When to Start Training Bonsai

There is no set timeline for training your bonsai, but it is recommended that you start within three to five years before the tree is fully grown. You want to make sure you start training your bonsai when it grows a trunk, or when the root system has become fully established in its pot.

Bonsai is the ancient Japanese art of growing little trees in pots. Translated, it literally means “planted in a container.” Bonsai trees are small because of how they are trained and groomed.

How your bonsai tree looks all depends on how it is trained and shaped in its growing stages. It is a very complex process since most training occurs in the developmental stages of your tree.

You should start training your bonsai tree as soon as you can to ensure you get the outcome you want. Bonsais take great care in the pruning and grooming process, so the training stages are important to the size and shape of your bonsai.

Read on to learn more about when to train your bonsai trees and different methods for training them.

When to Train Your Bonsai Tree through Pruning

bonsai tree care

In order to train your bonsai tree, you have to prune it. Pruning your bonsai requires you to cut leaves and sometimes branches off of your bonsai so that it will grow new leaves and branches in those spots. This prevents your bonsai from growing too large. This is a form of training.

There are different types of bonsai pruning that allow you to tailor your bonsai to your desired size and shape. These two types of pruning are:

Shaping pruning is more common, as you will use this type of pruning no matter the conditions. Maintenance pruning is not as common since it only occurs when there is trouble with your bonsai.

Shaping Pruning

Shaping pruning must be done during certain times of the year. Most bonsai prefer to be clipped in the spring and fall months right before and after what is known as their “growing season.”

It’s important to remember that pruning must be done in a balanced way over the whole plant. If you prune the tree, you must also prim the roots. If not, your tree will grow massive amounts of roots to compensate for the branches you have cut.

Maintenance Pruning

When you perform maintenance pruning on your bonsai, you are removing dead or diseased branches and leaves. This is necessary when your bonsai has grown ill.

Causes for maintenance pruning can include:

Completing this type of pruning allows room for new growth.

When to Start Wire Training Your Bonsai

50-year-old Bonsai

Most trees can be wired any time of the year. However, this can vary from species to species, so it is important that you know what kind of plant you are working with.

While you generally want to start training your bonsai within three to five years of its growth, you want to make sure your tree’s roots are established and its trunk has started growing. Otherwise, the plant will not be developed enough to take on the shape of your wires.

What Is Wire Training?

Wiring your bonsai tree is one of the most important steps for being able to shape your tree. Wire training your bonsai forces it to stay contained in one position and shape. 

There are two types of wires to use when training a bonsai tree:

Aluminum wire is better for deciduous species of bonsai, while copper wire is best for coniferous plants and pines.

There are two ways to wire a bonsai’s branches: single-wire and double-wire.


When you train your bonsai with the single wire approach, you use one wire for each branch. This method should be used when you want to shape each individual branch unique from one another. 


The double-wiring method is when you use one wire to train nearby branches. This creates uniformity with the branches and helps with stability as the branches grow.

How to Double-Wire Your Bonsai

Select the pair of branches you want to wire. It is important that the branches you choose are close together and are similar in thickness. Wrap the wire around the trunk of the bonsai twice, if possible. This way it will not move when you bend the branches.

When you have finished wiring all branch pairs, you would wire the remaining branches using the single-wire method outlined below.

How to Single-Wire Your Bonsai

Just like double-wiring, make sure you cut off enough wire to wrap around the trunk twice.

When more than one wire is applied to the same spot on the trunk or branch, place them together without crossing them.

Continue wiring the branches.

What is Guy-Wiring?

Guy-wiring is a method of bending branches downwards when they are too thick, old, or brittle. You will want to anchor your guy wires on sturdy points like a surface root, a strong branch, or even the pot.

Make sure to protect the branch with a small piece of rubber or plastic as the wire will put a considerable amount of force on it.

Bending the Branches

Once you have finished wiring the tree, begin bending the branches. Hold the outside of the branch you want to bend and bend from the inside of the curve of the branch gently. It is important to apply force on the inside to reduce the risk of splitting the branch.

How Long Do Wires Stay on Your Bonsai? 

The length of time you should leave the wires on your bonsai branches depends on your individual tree. As a general rule, however, the wire should be left on the branches for a few months to allow them to grow into your wire shape.

There are some things to look out for when wiring your tree:

Branches will grow in roughly one to four months depending on how fast the tree grows, so make sure you watch for digging wires.

If you plan to do a lot of wiring, make sure your tree has time to recover – growing season is the best time for this.

Bonsai Wire Training Aftercare

Bring your tree to a shaded area and fertilize as you normally would. When removing wiring, it is best to cut the wire at every turn.

Do not try to unwind your wire off the branches as you might damage your plant.

Will Bonsai Leaves Grow Back might be an interesting article for you.


Bonsai is a blend of horticultural knowledge and art. There are many different techniques to train your bonsai tree. But making sure you use the correct wires, wiring techniques, and staying on top of your pruning will ensure you have a happy and healthy plant.

It can be a complex process, but with the right care and artistic eye, you can successfully grow a well-trained bonsai.

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