Bonsai Shaping and Styling: Our Complete Guide
Your bonsai doesn’t look like any of the pictures online even after you’ve been taking excellent care of it? Then it might be time to start learning more about bonsai shaping so you can style your tree into your desired shape.
If you have just started your journey as a bonsai gardener you might be wondering how to train a bonsai tree, but worry not! In this post we’ll cover everything you need to know about bonsai shaping. From why you should do it to how to shape bonsai and what tools to use for it.
Without further ado, let’s start with our complete guide to bonsai tree styling and shaping.
Why is Bonsai Shaping Important?
It’s a common misconception that bonsai trees are dwarf species of regular trees. While it’s true that bonsai are miniature versions of wild trees, they’re propagated just like any other tree and would grow like any other tree if they weren’t trained and shaped to maintain their small size.
How to Shape a Bonsai Tree With Wire?
Wiring can take time and patience to master, just like the art of bonsai in general. So how to shape bonsai trees using wire?
In general there are two ways most commonly used by bonsai enthusiasts for shaping bonsai trees with wire. Those methods are known as single-wire and double-wire.
The single-wire technique as the name suggests uses a single piece of wire to train single branches. This method is best for shaping individual branches. It allows you to style each branch in a unique way to shape the tree exactly how you want it to look.
This method used one piece of wire to shape two or nearby branches. This training technique helps make the tree shape look more consistent. It’s also beneficial for particularly thin branches as it provides stability as the branches grow.
When wiring the branches of your bonsai, always tie the wire around the branch before trying to bend it, otherwise you can accidentally snap the fragile branch. If you’re fully shaping your tree and need to wire all branches, start from the trunk and wire the primary branches first, then work your way to the secondary ones.
The rule of thumb when it comes to wiring is using a wire that’s one third the thickness of the branches you plan to wire. This wire should be strong enough to hold the branch in shape as it grows.
Important Things to Remember when Training Bonsai With Wire
Beginner bonsai enthusiasts often underestimate how much care a bonsai tree needs. Tending to your bonsai is a continuous journey. Wiring a bonsai will help you get it into your desired style, but you still need to take care of it so it maintains this shape. With this in mind there’s a couple factors to remember before you start training our bonsai into shape.
Pruning your tree before and during wire shaping is essential. Active pruning is the key to help your tree’s branches grow following the wired patterns you want them to follow. On the other hand, without pruning your tree will lose its shape over time as the smaller branches and foliage will grow outside the patterns created with wire.
You should never start wiring a bonsai that’s not healthy. If your tree isn’t looking particularly robust, i.e. the branches look brittle or dry, there’s discolouration on the bark/foliage, focus on nourishing your bonsai back to health.
When to Begin Bonsai Shaping?
While there are no hard rules as to when you should start wire training your tree, most people start shaping their bonsai when the tree is between three to five years old. You shouldn’t start shaping your tree until after the roots and the trunk are fully established.
If you start wire training your tree too soon it can hinder the general development of the tree. As a result your tree might not be able to take on or maintain the desired shape because the branches are still too young.
Another common question among beginners is whether there’s a certain time of the year that’s best to start shaping your bonsai with wire. The short answer is – this will depend on the type of tree you have.
For deciduous trees, the best season to start wiring them is early spring, before their rapid growth period and before new buds start to appear. This will give you better access to any branches you want to wire and will also allow you to see what you’re doing because there isn’t any foliage blocking your view of the branch.
Coniferous trees have a cyclical development so their branches are never completely bare, which means you can’t apply the same logic here. The most appropriate time to start wire training this type of tree is late autumn to the beginning of winter. During this time of the year the sap in the tree’s branches is less which means they’re easier to bend into shape.
Taking Care for a Wired Bonsai
After your tree is wired and bent into shape, you can continue to water and fertilise the tree as you normally would. How long you would need to leave the wires on your tree again heavily depends on the type of tree you have. The branches will grow around the wire in about one to four months depending on how fast your bonsai grows. It’s important to keep a close eye on your tree during its growing spree as you don’t want the wire to permanently damage the tree bark.
Remove the bonsai wire before it starts digging into the branches. The best method for removing wiring is cutting the wire. Don’t try to unwind and reuse wire, because you risk damaging the branches as you’re attempting to untangle it. Now that you know the basics of bonsai shaping you can confidently go and start training your tree into a style you like. As a specialist bonsai shop, we stock everything you need to train and maintain your tree, from bonsai wire to tool kits. You can also find many more useful tips and tricks for growing your bonsai in our bonsai Care Hub and Blog.