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Bonsai defoliation

There is a lot written on the internet about leaf pruning in bonsai, about the pros and cons. For someone who sometimes subjects 50 bonsai a day to radical leaf pruning in a bonsai nursery, the arguments put forward are often a little bit to grin.

It is all quite simple. The following article on leaf pruning in lime bonsai will demonstrate this.

Important points

The bonsai species must be suitable for leaf pruning. Lime trees (Little leaf linden, Common Lime, Tilia cordata) certainly are.

The bonsai tree must be healthy. The linden trees shown here have grown 40-50cm after potting in March. They are bursting with vigour.

The time for leaf pruning must be right: Late June-early July is perfect. The new shoots of the lime tree are woody.

The most important point of all: with a total defoliation, all terminal buds must cut off. In the case of partial leaf pruning, the terminal buds of the defoliated shoots must cut off. If the terminal bud is not removed, the sprouting of dormant buds is not optimal.


The following pictures show step by step the individual sections. Be brave - healthy Lime tree bonsai can cope well with one leaf cutting per year. You can use it to have quickly more fine branches in the crown.

  • Picture 1: Linden prebonsai, 12 years old, potted in a plastic pot in March, sprouting approx. 40cm. Leaves were completely removed from the stem-near part of the shoot, the shoot ends far from the stem were then cut off together with the leaves.
  • Picture 2: Due to the rapid growth of the last few weeks, the wire is pressing in. It is removed so that no traces of wire remain.
  • Picture 3: After the bonsai wire has been removed, cutting of some shoots can be done if necessary. As the lime tree has very soft wood, the bonsai cutter must be very sharp.
  • Picture 4: The last shoot tips are removed. Then new bonsai wire can be applicated.
  • Picture 5: Almost 4 weeks later, the linden-tree bonsai has sprouted again after the leaf pruning. The leaves are similar in size to before, but the degree of branching has increased considerably. The leaves still need a few more years. The more shoots the lime develops, the smaller the leaves become.
  • Picture 6: A second example for defoliation of a lime tree bonsai. Data on the bonsai and work steps are completely identical.

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