Part Does Pruning play in Bonsai?
by Rob Mellor
Pruning is necessary to maintain (or refine growth to obtain) the
right shape of a bonsai and encourage new growth. Some plants naturally
respond well to pruning, regardless of how intense, whilst other
plants can find it hard to recover, especially when pruned at the
wrong time of the year.
When should I Prune? To prune correctly you must find out the type
of plant your bonsai is and research when the best times are to
prune old and new season growth. Generally, new growth is pruned
during the growing season to maintain the shape of the bonsai, whilst
pruning of hard wood (old season growth) is done in mid-autumn.
Forms of Pruning
One of the main forms of pruning for bonsai, especially evergreen
coniferous bonsai such as junipers and cedars is 'finger pruning'.
This involves pinching back new growth, which does not come within
the general shape of the bonsai or is at the top of the bonsai helping
to encourage bushy foliage and a more tree-like looking bonsai.
To do this, take the growth between your thumb and forefinger whilst
holding the branch with your other hand and remove with a twisting
movement. This is better than trimming the growth with scissors;
this leaves an unnatural look and leaves the foliage an unsightly
brown. However for deciduous trees, scissor tip pruning is best.
When trimming outward or 'overenthusiastic' growth, trim shoots
back to just after the next series of leaves, but don't cut the
foliage as such.
Pruning of branches is performed in spring. Much, but not all of
the new growth is removed. Branches are selected early on as the
only branches to be allowed to prosper, while the excess branches
are mercilessly pruned off.
Leaf pruning (also known as defoliation) in bonsai is used for
several deciduous and tropical plants to reduce leaf size, remove
unsightly leaves and speed-up growth by causing two seasons' growth
in one. This is done in mid-summer, by cutting 60-90% of the leaves
off the tree, only leaving a few to ensure that the tree keeps its
energy. Remove leaves with fine scissors, cutting them from directly
behind the leaf. In the next few weeks make sure that you keep the
plant in a hospitable position and climate and supply it adequate
water. Remember however, that this form of pruning is only applicable
to certain types of plants.
Bonsai trees are intentionally allowed to become root-bound in
their containers, and the roots too, are pruned. But root-bound
plants won't thrive forever in that condition and, indeed, bonsai
trees must be re-potted every two or three years to furnish the
roots with fresh soil.
Last but not the least, the main factor in maintaining bonsai is
the removal of all but the most important parts of the plant. Bonsai
is all about the reduction of everything just to the essential elements
and ultimate refinement.
About the Author
Rob Mellor owns a great website helping people find out more about
the bonsai tree. Please visit the site for more information on bonsai