How to Trim a Bonsai

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Trimming your bonsai tree is one of the most important aspects of growing and keeping bonsai. Trimming is a reflection of the art of bonsai, and it can be a daunting task for those with little experience. Here are a few tips to give you confidence.

Things You'll Need

  • Bonsai tree
  • Quality pruning shears
  • An eye for detail
  • One of the foundations of trimming bonsai is to achieve a Scalene Triangle, where each of the three sides is a different length.

  • Invest in real bonsai pruping shears. Garden shears from the local hardware store will not work. Bonsai shears will trim branches flush to the trunk and minimize scarring.

  • When starting to trim your bonsai, step back multiple times until you can fully envision what you want your tree to look like. Pick one side of the tree that will work for the "show" side (like picking the best side of a Christmas tree to decorate!).

  • Working with the best side forward, start by taking out the largest branches first. To achieve symmetry, create a pattern so that large branches occur on opposite side of the tree at different heights. In essence, you don't want two large branches on the same plane, but instead looking like steps that ascend to the top of the tree.

    Leave a few large branches on the back side of the tree to achieve a sense of "depth".

  • Using your shears and fingernails (for small buds), trim off most of the branches and buds that point downwards. At this point, pay closer attention to the scalene triangle in your tree and adjust the length of branches as needed.

  • Keep stepping back and envisioning your tree as it will look after wrapping it with wire for training. You can always take away branches later, but you can never put them back! So go slow.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be patient and take breaks during the trimming process.
  • Only use quality shears and scissors.

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  • Photo Credit Flickr.com
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