Considering why and in what ways you prune your bonsai, remember two guiding principles, you’re:
- emulating a full-growth tree
- encouraging the health and aesthetic of your miniaturized bonsai tree
In addition, ask whether you’re pruning to form your bonsai or to maintain your bonsai once the overall form has been established? Form pruning lays the foundation for maintenance pruning; and, is more drastic and takes a longer time from which to recuperate than maintenance pruning.
When to Prune?
Pruning your bonsai at the appropriate time depends upon the species of your tree. Generally, however, your best time is when your tree is producing new growth. For deciduous trees – maple and cherry – early Spring is your better choice. Pines and spruces fair better in mid-Spring. While early to mid-Summer is recommended of junipers.
Learn your bonsai cycles and time your pruning accordingly. With deciduous trees, new shoots are pinched back to two pairs of leaves, with any shoots that are growing vertically being removed. Pines should have their candles reduced by approximately one half, with the ones remaining being shortened. The new shoots on spruce are pinched back to half their length, encouraging buds to form at the base rather than at the growing end. Because junipers push out new growth throughout their growing season, that growth is thinned regularly, to avoid over-growth causing self-shading.
With What Should You Prune With?
All pruning should be accomplished with clean hands, sharp scissors, pruning shears or leaf trimmers. For example, leaf pruning (defoliation) to reduce the leaf size or to get rid of unattractive leaves, is done by cutting approximately two thirds of the leaves from your bonsai tree, directly behind the leaf. The quality and condition of your tools can significantly affect the appearance and health of your bonsai.
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