the tree in the appropriate season. Although there are some types of trees that can be pruned and trained throughout the year, many trees must be worked with during a specific time. Otherwise, you will find that you run into all types of problems. Although you can conduct a lot of research on line, if you are unsure the right time for your particular type of tree, locate a bonsai specialist or nursery in your area that can provide you with guidance. Just remember that whatever rule applies to the full-sized tree will also apply to your miniature tree.

Very importantly on how to prune a bonsai tree, you need to provide your tree with adequate time to recover after going through a severe pruning. With proper care and scheduled pruning, your tree will grow and remain healthy for years. In fact, many bonsai trees have been passed down from generation to generation. When pruning, you want to focus the majority of your attention on the trunk, which will add to the illusion of mature size and age, more so than any other feature on the tree.

Next on how to prune a bonsai tree, be sure you leave extra branches on any weak area of the trunk to help promote growth in that particular area. Then, any problem branches should be removed right away. Problem branches would be considered those that cross each other, growing back sharply toward the trunk or from the underside of the main branches. The challenge when you experience this is that you end up with a cluttered or messy appearance that takes away from the artistic line of the tree.

Another important aspect of how to prune a bonsai tree is that whatever you do above ground level will also affect what happens to the tree below the ground and vice versa. In other words, if you prune the branches and leaves heavily with no cutting back of the root system, then the following season, the bonsai tree could have an incredible burst of growth as it tries to fix the imbalance. With bonsai, you can allow the root system to be ahead of the foliage and branches but no more than 30%. If you find that you need more root growth, you can move the bonsai tree to a larger container to encourage the roots to spread.

As you can see, how to prune your bonsai tree is not a complicated subject but it is a necessary one. You have to prune your tree as a means of maintaining the correct shape of the tree, while encouraging new growth. What you will discover is that some trees respond naturally and very well to pruning while others have a hard time recovering. Again, the key is to prune only in the right season for the type of tree you have. With evergreen coniferous bonsai trees, you can use a method known as “finger pruning”, which means to pinch back new growth that does not have the general shape of the bonsai or growth at the top of the tree. This method will encourage fuller foliage and a better looking bonsai.

When it comes to how to prune a bonsai tree for deciduous, which would include tree such as the Chinese Elm and Maples, you would use the tip of sharp scissors for pruning. For this, when you trim outward, you want to trim back the shoots but just after the next series of leaves. Finally, leaf pruning is used for both tropical and deciduous plants. This helps reduce the size of the leaves, get rid of unsightly leaves, and encourage growth by creating two growing seasons in one. Again, when it comes to how to prune a bonsai, the process is not difficult as long as you are careful!
 
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