How to Prune Bonsai for Beginners

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Bonsai pruning is an essential part of keeping your tree healthy and looking its best. In this article, we will show you how to prune bonsai for beginners.

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Introduction to bonsai pruning

Pruning is an important horticultural practice that helps maintain the shape and size of your bonsai. It can also be used to direct the growth of your bonsai and stimulate the production of flowers and fruits. If you are new to bonsai, this guide will teach you the basics of pruning.

What is bonsai pruning?

Bonsai pruning is the art of trimming and shaping a bonsai tree to create a miniature copy of a full-size tree. It is an essential part of bonsai tree care and can be used to improve the tree’s health, appearance, and overall vigor.

Pruning can be done with several different tools, including shears, knives, and saws. The type of tool you use will depend on the type of bonsai tree you have, the size of the branches you need to remove, and your personal preference.

Bonsai pruning is often divided into two main categories:

-Structural pruning: This type of pruning is used to shape the overall structure of the bonsai tree. It involves removing whole branches or large sections of branches in order to achieve the desired shape.

-Maintenance pruning: This type of pruning is used to keep the bonsai tree healthy and vigorous. It involves removing small branches, leaves, and buds in order to thin out the canopy and promote new growth.

Why prune bonsai?

Pruning is an essential part of bonsai care. Proper pruning will encourage new growth, shape the tree, and maintain the desired size. Many beginners are hesitant to prune their bonsai for fear of damaging the tree, but with a little practice, pruning can be easy and rewarding.

There are two main types of bonsai pruning: aesthetic pruning and maintenance pruning. Aesthetic pruning is used to shape the tree and create the desired appearance. Maintenance pruning is used to remove dead or damaged branches, encourage new growth, and maintain the tree’s health.

Aesthetic pruning can be done any time of year, but maintenance pruning is best done in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. When pruning, always use clean, sharp tools to avoid damaging the tree. And be sure to follow up with a good fertilizing and watering schedule to help your bonsai recover from its haircut!

Bonsai pruning tools

Bonsai pruning is an important part of bonsai care. The right tools make it easier to prune your bonsai and get the results you want. In this article, we’ll show you the different types of bonsai pruning tools and how to use them.


There are two types of shears that are most commonly used in bonsai:
-Concave cutters have a convex cutting edge and a concave radius on the inner side. This type of cutter is ideal for cuts where you would like to have a more natural appearance and for cuts that will not be visible.
-Folding saws are small, hand-held saws that can be used to make large cuts or to remove entire branches.

Pruning shears (or pocket pruners) are small, sharp scissors that are ideal for making smaller cuts or for trimming leaves and buds.

Concave cutters

Concave cutters have a slightly curved cutting edge, which allows you to make cuts that blend in more naturally with the shape of the tree. These are great for pruning live branches and removing buds and small branches.


A bonsai pruning tool is any implement designed specifically for shaping bonsai. Unlike general gardening tools, they are often very small, with very sharp blades, to allow the user to make the precise cuts required for bonsai styling.

The most basic bonsai pruning tool is a knife. Knives come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but all share a few common features: a sharp blade and a handle. The blade can be straight or curved, and is used for making clean cuts on branches and leaves. The handle can be made of wood, plastic, or metal, and is designed to provide a comfortable grip while in use.

Some common types of knives used for bonsai pruning include:

-Pruning knife: A small knife with a curved blade, used for cutting branches and leaves.
-Twig shears: A small pair of scissors with very sharp blades, used for trimming twigs and small branches.
-Leaf cutter: A small knife with a straight blade, used for cutting leaves.

Bonsai pruning techniques

When you prune your bonsai, you are essentially shaping the tree to your liking. There are many different ways to prune bonsai, and the type of pruning you do will depend on the type of bonsai tree you have. If you are a beginner, it is best to start with the basic pruning techniques.

Leaf pruning

One of the most important bonsai pruning techniques is leaf pruning, also called defoliation. This is usually done in early summer, when the leaves are fully developed. The purpose of leaf pruning is to force the tree to produce smaller leaves, which will give the tree a more delicate appearance.

To leaf prune a bonsai, simply remove all of the leaves from one or two branches using sharp scissors or shears. Make sure to remove all of the leaves, including any small ones at the tips of the branches. Once the leaves have been removed, new ones will quickly grow back in their place. These new leaves will be smaller than the ones that were removed, giving your bonsai a more delicate appearance.

Leaf pruning is a relatively easy bonsai pruning technique to master, and it can have a dramatic effect on the appearance of your tree. However, it should be used sparingly, as too much defoliation can stress your bonsai and cause it to lose its foliage entirely. When in doubt, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and only remove a few leaves at a time.

Branch pruning

Branch pruning is one of the most important bonsai techniques. It is used to create the desired shape of the bonsai, as well as to control its size. There are two main types of branch pruning:
-Pinching: This is done by using your fingers or a pair of scissors to remove new growth from the tips of branches. Pinching encourages the plant to produce new growth, which will eventually form into buds.
-Cutting: This is done by using a sharp knife or pair of shears to remove branches at their base. This type of pruning should be done carefully, as it can damage the plant if not done correctly.

Root pruning

One of the most important, yet often neglected, aspects of bonsai care is root pruning. Just as you would trim the branches of your bonsai to shape it, you must also periodically trim the roots to keep them healthy and to control the overall size of the tree. Root pruning is also essential when repotting a bonsai.

There are two main types ofroot pruning: structural and maintenance. Structural root pruning is done when you first obtain a bonsai or when you are trying to drastically change the shape of an existing tree. Maintenance root pruning is done on a regular basis (usually yearly) to keep the roots healthy and to maintain the desired size of the tree.

When root pruning, it is important to make sure that you do not damage the delicate root system. Use a sharp knife or pair of scissors and make clean, straight cuts. Avoid crushing or tearing the roots.

Root prunning techniques:
-Cutting roots: This is the most common type ofroot pruning and can be done with either a sharp knife or a pair of scissors. Cut Roots should be cut at a 45 degree angle just above a node (the point where leaves branch off from the main stem).
-Paring roots: Paring roots is similar to cutting roots except that you remove small slices ofroot instead of cutting them off entirely. This can be done with a sharp knife or paring tool. When paring roots, be careful not to damage any new growth that may be emerging from the nodes.
-Thinning roots: Thinningroots involves removing entire sections ofroots, rather than just cutting or paring them. This is usually done with larger trees that have thick mats ofroots. When thinning roots, be sure to leave enoughroots so that the tree can still absorb nutrients and water effectively.

When to prune bonsai

You should only prune your bonsai when it is necessary. Pruning too early or too late can damage your tree. The best time to prune your bonsai is in the early spring, just before new growth begins.


The best time to prune your bonsai is in the spring before new growth appears. You can also prune in the summer, but it’s not ideal because the new growth will be more vulnerable to damage. If you must prune in the summer, do it early in the season.

To prune your bonsai, start by removing any dead or dying branches. Cut them off at the base of the branch using sharp shears. Next, remove any branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other. These can damage the bark and negatively affect the tree’s growth. Finally, cut back any branches that are growing too long or out of proportion with the rest of the tree. Remember to never remove more than a quarter of the tree’s foliage at a time.


Summer is the best time to prune bonsai. The warmer weather encourages new growth, and the longer days give you more time to work on your trees.While you can prune bonsai at any time of year, summer is generally considered the best season for two reasons:

-The warmer weather encourages new growth, and
-The longer days give you more time to work on your trees.

If you can’t prune in summer, the next best time is spring.


Fall is the best time to prune bonsai for two reasons. The first is that the tree is about to go into its dormant period. This means that it won’t have to expend as much energy on regrowing new shoots and leaves. Second, fall pruning will give the bonsai a head start in the spring.

When pruning bonsai, it’s important to keep in mind that you are trying to create a miniature version of a full-sized tree. This means that you should focus on tapering the trunk and branches, and thinning out the foliage. You should also try to maintain an asymmetrical look, which will help give your bonsai a more natural appearance.


The best time to prune your bonsai is in late winter or early spring, before new growth appears. This will give the tree a chance to heal and recover before putting out new buds and leaves. You can also prune in late summer or early fall, but it’s not as ideal since the tree’s energy will be focused on growing new leaves and flowers, rather than healing wounds.

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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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