Pruning really falls into two categories: maintenance pruning, which mainly means thinning the tree out occasionally, to keep it from growing out of its shape, and heavy pruning as a means of styling a tree.
Q: Do I have to prune my Bonsai?
A: Leaving a tree unpruned can be a big mistake with Bonsai. The new growth each year at the tips will cover up the existing growth inside. This might be alright for a houseplant, but with a Bonsai, it is essential that you can see into it: it is the fine, detailed ramification, the fine branching, which is going to give the small leaves the illusion of having a really powerful canopy of foliage, the illusion of a full-blown tree.
Q: So what is the purpose of pruning?
A: Pruning maintains a silhouette, the outer shape of the tree. A shoot that grows wild, for example, is trimmed back to keep the foliage to certain proportions. At our Get Wired! Clinics, held at the nursery every Sunday afternoon, we are happy to show you just how to maintain the appearance of your tree to show it off at its best.
Q: How often do I need to prune my tree?
A: Most trees don’t need to be pruned more than once a year. There are some trees, including serissas and many of the deciduous varieties, which will grow fast enough that you can conceivably give them two or three prunings in a year, whereas with conifers or evergreens once a year is generally enough.
Q: How about wiring?
A: One of the misconceptions people have about wiring is believing it to be the reason Bonsai trees are dwarfed. In reality, wiring is a temporary shaping method.
Q: Is it easy to wire a tree?
A: Wiring should be done with caution. The purpose is to create a desired shape that you have in your mind. The wire is put onto a branch, or on the trunk, wrapped snugly around the wood, and then the branch or trunk is bent into the position that you want.
The wire holds it in that position until the tree holds that shape on its own. Then the wire must be removed. However, the wire may begin to cut into the bark before the tree holds the desired shape by itself; if that is the case, take the wire off so it doesn’t hurt or even strangle the tree. If the tree or branch bounces back, just rewire it again.