Trident maple bonsai pruning

Maple bonsai are among the most popular bonsai trees. The most beautiful and striking feature of a well-designed maple bonsai is a very fine and balanced ramnification. In order to achieve such a fine and dense branching, you have to control the entire growing season through the growth of the maple bonsai.

To control the growth, 3-4 different techniques are used - pruning and pinching of the bonsai tree, cutting the leaves (defoliation) and selection of buds. Here we use the example of a Trident maple bonsai (Acer buergerianum) to show what needs to be considered.


At any time when the branches of the Trident maple are clearly recognizable, i.e. in autumn, early spring and after a leaf cut, you can easy prune a bonsai. Since the tree does not have any leaves that hinder us in any way, it is very easy to see which branches or twigs need to be pruned. Whereby you should consider the danger of bleeding of the bonsai in spring, i.e. don't cut too late.

The aim of trimming a Trident maple bonsai is to achieve the typically soft, curvy and gentle shape of a maple. Too sharp angles, vertically growing branches and completely undesirable thick branch ends can be removed if necessary.

In addition, the characteristic but unsightly opposite buds of a maple bonsai can be processed in such a way that an alternating growth pattern is achieved. To do this, select the bud that you find more advantageous and remove the other.

A sharp bonsai scissors is enough to cut thin shoots of the Trident maple. From approx. 5-6mm thickness it is better to use bonsai pliers (mostly concave cutter are preferred).

After shortening a thick branch, it is extremely important to apply a wound closure agent. Maple bonsai, like the Trident maple discussed here, have a very smooth bark. Larger wounds can be seen for a long time and affect the quality of the tree.

The wound sealing agent (from Japan) offered in the shop supports the healing process very well. The great advantage of this wound closure is that it is easy to apply and - above all - it is easy to remove.

Under no circumstances should you use agents such as LacBalsam (in germany). These also help with wound closure, but it is hard to remove it from the tree later. If you try to remove LacBalsam after 1-2 years, you will automatically damage the wound and open it again.


Since Trident maples sprout very quickly in spring, constant growth monitoring is necessary in order to prevent large internodes (gaps between nodes). Pinching a bonsai is used to keep the shoots in balance at the various parts of the tree. Since the growth does not happen uniformly everywhere, you have to keep an eye on the growth processes during daily checks.

If you closely observe the Trident maple you can clearly see which buds need to be pinched first. The strongest buds are in the higher parts of the tree and at the tips of the branches. They are thicker and can be easily distinguished from the weaker ones. If there are three buds next to each other at one point (this is the normal case), the middle one always sprouts first.

Pinching a Trident maple bonsai

When the first buds have reached the point where you can easily see the three budding leaves, carefully spreading the two side leaves apart and remove the middle leaf with tweezers or fingers. At this point later new shoots will emerge after some time.

The 2 new shoots are pinched again later. In addition, after pinching, new buds often continue to sprout inside the crown.

If the exact time of the shoot out was missed, it will unfortunately be very difficult to achieve a decent ramnification by a later correction. Then usually only a stronger cut helps.


Another important bonsai styling technique with which you can control the growth vigor of a Trident maple bonsai is the leaf cut (= defoliation). Usually this does not mean a complete leaf cut. This could weaken the tree and possibly unbalance the growth vigor.

The defoliation is used to enable better branching with a further (forced) shoot in the year and to achieve a balance of the number of buds on all parts of the tree.

So you only remove the leaves of the strong outer areas of the branches to compensate for the difference between the number and the strength of the buds of all areas. That means conversely, the leaves on the weaker shoots remain on the tree to strengthen these shoots.

Another advantage of the partial leaf cut is the fact that defoliated branches do not increase in thickness, so that the thickness of all branches can also be coordinated.

Knob selection

In addition to forming by pruning a Trident maple, the shape and vigor can be influenced quite well by selecting suitable buds. The bud selection and removal if necessary can be carried out the entire growing season. You should keep all the useful and desired buds and quickly remove any unwanted ones. This creates a good basis for the desired balanced growth of the tree all year round.