Common Bonsai Techniques


common bonsai techniques for the bonsai grower


Who says you can grow bonsai without brushing up on bonsai techniques? You can’t. Without knowledge of bonsai techniques, you could end up with a tree that’s 30-feet tall! Think of the horrific consequences to finding that the sapling you groomed to sit on on your coffee table has grown taller than your daughter! You’ll have to lug it to a clearing somewhere and replant it. That, or kill it. Either way, you end up with a bonsai that’s no bonsai at all!


How, then, do you make sure your bonsai remains small? Through proper use of bonsai techniques, naturally! Here are few of the most commonly applied bonsai techniques.


Leaf trimming


The name itself is a dead give-away. This technique involves removing the leaves (for deciduous trees) or the needles (for conifers and a few others) from the bonsai’s branches and trunk. This is done to expose the branches that lie below clusters of needles or leaves. Aside from pruning, leaf trimming is perhaps the most common technique used in maintaining and creating bonsai.



                                                                                                           pruning a bonsai


Ever wondered how bonsai trees got to be so small? They were pruned! Tree branches, roots, and trunks are carefully pruned to keep the bonsai’s basic design. Pruning is one of the most important bonsai techniques because unless it is done, your tree can get overrun by huge leaves and branches! Do this with care because done improperly, pruning can weaken or even kill a tree!



Want to make your bonsai tilt to the right? No problem! Just get some wiring! Then, wrap aluminum or copper wire around trunks and branches so that the tree will take on the form you want. Wires connect branches to each other. They also hold branches in place until they meld with wood (when this happens, the branch is said to have lignified). In some species, wiring is impossible because the branches are either too stiff or brittle for bending. If this happens to your bonsai, your last resort is pruning.




If your tree has stiff wood or is larger than most, you will have to use a mechanical device for shaping the branches and trunk. The most common is a screw-based clamp which you can use to bend or straighten parts of the bonsai. Clamping packs more force than wiring that is why it should be used only on stronger and bigger trees. Moreover, the clamps should be tightened gradually, so as not to kill the tree.




You graft when you introduce a bud, root, or a branch to a prepared area on the tree’s trunk or underneath its bark. There are many types of grafting bonsai techniques among them bud grafting, thread grafting, and branch grafting.




When you defoliate, you remove all or most of the tree’s leaves by clipping part of each leaf’s petiole. The petiole is the thin stem that connects leaves to a branch. The procedure results in only two things: the tree produces a new crop of leaves that are smaller or it dies. Note that defoliation makes trees weak. Thus, never do it within two consecutive years.




Two deadwood bonsai techniques, shari and jin, make bonsai appear older than it really is. Jin involves removing the bark from an entire branch to create the illusion of a deadwood snag. On the other hand, a shari involves stripping bark off areas in the trunk to mimic a lightning strike or the scarring caused by a broken tree limb.


A bonsai is that rarest of rare things - a thing of beauty with a long and proud history. Learn how to apply bonsai techniques and before long, you’ll have a bonsai that many will ooh and aah over.