Even if you are new to the bonsai world, you are surely aware that maintaining its beautiful shape requires a lot of attention. Pruning on a regular basis is part of this.

It can be difficult to figure out how to prune a tree and when to do so if you are just a beginner. However, you may find it surprisingly simple once you understand a few fundamental concepts.

Why is Pruning Important?

Have you ever heard of the term apical dominance?

Simply said, growth is stronger near the bonsai tree’s top and outside margins.

Apical dominance is a natural characteristic of trees. This signifies that the plant’s main, central stem grows faster than its lateral stems. On a branch, for example, the main stem is more prominent than the branch’s side twigs. To avoid being shaded out by rival trees, this natural mechanism drives trees to grow higher. The tree’s internal and lower branches will eventually die, while the uppermost branches will grow out of proportion, both of which are undesirable characteristics for bonsai aesthetics.

Knowing how trees grow naturally allows us to utilize pruning procedures to counteract the consequences of apical dominance. We know we need to prune the top and outer sections of a tree more completely because dominant growth occurs on the center stems. This forces the tree to transfer development to the inner and lower parts of the tree, allowing us to regulate its growth and design.

Maintenance Pruning

Maintenance pruning is being done in order to restore the bonsai tree’s shape and refinement. As previously said, trees will focus the majority of their development on the top and outside parts of their stems. Because of that, it is critical to prune these growth areas on a regular basis to enable growth closer to the tree’s core parts.

When Should Maintenance Pruning Be Done?

Although knowing the background of your bonsai species is important, it might be safe to say that outdoor bonsai can be pruned throughout the growing season, which is normally from March to September. On the other hand, indoor bonsai trees can be pruned at any time of year.

Guide to Maintenance Pruning

To keep a tree’s shape, maintenance pruning is essential. Simply use twig shears or regular cutters to prune branches and shoots that have grown beyond the desired canopy shape. In doing this, the appropriate bonsai tools can make a huge difference.

As a beginner, don’t be scared to prune your bonsai on a regular basis. This will encourage the tree to grow more evenly and produce lush foliage. Pinning pine trees and some conifers rather than cutting them with scissors is recommended.

Just a simple reminder: pruning some conifer species with scissors, cutters, or shears can result in discolored, dead foliage at the cuttings. To prevent this from happening, carefully draw the tip of the shot away from your thumb and pointing finger. You’ll avoid brown or dead ends because the shoot will snap at its weakest place.

Pruning and pinching requirements vary by species, and some even require a mix of the two.

Going even further, defoliation, which involves removing deciduous tree leaves over the summer to force the tree to develop new leaves, is another way of bonsai pruning. This method reduces the size of the tree’s leaves while increasing ramification.

Structural Pruning

Oversized branches are routinely pruned to give a tree its basic shape and keep its elegance. Sometimes, picking which stems or branches should be saved and which should be removed can be challenging. Not just because it cannot be taken back once done, but also because it will affect the tree’s overall look.  

When Should Structural Pruning Be Done?

Depending on the bonsai tree species, the exact timing may vary. You can check the specifications of your tree in the tree species area; for example, a Ficus bonsai requires different scheduling than a Juniper bonsai. 

Guide to Structural Pruning 

Start by placing your tree on a table and placing yourself in front of it at eye level. Then, remove all of the tree’s dead branches. After that, examine your tree closely to see which branches should be removed to get your desired design. 

Pruning heavy branches leaves unsightly scars, but by employing specific concave cutters, you may drastically reduce scarring.

It is also equally important to know that a healthy tree should be able to handle up to 1/3 of its leaves being pruned. After a tree has been groomed, some claim you should cut or remove an equivalent percentage of roots. If you structure-prune this spring, for example, you should wait until the next spring to undertake any repotting or root cutting until the tree has fully recovered from the structure-pruning.

Help Your Bonsai Heal!

When working with bonsai, especially young trees in development, you will certainly have to make some significant cuts, which will result in large unattractive wounds.

These can be disastrous at times, but they can also be turned into a feature of the tree, allowing it to tell a tale about its life.

However, we often wish for these wounds to heal and fade away; no one wants unsightly scars on their trunk. Time and plenty of growth are the best ways to treat them, but we’ll go over some of the tactics that can help you heal wounds.

Before Pruning 

Controlling the size of your wounds is half the battle in preventing scars. The easier and faster the wound heals, the smaller it will become.

However, when cultivating a tree, you must allow it to grow out to give it thickness, but you must also chop it back because a bonsai cannot be made from a 6ft tall tree.

You must strike a balance between allowing it to develop while also trimming it down before it becomes too thick. Allowing your tree to develop and trimming it back more frequently can yield greater results.  

After Pruning

You need the tree to start mending as soon as possible once you make your wound.

Allowing a tree to grow is the single most effective approach to cure a wound. As the tree grows, it will continue to force sap and water up and down the trunk, causing it to thicken. This will allow a lot of energy to pass through the cut site, allowing for more calluses to form in the area. The faster the callus forms, the faster the wound heals.

You must let the tree grow if you make any significant cuts; it may seem counterproductive, but it will get the job done.

Depending on your species of bonsai, some supplementary procedures such as using cut pastes, silver stickers, and wood glue might also be a great help. Keep in mind that these things can be helpful but can also lead to a disaster if used in a wrong way.

Final Thoughts on How to Prune a Beginner’s Bonsai Tree

Pruning will become an important component of your management and growth strategy for anyone interested in learning the art of bonsai. Investing in high-quality tools and learning how and when to handle your tree can pay off handsomely!

If you’re new to bonsai trees and want to buy high-quality plants that will likely outlive you, check out our recommendations for you! Learn more by visiting our blog section!