Useful Tips

Pruning bonsai


The placement of a bonsai depends primarily on the type of plant grown in the bonsai style. So, if you grow, for example, a tree of a crassula, milkweed or adenium, then you need a well-lit place with some direct sunlight. Cypress trees, rhododendron will necessarily require shading or light partial shade. It must be said right away that the bonsai bought at the store are grown under the conditions of so-called filtered lighting, i.e. in diffused light. If you grow bonsai from trees and shrubs taken in nature, then the conditions should be as close as possible to natural. It means a lot of fresh air, and enough light.

The place chosen for bonsai largely determines the formation of the crown. If the plant will stand on one side towards the light, this will lead to the development of stronger, strong and leafy branches on the sunnier side. Therefore, the container must be periodically rotated so as not to violate the formed style. It is best if the plant receives sunbathing early in the morning - on the east window or in the evening on the west. In the period from 11 to 16 hours, shading is desirable.

If for some reason there is not enough natural light, the plant will respond well to additional illumination with fluorescent lamps or phytolamps. To determine the lack of light is simple: the leaves turn to the light source, the shoots are thinner, the petioles of the leaves are longer than usual.

Do not place the container in a wind-blown place or under intense air currents from an air conditioner or fan.

Creating a Traditional Bonsai

What distinguishes ficus in a pot from the same ficus formed in the form of a bonsai? Miniature size? No, not only. As already stated above, the signs of a centuries-old tree grown for years. You can give a look to such a tree from a plant that is 2-3 years old and that is 10-20 years old. It all depends on the desired thickness of the barrel. It is clear that the thicker the trunk, the older the plant. In an old plant, it is not only thickened, but also covered with bark. To get such a plant you need to either grow it for many years or find it in nature. They dig a found tree, cut off the roots, part of the foliage and plant it in a container.

In order to give the trunk a thickening resort to certain techniques. The first is that the trunk of the tree at the base is tightly pulled by wire, but not to the extent that it breaks, but that only the upper tissues are squeezed, and the sap flow is not disturbed. When the trunk thickens above the tightened place, the wire is removed. Another technique is suitable when the trunk is too long. The bark is cut in the right place, i.e. remove a circular strip of bark (cambium) about 1-1.5 cm, and plant a tree in a deep pot so that the place with the cut is underground. After some time, roots form at this place. Then the trunk below these roots is cut, and the plant is transplanted into a bonsai container. It can take a year to develop new roots.

Another distinguishing feature of bonsai is its roots that rise above the surface of the earth. This is achieved by the fact that during transplantation, the roots are raised higher and not covered with earth. To form the desired shape of the roots, you can also use wire.

In nature, as a rule, on the tree you can distinguish the main branches that do not grow strictly upward, but obliquely or almost horizontally. When forming a bonsai, this is achieved by trimming, when two to three main branches are left on the trunk, and the direction is given to them by wire. In addition, the outlines of these main branches should be clearly visible, so excessive leafiness interferes, thin out the foliage, and new shoots and leaves are removed from the base of the main branches.

The final image of the bonsai is given by sheltering the soil with natural elements. It is either covered with moss, or sprinkled with sand or gravel. How to cover the soil depends on the type of plant. So conifers will look more natural on white sand, deciduous on soil covered with moss. Succulents look beautiful on gravel.

Very often, the bonsai composition is supplemented with various figures representing a Chinese peasant, a Chinese girl, a house in the Chinese or Japanese style, etc.

Bonsai formation and landing

I repeat - there can be only two options for obtaining a bonsai - if you bought an already formed bonsai, then you just have to continue to look after it, maintain the created style, and if you yourself form a bonsai from a suitable houseplant or specially grown seedlings.
In any case, only healthy plants with a strong and well-developed root system, with a clearly defined branch line, are suitable for growing bonsai. You can start plant formation from two or three years old. All actions begin in the spring, when buds appear on the tree.

First, you should determine the style of bonsai, which depends on the appearance of the plant. Sometimes difficulties with the formation of appearance are associated with the fact that a person has a poor idea of ​​which branches and in which direction will begin to grow after pruning. Therefore, it is worth remembering one simple rule: shoots from the topmost buds on shoots grow stronger and more actively. Those. on the plant as a whole, the tip stretches and shrubs faster and the tree grows in height faster than in width. The same applies to the lateral branches of the buds at the ends of the shoots grow more actively than the lower ones. If you cut off the upper kidney, it will begin to grow more actively, the one that remains lower.
All this is due to the fact that the outer buds and leaves around them get more light. That is why on the shoot buds develop more actively, which are on the upper side of the branch and grow up, and if we talk about the plant as a whole, the side facing the light grows thicker and faster.

Bonsai step by step

1 step. First, examine the tree and remove all the dry branches. As well as branches at the bottom of the trunk. We select three main branches on the tree’s crown, usually those three branches whose vertices form an equilateral triangle. Now you need to delete all the branches between the selected three.

2 step. If you want to grow an inclined tree, you will need a wire, quite soft so that it can be bent with your hands, but strong enough so that it does not bend under the weight of the branches and trunk.

3 step. Now you need to free the upper part of the roots from the ground and gently tilt the trunk to the required degree. One end of the wire is deepened and fixed in the soil at the base of the trunk from the inside of the bend. If the tree is not just inclined, but made in a cascading style, then the trunk will be bent quite strongly. Firmly holding the trunk of the tree, we wrap it around with wire, which should fit quite tightly, but without injuring or ripping off the bark. The turns should not go too rarely so that the bent trunk does not come out of the turns. Thus the trunk is twisted to the base of the left branches. So that the crown of the tilted tree does not hang down, like a broom, the wire must support them in the right direction.

4 step. Making a coil of wire around the branch, carefully straighten thin and fragile shoots so as not to break them. Moreover, even pieces of wire will have to be attached to the main wire, creating a frame of the desired bonsai shape. The ends of the wire can be bent downward or put pieces of an ordinary eraser on them so that they do not scratch your hands and damage the plant.
The length of the wire should be at least one and a half times greater than the area to be wrapped. The bending angle of the wire relative to the shoot line or the trunk determines the frequency of the turns - ideally, it should be 45 °. Note that forming a tree or bush with thin and delicate bark, or with fragile leaves, as well as bonsai with spiny shoots, the wire is not wrapped around the stems and trunk, but simply applied to it and fastened or tied (with woolen threads or pieces of wire in winding).

5 step. A tree bent in wire should be at least 1.5-2 years old. If you remove the wire earlier, the trunk can return to its original position. The wire on the branches is removed earlier than from the trunk - it takes only 6-8 months. Forming the direction of thin and delicate branches, you can not use ordinary wire, but you can use braided wire - the one that usually connects the cords of household appliances and computers.
In some rather complex forms of bonsai, in addition to the trunk and branches, the direction and shape of the roots are formed using a wire, usually if they bizarrely protrude above the surface of the soil.

6 step. When the desired plant shape is achieved, you can transplant it from the pot into the bowl. First, the drainage holes are closed with clay shards, convex side up. Then a layer of moss or chopped fern roots is laid at the bottom. Then a small layer of the prepared soil mixture.

7 step. Now you need to trim the roots. To do this, first examine the root system to determine whether the roots are healthy - healthy roots have a light cut (white or light yellow). Damaged roots are pruned. Your task is to form the root system so that it is evenly distributed in all directions.

If the root system is fibrous, i.e. has a weakly expressed central root and many small roots, then it is simply evenly cut and cut. If there is a long rod root and weak lateral shoots, then additional techniques are required. First, the lower part of the root is trimmed, and the rest is formed. To do this, you can use the same wire, or U-shaped wire brackets - for plants with soft and plastic roots. The root is fixed in soil with a bracket from the edge of the bowl, then bends horizontally to the center of the bowl.

The prepared plant must be carefully placed in a container, spread the roots and cover the soil mixture. If there is a possibility that the trunk of the plant is not firmly held in the ground and can move and stagger, then its additional fixation is required. With a peg like ordinary indoor plants, this is difficult to do, because the depth of the bowl is shallow, so the most painless way is to fix the trunk after transplanting with heavy pebbles.

After transplanting, the plant is carefully watered. Plants that have many roots removed the first time watered with great care, so as not to cause decay. Perhaps the earth will settle and condense and will have to be filled up from above. When the earth settles, it is compacted enough and the stones fastening the tree can be removed.

Bonsai Crown Formation

The main techniques that provide the giving and preservation of the desired shape to miniature trees are pruning and pinching.

The main thing you need to know: pruning and pinching lead not only to branching, but to the growth of new, thinner shoots with small leaves.

Pruning is the removal of large branches and shoots, spend it annually, usually in the middle or end of winter. Before pruning the branches, you need to imagine the final shape of the plant, because the shoots will not grow back in the old place like hair on a person’s head. The real art of bonsai involves a long contemplation, the study of the appearance of a plant, the presentation of its shape. Each leaf or twig deserves to be considered "to be or not to be."

An important rule is that a flowering plant is pruned only after flowering, most often this happens in the fall at the end of September - October. Accuracy in everything regarding trimming - a sharpened and sanitized tool - is the guarantee of health. Places of cuts should dry and heal, so it is best if a garden var is prepared. A thin layer of it is worn in place of the cut. It disinfects and dries, and in addition, the place of the cut remains almost invisible on the bark, which allows not to spoil the appearance. If there is no garden var, then the place of cut can be sealed with a medical plaster until it heals.

Pruning - simply trimming or shortening elongated shoots, in order to maintain shape throughout the growth period. Pinching is carried out in the spring, with the growth of new shoots, it allows the crown to branch, and form a plant in the desired style.

Giving a miniature handicap to the plant provides it with an annual pinch of new shoots. The frequency of pinching and its usefulness depend on the type of plant being grown. For some trees, only spring nipping is enough, for others it will be necessary to pinch the tops of the shoots repeatedly to give the desired shape during the summer, or even throughout the year. The more often the bonsai is trimmed and nipped, the smaller and denser the crown is formed.

Stages of bonsai formation (potentai)

Pavel Karpenkov (beomaster) gives a brief instruction for beginners on the formation of bonsai on the example of ficus benjamin:

1. Root formation

We need to get 2 main things:

  • Flat root system. Initially, a plant is selected that can really be transplanted into the dishes wide, but not high, without causing the plant fatal injuries. Therefore, we exclude those who live the pivotal root and are taken from nature, since I consider it inexpedient to lose time on their resuscitation after extraction. It is recommended to stay on the ZKS, potted plants.
  • Beautiful thick lateral roots evenly extending from the base of the trunk with a star and visible above the surface of the soil (nebari). Initially, when choosing a plant, it is worth paying attention to the presence of those or that can become them. Therefore, plants with a washcloth of roots are undesirable from hydroponics. Typically, such roots are formed in plants growing in the ground, former cuttings or allotted.

2. The base of the trunk

Beautiful thick lateral roots cannot leave a thin stick. The base should have a pronounced taper when moving from the roots to the trunk itself, I'm talking about the first 2-3cm above the surface. Having chosen the right plant from the beginning, in the future this is the most important place for visual perception will only improve.

3. The trunk itself

The following should be noted:

  • Consciousness. The trunk should be evenly and distinctly thinned from the base to the top, while the height should not be large, for the beginning 15 diameters of the base will be fine, when forming it is worth bringing this ratio to 10.
  • The form. Natural bends, inclinations, screwing are always welcome and provide food for imagination when forming, if our goal was not originally an upright style or broom.
  • Texture. We strive to form a small but impressive old plant. Therefore, coarse bark, wrinkled, flaky, forming bumps, traces of overgrown long-cut branches, natural hollows, etc. very good. In short, light, tender, smooth, not ice. If we do not clean it specifically for contrast, but more on that later.

4. Skeletal branches

After the acquisition, your hands will immediately be combed out, and you will want to select the future frame by cropping. When buying, you should immediately figure out which branches will become the skeleton, they should alternate evenly, have a thickness that evenly decreases from bottom to top, and the thickness should be proportional to the thickness of the trunk. In short, the lower branch is the thickest and not equal in thickness to the trunk (pay attention to the forks) and it is not higher than a third of the estimated height of the plant. A very important point, then it will be difficult to correct.

5. Branching structure

The selected skeletal branches should branch well, so that we can choose the branches of the second order we need, so that they do not look bald, so that the internodes are short. Then it is possible by simple pruning quickly enough to give the desired shape to the crown of each skeletal branch and the crown of the plant as a whole.

  • Under all other conditions, the size of the sheet plate plays an important role. Our tree will never look adult if the leaves are large, comparable to the diameter of a branch or God forbid the trunk. In nature, old trees do not have this. There are ways to reduce the size of the leaves, but for different plants the reduction coefficient is different and there is always a limit, it is better to lay down initially on small ones.

Thickness of leafing. Leaves may be small, but rarely grow. Then the plant will always look bald.

7. The shape of the crown as a whole

This refers to the tendency to grow up or in breadth. Of course, we are better in breadth - a small sprawling tree always looks more profitable than a tree with a small span of skeletal branches. And no ligature of this trend will change, so all the time it will be under wire or stretch marks, which is not good.

8. Growth rate

Subject to the above wishes, the plant itself should be fast-growing, otherwise the results of the formation can be expected before Easter. In this case, the trunk should be thickened well. For this reason, myrtle does not fit.

Support Trimming Features

As mentioned above, supportive pruning is necessary to maintain the overall shape of the tree’s crown, for which you just need to trim the bonsai with scissors or a regular pruner for branches / shoots that extend and extend beyond the intended size and shape of the crown. Использование хорошего инструмента для бонсай значительно облегчает эту работу. Не бойтесь производить обрезку своего бонсай! Особенно важна регулярная обрезка в верхней части дерева и по краю кроны для того, чтобы заставить его более равномерно распределять энергию роста и обеспечивать густое ветвление.

Unlike deciduous trees, coniferous shoots are often plucked by hand. If you cut the needles with scissors, then the tips will turn brown at the place of trimming. To prevent this, hold the young shoot with the thumb and forefinger of one hand and gently pull the tip of the shoot with the other hand. In the weakest point of articulation of the scales, the needles will break off, but the tip will not turn brown later.

Incorrect pinching of a bonsai

Proper pinching bonsai

Another method for pruning bonsai is defoliation, which involves removing foliage from deciduous trees in the summer to make the tree release new leaves. This method ultimately leads to a reduction in the size of the leaf plate and increased branching.

Structural trimming of bonsai

To give a tree a conceived shape, it is often necessary to cut large branches. The decision about which branches to leave and which to remove can be difficult not only because of the irreversibility of this action, but also because it depends on the visualization of the future appearance of the tree. Before continuing to learn about bonsai trimming techniques, you might want to take a look at our blog post on phasing bonsai to see examples of structural bonsai trimming by an experienced bonsai.

Structural trimming process

Place the tree on a table at eye level. First remove all unwanted dry branches. After that, carefully inspect your tree to decide which branches do not fit into your design and should be deleted. The following are some tips on this matter, however, determining the future design of your tree is a creative process that does not necessarily fit into the “rules”. A study on the bonsai styles section, as well as articles on our phased bonsai blog post, can help you.

Some basic principles:

  • If the two branches are at the same height, leave one of them and remove the other.
  • Remove vertically growing branches if they are too thick to bend.
  • Cut branches with unnatural twists and turns.
  • Remove branches blocking the front of the trunk, especially in the lower part.
  • Cut the disproportionately thick branches of the crown of the tree, as the top bonsai branches should be thinner than the bottom

Trimming thick branches leaves ugly scars on the tree, but using special concave nippers can significantly reduce damage to the tissues of the tree, because after using them, a small depression remains on the trunk.

A healthy tree should tolerate removal of up to 1/3 of the crown without negative consequences. After structural trimming, it is sometimes recommended to remove the corresponding part of the root system. However, most experts agree on the need to carry out only one stressful operation at any given time (or even annually). This means that after structural pruning, the transplant is delayed until the tree is completely restored.

Finally, it is advisable to cover large sections with special paste sold in most (online) bonsai stores. The paste protects the wounds from infection and accelerates its healing. Using a good tool greatly facilitates the process of trimming and healing.

The annual cycle of a bonsai tree.

Bonsai plants go through various phases throughout the year:

  • winter peace
  • rebirth and prosperity
  • growth
  • short period of summer rest
  • consolidation of new growth
  • preparation for winter rest

The duration of each period depends on the type of plant and on the climatic zone, and more precisely on the length of daylight hours.

Bonsai Care - When Will It Be Timely?

Leaving time should be dictated by the natural cycles of the bonsai tree. Sometimes you should limit yourself to a short one-time intervention. Sometimes, on the contrary, work can be carried out over a long period.

In general, you should adhere to the following rule: touch the plant as little as possible during the dormant period - in the winter months, as well as during the peak heat in summer.

Bonsai care in the fall.

Autumn is the main time for fertilizing bonsai. As soon as the summer heat subsides, you need to make sure that the bonsai plant gets everything you need for the next growing season.

In autumn, it is advisable to use fertilizers with a low nitrogen content, which is appropriate to use in the spring to stimulate vegetative growth. Autumn fertilizers must be rich phosphorus - to strengthen the root system and potassium to assimilate the potential and consolidate the new growth that was produced during the season.

You need to be careful and monitor how the plant reacts to certain fertilizers. Chemical fertilizers should be used with great care. Plants begin to react to chemical fertilizers very quickly, within a week you will understand how the plant reacted. The nutrients from organic fertilizers, on the contrary, are absorbed very slowly, sometimes the effect is visible only 20 to 30 days after they have been applied.

Closer to the onset of winter, remove the old (yellow) needles to allow light to penetrate between the branches and activate the awakening of sleeping buds, remove dead leaves on deciduous trees to prevent stagnation of moisture, which can cause problems.

Treat the branches and trunks of deciduous plants with a spray to protect against diseases and fungal infections.

Each bonsai plant is a unique specimen. A young bonsai plant strives for growth, a mature one - to maintain shape and strength. Each situation is individual and requires an individual solution. As you grow bonsai, you will eventually learn to feel the needs of your tree.