How to Prune a Bonsai Tree

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Bonsai trees are beautiful, delicate plants that can add a touch of elegance to any home. Though they may seem like they require a lot of care, with a little bit of know-how, anyone can learn to prune a bonsai tree.

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Pruning Basics

To keep your bonsai tree healthy and attractive, you’ll need to prune it on a regular basis. Pruning helps to shape the tree, remove dead or dying branches, and encourage new growth. It’s important to know how to prune properly, however, as improper pruning can damage the tree. In this article, we’ll go over the basics of pruning a bonsai tree.

Pruning tools

Pruning shears are the staff of life for bonsai pruning. They allow you to make precise cuts quickly and easily, which is important when you’re working on a bonsai tree.

The two main types of pruning shears are anvil pruners and bypass pruners. Anvil pruners have a straight cutting blade that comes down on top of a flat anvil, like a hammer. Bypass pruners have two blades that slide past each other like scissors.

Both types of pruners have their pros and cons, but most bonsai enthusiasts prefer bypass pruners because they make cleaner cuts. Anvil pruners can crush stems, which can damage the tree.

When choosing a pair of bypass pruners, look for a model with comfortable handles and blades that are made of high-quality steel. The best blades are usually made of carbon steel or stainless steel.

Pruning techniques

Pruning is one of the most important aspects of bonsai tree care. It is essential for shaping the tree and for keeping it manageable. Proper pruning will also help to encourage new growth.

There are two main types of pruning:

-Pinching: This is done by pinching off new growth with your fingers. Pinching encourages branching and fuller growth. It should be done regularly, especially during the active growing season.

-Cutting: This involves using sharp scissors or shears to cut away branches. Cutting can be done to remove unwanted or unruly growth, to thin out the tree, or to create a desired shape. It should be done carefully so as not to damage the tree.

When to prune

Bonsai are usually pruned in late winter or early spring, while they are still dormant. Deciduous bonsai are pruned just before they start to bud, while evergreen bonsai are pruned just after they finish their main growth spurt.

Summer pruning

As a rule, prune deciduous trees in late spring or early summer, before they put on new growth.

Summer pruning encourages leaf size and slows the rate of shoot growth. It also gives the cuttings time to heal before winter.

Pruning in summer also helps to prevent “bleeding” (sap flow) from wounds in the trunk and branches. This is especially important for elms and maples, which are prone to excessive bleeding.

Winter pruning

Pruning in winter has the advantage of being able to see the structure of the tree well. Winter pruning is done while the tree is dormant and no new growth has begun. This type of pruning is done to shape the tree and remove any dead or diseased wood. It is also a good time to do major branch thinning.

What to prune

The best time of year to prune your bonsai is in late spring or early summer, after the threat of frost has passed. You’ll want to prune your tree to shape it and encourage new growth. When pruning, you’ll want to remove any dead, diseased, or damaged branches, as well as any branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other. You should also remove any branches that are growing straight up or down, as these won’t contribute to the overall look of your bonsai.


Pruning deadwood is one of the most important and satisfying aspects of bonsai care. Not only does it tidy up the appearance of your tree, but it also helps to promote new growth. Deadwood can be tricky to prune, so it’s important to know what you’re doing before you get started.

There are two main types of deadwood:
-dead branches
-dead leaves

Dead branches should be pruned back to the point where they meet the trunk or another branch. If possible, try to cut just below the point of attachment. This will help to hide the cut and encourage new growth.

Dead leaves should be pruned off at the base of the leaf stem. Be careful not to damage the leaves that are still attached. If you’re not sure how to do this, ask a professional for help.

Crossing and rubbing branches

Crossing and rubbing branches should be pruned away because they can damage the bark of the tree and create weak points. If two branches are crossing each other, you can prune one or both of them. If they are rubbing against each other, you will need to prune one of the branches.

Weak and leggy growth

One of the most common problems with bonsai trees is weak and leggy growth. This can be caused by several factors, including too much nitrogen in the soil, not enough light, or improper pruning. To fix this problem, you need to prune the tree to encourage new growth.

To do this, start by removing any dead or dying branches. Then, cut back any branches that are growing too long or are out of proportion with the rest of the tree. Finally, thin out the canopy to allow more light to reach the interior of the tree.

How to prune

The art of bonsai involves creating a miniaturized, living tree. Bonsai trees are kept small through careful pruning of the roots and branches. The bonsai artist determines the shape of the tree and prunes accordingly. Regular pruning is essential to the health of the bonsai tree and to the creation of the desired shape.


Pinching is a type of pruning that is used to encourage branch growth. To pinch a bonsai, simply use your fingers to gently squeeze the stem of the plant between two leaves. This will cause the plant to produce two new leaves at the point of pinching. Pinching should be done regularly throughout the growing season to encourage branching and fullness.


Cutting is the most common and important type of pruning. The frequency of cutting will depend on the species of bonsai and the desired shape. Some trees, like pines, will require cutting several times a year while others may only need to be cut once every few years.

There are two types of cuts:
-Thinning cuts: These remove branches or leaves in order to reduce the overall foliage of the tree. Thinning cuts are typically made on deciduous trees in order to stimulate new growth.
-Structural cuts: These remove branches or stems in order to shape the tree. Structural cuts are typically made on coniferous trees.

After pruning

The best time to prune your bonsai tree is after it has finished blooming. This will help ensure that your tree has ample time to recover before the blooming season begins again. When pruning, be sure to remove any dead, diseased, or damaged branches. It is also important to remove any branches that are crossing or growing too close to each other.


Wiring is one of the most important, and most misunderstood, aspects of bonsai. Wiring allows you to create and maintain the shape of your bonsai tree. It is a temporary process – the wire should only be left in place for around a year, after which it needs to be removed before it cuts into the bark.

How to wire a bonsai tree
There are two main types of wiring – branch and trunk. You can also wire roots, but this is much less common.

Branch wiring is used to change the direction of growth or reduce the length of a branch. To wire a branch, start by wrapping the wire around the base of the branch, making sure that the wire is tight against the trunk. Then, work your way up the branch, wrapping the wire around each section as you go. When you reach the end of the branch, twist the wire around itself to secure it in place.

Trunk wiring is used to change the shape of your tree’s trunk. To wire a trunk, start by wrapping the wire around the base of the trunk. then, spiral the wire up the trunk, making sure that each turn overlaps with the previous one. When you reach the top of tree, twist he wired around itself to secure it in place


After pruning, your bonsai tree will need some extra care to help it recover. Fertilizing is a key part of this process, as it will help your tree to grow new leaves and heal any wounds caused by pruning.

There are two main types of fertilizer that you can use on a bonsai tree: organic and inorganic. Organic fertilizers are made from natural materials such as compost or manure, while inorganic fertilizers are made from synthetic chemicals.

Which type of fertilizer you use is up to you, but many bonsai experts recommend using an organic fertilizer for best results. This is because organic fertilizers release their nutrients slowly over time, which is ideal for a slow-growing plant like a bonsai tree.

When applying fertilizer to your bonsai tree, be sure to follow the instructions on the package carefully. Over-fertilizing can damage your tree, so it’s important to apply the fertilizer at the correct rate.

In general, you should fertilize your bonsai tree once every two weeks during the growing season (spring and summer), and then reduce this to once every month during the fall and winter. If you’re not sure how often to fertilize your specific species of bonsai tree, ask a professional at your local nursery or garden center for advice.

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About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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