Most beginners hesitate to cut their prized bonsai trees. Admittedly it is not something that should be done in cavalier fashion, but it is essential for the proper maintenance and care of bonsai trees, and requires careful planning

Pruning will help create and then maintain your tree’s shape. A true bonsai follows very strict rules established over hundreds of years by masters in the creation and care of bonsai trees. For instance, the first branch should be about one third up the height of the trunk. If the first limb branches to the right, the second should grow from the opposite side with the pattern repeating as branches rise up the tree. They should also reduce in size as they ascend and there should be plenty of space between them.

The best time to prune depends largely on the type of bonsai you have. Some varieties prefer spring when the tree is about to undergo its most vigorous growth. Others prefer autumn when they’re about to lie dormant for a while. You will probably need to do a little research on the maintenance and care of bonsai trees to determine the most suitable time for pruning your particular plant.

Your next step is to determine which branches detract from the appeal of your tree and earmark them for removal. That will mean taking out any that cross over the trunk or each other, as well as any that are growing on the wrong side or are too close to another.

Proper care of bonsai trees means it is usually necessary to prune hardest at the top of your tree where the growth is the most vigorous. If left alone, this top growth will pull nutrients from weaker, lower branches and spoil the look of your tree. Conversely, heavily pruning in one area will encourage growth in a weaker area.

When pruning branches it is best to cut them back to a bud that is pointing in the same direction in which you wish the tree to grow. This means any new growth will branch in that direction. A word of warning though – think carefully before making a cut and don’t get too carried away. You can’t put a branch back once it has been removed.

The best tools to use are secateurs or scissors,but make sure they are sharp enough to give a clean cut. Also ensure they have been cleaned first to minimise the risk of the wound becoming infected. Large cuts should be painted with a protective paste to prevent diseases and pests attacking the wound. Your pruning instruments should always be sharp and clean as blunt tools will leave a ragged cut more likely to lead to trouble in this regard.

Proper care of bonsai trees also involves pruning the roots. This is generally done every two to three years. Ideally you remove around a third of the root ball, snipping off the larger thicker roots. The mass of finer, hair-like roots left behind will be much more efficient at absorbing water.Very importantly, once you have repotted your bonsai after root pruning, you should give it a good soaking.

Once your tree is the desired shape you may still need to do what’s called maintenance pruning. This is a simple procedure able to be done using a finger and thumb to pinch off unwanted new growth.

As I stated in the beginning, pruning is essential for the proper maintenance and care of bonsai trees, and it can be scary wondering whether you are doing the right thing. However it’s this act which determines the shape of your tree, creating its unique appeal and thus providing the most satisfying aspect of this hobby. You simply need to think carefully, plan your moves and do your homework first.

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