How To Shape A Bonsai Tree? (2 Simple Methods To Learn)

The beauty of bonsai depends vastly on the right care and shaping method. It is challenging to derive the bonsai tree shape to bring an aesthetic outlook. So, you need to have patients, be strategic, and dedicated to get the best result.

Your target is to bring the excellent shape at a small height with a thick trunk and bushes leaves. Then you must know; how to shape a bonsai tree?

You can shape your bonsai how you want to look it by following two easy methods. Those are pruning and wiring. And there are three types of pruning that you have to follow one after another. 

You need to consider some factors when growing Bonsai if you want to be successful in this project. The healthy growth and development of bonsai depend on a sturdy foundation, root condition, and trunk health. 

So you must ensure those factors at first to get a healthy tree. Let’s read the article to get a step-by-step guide to bring the perfect shape to bonsai trees.

How To Shape A Bonsai Tree

How To Shape A Bonsai Tree – Bonsai Shape Guide

It is essential to take extra care of bonsai plants’ branches to give a compact shape to bonsai. To achieve the basic bonsai shapes, you must know the right species of tree and the natural growth of bonsai. 

When you understand the natural growth of bonsai, it helps you to precisely redesign the bonsai trees to manipulate the natural growth to your expected shape. So before learning the process of bonsai shaping let’s know how the bonsai will grow.

How Bonsai Trees Grow?

Basically, trees are influenced to grow in a forward direction. So the forwarding area is the main vital point to control the growth. You must notice that central stems grow quicker than other side stems. So the central stem of any branch is more powerful than any side stem to get control over the shape.

This natural growth tells you that the dominant growth of trees starts from central stems. So you need to prune the top and outer portions crucially to effect natural dominance.  As a result, the plant will be manipulated to redirect its growth to the inner and lower parts instead of the forward area. So, you can successfully control the growth direction and shape of the bonsai trees.

Now, you know how the tree will grow, so it is time to learn how to bring an aesthetic shape of your bonsai. 

Method # 1 Pruning

Pruning is a brilliant way to manipulate the natural growth of leaves and branches to bring a basic shape. The pruning is also three types. Such as 

  • Maintenance pruning
  • Structure pruning
  • Root pruning

Type -1 Maintenance Pruning

Maintenance pruning is a proven way to balance and redirect the style and form of a plant. The natural tendency of trees mostly grows on top and outer areas of stems. So, you need to prune this area to refine the growth and redirect the growth to inner parts to give it an aesthetic look and style.

Type -2 Structural Pruning

First, you need to choose the branch where you want natural growth and where you want to change the growth style and shape. In this case, structural pruning is very effective to give basic shape to large branches. You may get puzzled about which branches to remove and which ones to keep. Because the selection defines how your trees will look. 

So, before jumping on the process, give some time to research. Search on the web to check the structure pruning shape of expert Bonsai artists. The reference work of expert and pro artists will help you a lot to get an idea about selection.

Best time of structural pruning

The ideal time to apply structural pruning is in spring or late autumn. It is better to apply these tricks before the growing season of trees. So the ideal period also depends on your bonsai types. For example, if you have Ficus bonsai, the timing is different from Juniper Bonsai.

Steps of structural pruning

When you follow some specific steps for structure pruning, you will achieve the best result. Here are the steps

  • First, keep your trees on a table or flat surfaces at a specific height with your eye level. 
  • Then observe your bonsai plants crucially to find dead branches. Choose the unwanted branches that need to be removed to achieve the particular style.  There are no specific rules of branch selection. It depends on experience and practices to make the structural pruning perfect and fruitful. 
  • Remove all the dead branches and check the trees carefully to plan your expected design and shape. 
  • Take a close look at the plant and visualize the expected art and do everything that needs to implement the expected shape.

Some helpful tips for efficient structure pruning

Here are some tips for identifying unwanted branches and how to treat the tree after structure pruning. 

  • Any branch that hampers trunk view
  • Dead or brownish brunch
  • The branch that crosses other branches
  • Hanging down or distracting shape branch
  • Any branch or suckers from the base trunk
  • A branch that closes to the ground
  • A branch that intends to grow in the backward point of the tree that means direct to the trunk
  • Internal branch the grow upwards
  • Parallels branches
  • If branch contains unwanted twist and a turning point
  • Excessively large branch
  • If two branch comes out from the same height, remove one
  • Any mismatch branch that is awkwardly thick than other branches
  • Branch that shape like the trunk is also need to cut
  • While you prune the thick branches, there is a high chance of creating blemish in the trees. To avoid these issues, you have to use the right garden tools such as concave cutters to avoid unwanted spots or blemishes. 
  • You should also use turmeric powder to seal wounds. It is a natural remedy to keep trees free from infections and assist them in recovering soon. A healthy bonsai won’t be facing survival issues after pruning ⅓ of its leaves and branches.

We already mentioned that there are no predefined rules to make structural pruning. These are just some tricks to make the work convenient and perfect. We make this list according to expert bonsai gardener’s experience, so that you can easily find out which branch needs to be cut to derive an aesthetic look. 

Type -3 Root Pruning

After applying maintenance and structural pruning, it is not bad to think of root pruning. So, if you don’t get the expected shape of your bonsai, then you can apply root pruning. But, root pruning is not as easy as maintenance and structure pruning. Root pruning requires some strategy.

Best time of root pruning

After giving a brilliant shape to trees, you should do root pruning after 1 year. Any deep pruning should be done once a year. So, give the bonsai time to heal the structure pruning load, and then you can do root pruning next year. The growing season is also the ideal time for root pruning.

Steps of root pruning

There are two types of roots in bonsai. One is exposed root, and the other is underground roots. The exposed root is known as nebari and controlling the nebari can give your bonsai a unique appearance. When you see the nebari is growing perfectly and evenly placed from the trunk, you can start root pruning. 

  • First, at the time of root pruning, you should clip the dead and thin roots carefully.
  • If you have pine or conifer bonsai, then you need to clip it by hand instead of scissors. Any tools such as cutters or scissors can dazzle this species of plant. So avoid any tools to cut those species, or your plant can die.
  • Now, cut the unnecessary, thin and dead roots only. You should cut the interior roots and exterior roots. 
  • To restructure the exterior root, you can apply a simple cutting method. Simply cut off unwanted parts of bonsai to dispel bark, and phloem. 
  • You have to also cut the cambium that is situated under the bark 
  • But, when cutting phloem and cambium don’t cut any deeper parts. Because phloem works to supply nutrients to the root and cambium ensures faster growth. 
  • So, after cutting off, keep the bonsai at rest to give it time to grow nebari.
  • You may also apply air layering or grafting to restructure nebari to enhance the beauty of bonsai.

The traditional eight directions of style are commonly seen in Bonsai shape. By training and pruning, you can improve the development of external roots. Everything is dependent on balance. You can bring an aesthetic outlook by balancing external roots structure.

Some helpful tips for efficient pruning

As roots always remain beneath the soil and invisible. So you have to keep in mind some tips for root pruning like a pro garder. 

  • The outer root is helpful to give an outstanding structure to your bonsai. Here you can apply a maintenance prune to control a tree’s shape. So, start pruning from the branches. 
  • You should use a scissor to clip the outgrowth canopy. Choose the right bonsai tools to make the pruning process effortless and avoid any unwanted mistakes or tree damage.
  • Regular pruning is a must to force the natural growth tendency and build dense foliage. You can achieve evenly distributed branches with regular pruning.
  • Different species of bonsai required different strategies while pruning. So depending on the bonsai species, you need to choose the right tools and strategy. In some trees, you can combine manual clipping and tools clipping together to make the best pruning.
  • You can also follow defoliation while pruning. It means you should remove the leaves of the bonsai during summer to grow new leaves. This defoliation pruning helps to reduce the leaf size and increases the ramifications that give a cute look to bonsai trees.

Method #2 Wiring

It is an effective and technical method to derive any compact shape and style using wire. Here you force the branches of the tree to redirect them to grow in your expected direction.

How To Shape Bonsai Trees Using Wire?

You can achieve different types of bonsai shapes using different strategies. Wiring is a brilliant idea to bring any type of bonsai shape.  You need to wrap up the branch of the tree with wire to force the branch to redirect the growth as you wish. 

It requires a few months to change branch direction using wiring. After fixing the direction, you need to remove the wire. You can apply single and double wire techniques according to tree conditions. Let’s know how you can do the wiring to bring a particular style to bonsai.

  • Before wiring, you can do a little pruning to remove the dead branch and clip the leaves. It is better to cut out the leaves with scissors.
  • Collect pliers and wire with the right thickness
  • Now, wrap up the trunk with wire, then cover the primary branches. After covering the primary branch, wire the secondary branches.
  • After wiring the entire trees bending them crucially to derive the exact shape
  • Remove the trunk after 1-3 months

This is the brief of the whole wiring process.  

Some helpful tips for efficient wiring

Now here are some tips to make the wiring process effective to get your desired shape. 

Wire type

You need to select the right bonsai wire to get the best outcome. For the beginner, anodized aluminum wire is best as it allows correction and re-applying opportunities. If your tree contains barks, you should use aluminum wire for wiring. Yet, it takes more time to derive the shape but doesn’t create a scar on the trunk or bark. 

You can use copper wire if you want hardcore bends. Copper wire can give you an exact shape because it is stronger than aluminum wire. But you can’t reuse copper wire.

Wire thickness

You need to select the wire thickness carefully. It is better to choose a wire that is thinner than the branches. The wire that comes with ⅓ thickness of branches is good for wiring. So, according to your tree’s thickness, try to keep the wire thickness lower.

Wiring method

While wiring a tree, wrap up the nearest two branches with a single piece of wire. That is called the double wiring method. It helps to give both branches a similar outlook and shape. However, you can cover the remaining branch with a single wire to derive a unique shape. That is a single wiring method. 

The wiring should be done at 45° angles so that the branch gets space to grow. Don’t over tighten the wire because that harms the bark. Twist the wire snugly on the trees. Bends the branch downward and upwards according to your style. But the branch that you need to bend downwards wire it from below and vice-versa.


You can apply an anchor on the trunk to wire and make the wiring secure.


After doing wiring, it is important to keep the trees under shade and provide fertilizer. You can apply both organic fertilizer and liquid fertilizer to ensure the healthy growth of bonsai. Observe the trees carefully to avoid any unwanted issues. 

Hopefully, you will notice changes within 1-4 months after wiring. Don’t forget to remove the wires with pliers. Otherwise, it can create permanent scars in the bark.  So, it is better to cut out wires with pliers instead of untwisting them. 

However, are you not clear about the wiring process, or become confused after reading all those steps and tips? No worries, mate. You can check out another post on How to wire a bonsai tree. There we have described everything in detail, how to wire the bonsai, how to select wire, and how to remove the wire. 

When Should I Start Shaping My Bonsai Tree?

The right time to apply the maintenance pruning technique is the growing season. That means it is better to shape outdoor bonsai from March to September. If you have indoor bonsai, then you should prune it at the end of the year.

The right time can also vary depending on shaping methods. If you plan to implement wiring, you can do it at any season or day. But it is best to apply it in late winter because, at that time, most plants fall off leaves which makes wiring easy.


How do I choose a Bonsai shape?

You can play with bonsai shape and appearance. Do a lot of research to discover your favorite shape. You should grow bonsai at a 60-80° angle and try to derive ramifications.

How long does it take to shape a bonsai tree?

It depends on your technique. If you apply to wire, you will get an outcome within 1-4 months. But if you apply to prune, it requires more than six months to bring a visible shape. Depending on the type of bonsai, the time can also fluctuate.

How to shape a Juniper bonsai tree?

Juniper bonsai is a very common and popular bonsai species. You can follow pruning and wiring methods to give the best shape of your Juniper. The right time for shaping juniper is late winter and early spring.

Final Thoughts

Achieving the desired shape of bonsai requires plenty of methods, tricks, and efforts. You need to invest your valuable time and dedication to bring an artistic style. We have tried to give you a step-by-step guide on how to shape a bonsai tree. But there is no shortcut to shaping bonsai.

To get the best design for your tree, there is no alternative to research. The more you observe the exclusive art of bonsai, the more you can learn. So don’t forget to check out popular and demanding bonsai shapes. 

Keep patience, and practice more to get control over shape or design. It is fun to control bonsai shape and bring the particular look according to your wish. 

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