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A bonsai must be pruned regularly. Bonsai pruning is the most important technique for styling a bonsai and maintaining its shape. Pruning a bonsai is divided into 2 types: The Structural pruning and the Maintenance bonsai pruning. Both types are important in order to bring the bonsai into a desired shape and to maintain this shape in the long term.

Why do you have to cut the bonsai at all ?

Many will shake their heads at this question and think: So that the bonsai doesn't get too big. This answer is of course not wrong. But it is only one part of the answer.

Why do you have to cut a bonsai ?

  • So that the bonsai doesn't get too big. But above all so that the existing shape of the tree is preserved
  • Trees grow stronger on the top and weaker below. We have to balance the vigor to maintaining the shape
  • Bonsai pruning is important to improve the fine branching (ramnification) of the branches and thus the quality of the tree
  • If it is to be completely redesigned, the bonsai tree has to be cut in most cases
  • To maintain the shape of the bonsai tree and to prevent branches from weakening and dying
  • To remove disturbing or dead branches and shoots

Structural bonsai pruning

The bonsai is stylistically brought into a desired shape (bonsai style) by the Structural bonsai pruning. The quality of the bonsai tree is fundamentally changed and improved from an aesthetic point of view. The structural pruning is more radical than the maintenance cut and requires more knowledge and preparation.

The structural cutting is mainly carried out at the beginning of the development of a bonsai. As a result, a original plant or an existing prebonsai is completely revised and its shape is thus greatly changed.

Maintenance bonsai pruning

The Maintenance bonsai pruning (maintenance cut) aims to maintain the specified style of a bonsai tree and to improve the existing shape qualitatively in many small steps. Bonsai pruning is usually understood to mean the maintenance bonsai pruning. It is less drastic and must be done regularly (approx. 2-3 times a year for deciduous trees such as maple bonsai, apple tree, privet, Ficus bonsai, hornbeam, Serissa bonsai, linden tree, redwood bonsai, spindle tree, pepper tree, elm bonsai, less often for conifers e.g. 1-2 times on larch trees and 1 time on White pine bonsai, Juniper bonsai and Podocarpus) as otherwise the quality of a bonsai tree can quickly deteriorate.

If the bonsai is cut regularly, the fine branching increases due to the new shoots. The ramnification become denser, the leaf pads finer. Our bonsai tree is getting closer and closer to our ideal, the quality is improving.

Although you can cut most bonsai species all year round, a maintenance bonsai cutting is carried out mainly in the growing period from April-May to mid-August. The injuries are relatively small and can be quickly "repaired" by the tree. Wound healing is much better in the growing season and can still be promoted by wound sealants.

Unfortunately, many bonsai tree species branch out sparingly and reluctantly. This is a problem for bonsai design. Of course we don't want a big, slim, skyrocketing bonsai. Our ideal is usually a compact form with many branches and small leaves.

Defoliation (leaf-cutting)

By cutting the leaves (Defoliation), we can "persuade" such a bonsai tree to branch more quickly and get smaller leaves.

In the case of a complete or partial defoliation of the bonsai tree all or a large part of the leaves and all buds at the end of each shoot are removed. After a few days (e.g. Chinese elm bonsai) or weeks (e.g. Horse chestnut) new buds will sprout again. Many "sleeping buds" are activated and the ramnification increases significantly. Most of the time the new leaves are also much smaller.


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