What part does pruning play in bonsai?

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BonsaiBasics.com Pruning is necessary to maintain (or refine growth to obtain) the right shape of a bonsai and encourage new growth. Some plants naturally respond well to pruning, regardless of how intense, whilst other plants can find it hard to recover, especially when pruned at the wrong time of the year. To prune correctly you must find out the type of plant your bonsai is and research when the best times are to prune old and new season growth. Generally, new growth is pruned during the growing season to maintain the shape of the bonsai, whilst pruning of hard wood (old season growth) is done in mid-autumn.

One of the main forms of pruning for bonsai, especially evergreen coniferous bonsai such as junipers and cedars is 'finger pruning'. This involves pinching back new growth which does not come within the general shape of the bonsai or is at the top of the bonsai - helping to encourage bushy foliage and a more tree-like looking bonsai. To do this, take the growth between your thumb and forefinger whilst holding the branch with your other hand and remove with a twisting movement. This is better than trimming the growth with scissors, this leaves an unnatural look and leaves the foliage an unsightly brown.

pruning secateurs For deciduous trees such as maples, the chinese elm and cotoneaster, scissor tip pruning is best. When trimming outward or 'overenthusiastic' growth, trim shoots back to just after the next series of leaves, but don't cut the foliage as such.

Leaf pruning (also known as defoliation) in bonsai is used for several deciduous and tropical plants such as ficus or maples to reduce leaf size, remove unsightly leaves and speed-up growth by causing two seasons' growth in one. For deciduous trees such as maples it also means that their autumn country is brighter. This is done in mid-summer, by cutting 60-90% of the leaves off the tree, only leaving a few to ensure that the tree keeps its energy. Remove leaves with fine scissors, cutting them from directly behind the leaf. In the next few weeks make sure that you keep the plant in a hospitable position and climate and supply it adequate water. Remember however, that this form of pruning is only applicable to certain types of plants.

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