How to trim a bonsai tree? An Easy Guide for You

Bonsai trees are one of the most popular decorative plants in homes and offices. Bonsai trimming is like an art form and this small tree is a great gifts for creative people. It’s a great tree for beginners to bonsai experts.

They can be trimmed into any shape you want, but they must be properly cared for to thrive. There are several ways to trim your bonsai: pruning them with sharp scissors or using wires and strings. The trimming process involves pruning the smaller or larger branches and leaves off to shape them into any type of the desired form, such as an oval.

However, trimming and shaping your bonsai can be done by anyone with the right tools and following the correct steps. This article will cover how to cut a bonsai tree and what types of shapes you can achieve with this type of bonsai tree.

How to trim a bonsai tree?

Why do you need to Trim your bonsai tree?

Regular trimming is necessary to maintain your bonsai tree. You will need to make sure it is pruned every few weeks with the proper tools. If you’re looking for a more alternative approach to removing leaves, a hand pruner is ideal. However, you may also want to invest in a specialized bonsai tool. A fantastic sort of gardening shears might be used for this purpose.

Trimming keeps your miniature tree or deciduous tree healthy and robust by removing any dead or dying parts. It allows new growth to flourish while encouraging healthier leaves and branches on the tree. If you’ve never pruned your bonsai before, you can use this guide to spend some time learning the process of how to do so.

What are the benefits of shaping

Shaping your bonsai will allow you to achieve several beautiful shapes that help bring out the beauty in your plant. These common types of plants have been known to live for hundreds of years, so it’s essential you know how to properly take care of them and shape them into any desired form. 

Different ways to bonsai tree trimming

There are hundreds of different types of bonsai trees, and they all require a different type of trimming. It’s essential to keep in mind that the shape you want to achieve will dictate how you trim your bonsai. However, there are a few different ways that can be used when it comes to shaping these plants, including:

Cascade – The trunk forms one side of the plant while spreading toward the ground at an angle. This type of shape is common in large trees that have fallen.

Semi Cascade – This type of tree is created when you trim off certain parts to make it grow in any desired direction. The trunk forms one side of the plant while getting closer to the ground but not completely parallel. This is often done on trees that are very tall and don’t need their entire height displayed.

Slanting -This type of bonsai shape displays a tree with the trunk leaning over to one side. It will often look like the tree is falling toward the ground, but it’s actually just an illusion created by trimming.

Broom -The bottom of the plant is trimmed to look like a broom or fan shape. This type of bonsai is known for overgrowing and having long branches that will need regular trimming.

Formal Upright -This shape is achieved by keeping the trunk straight and tall. It usually has branches that grow out along the sides and leaves that point upwards towards the sky.

Informal Upright – This shape has a more natural look and provides more leaves on the branches. It has a central trunk that grows taller than its branches.

Windswept –This shape has a straight trunk that grows towards one side. The branches face a downward angle, giving it the appearance of being pushed by strong winds.

Bonsai tree trimming

When it comes to trimming a bonsai tree, there are several techniques that you need to know about to have the best results possible. Depending on what you want to achieve and the condition of your bonsai, you might be able to cut different branches or apply a specific trimming technique.

Before starting with any type of pruning, three critical factors will determine how much you should let go:

  • The age of the bonsai plant
  • Its health
  • The overall appearance

By assessing these factors, you will be able to prioritize what needs to be cut.

Steps to Trim a Bonsai Tree

Step 1: Ensure plant health by taking a look at the overall health of your bonsai. This will allow you to determine what types of branches may need trimming or if there are dead or dying. Once you’ve identified these parts, pluck them off with your fingers to keep the tree strong and healthy.

Step 2: Pinch the ends of the branches if you want to shape them in a particular direction. Use your fingers to pinch off as much as you need for your specific bonsai shape, and keep pinching until the desired shape is achieved. This will force new growth, allowing you to have a tree that has a nice curve or bend depending on its orientation.

Step 3: Trim off any dead or dying leaves and branches with sharp shears. Make sure not to pluck too much at once; otherwise, you may damage the tree. Only cut what needs trimming so that your plant stays healthy and robust. By following these steps every few weeks, your bonsai should remain healthy and continue growing with ease.

Step 4: Shape your bonsai by using techniques such as tying or bending. You can turn the branches towards the direction you’d like them to grow to achieve a particular shape. This is useful when you have a formal upright bonsai and want it to produce a bit more slanted in one direction. Use twine to tie the branches to a piece of wood to achieve this shape.

Step 5: Cut the leaves on your bonsai after undergoing one or two seasons of growth. Leaf pruning is done to make your bonsai tree look better. You can cut two thirds of the leaves on the of the tree and the tree will grow new leaves in a few weeks.

This is where you can compact shape your bonsai by cutting away some of its smaller and delicate leaves. Removing these leaves redirect energy within the plant to promote growth in other areas, such as the branches. You can also cut new ends on a branch using your shears, allowing faster regrowth and more leaves.

Step 6: Rinse your bonsai with water to remove any dust or dirt that may have built upon the leaves. This helps keep it clean and beautiful while also ensuring you’re giving your plant the best care possible. Follow this step each time you trim your bonsai in order to avoid damaging it with excess dust, dirt, or chemicals.

Bonsai Pruning and care techniques

Basic pruning

This type of cutting is the most basic trimming technique that you can use to maintain your bonsai plant by pruning one or several branches each time you notice they are not growing correctly or producing leaves.

Maintenance pruning

Maintenance pruning is necessary once your bonsai reaches a certain height. Any time you notice that the growth of the tree has stopped, this means you should remove some of its branches in order to bring it back to life. In this type of trimming, you can cut your tree’s branches in a downward angle instead of keeping them upright. This allows for the best new growth to come out while you’re not changing its overall shape or style.

Structural pruning

Structural pruning is a type of trimming that you’ll do to reshape your bonsai. This can be done once a year or even once every few years, depending on how often you want to shape it. When you’re shaping your bonsai with this technique, always sweep away from the trunk instead of towards it so that you do not damage the bonsai’s branch. This technique aims to reduce the height of your plant by cutting bigger branches and shaping them into curves. If you need to cut something, use the following list of best options.

  • Cut the dead branches and leaves. They can make it hard for trees to grow.
  • If branches cross, they might grow together and become weaker.
  • Branches or parts of the tree that are growing too close to the soil can be cut back.
  • Thick branches might look ugly.
  • The limbs on the inside of the tree are not going out.

Light structural pruning

This is something you do when your tree is growing well and producing rich new growth. This is the process of cutting specific parts to increase light penetration into the center, creating a more even canopy. You can use this technique once per year to keep the tree healthily growing in the correct direction. But, if you notice they are not growing correctly or producing leaves, follow basic pruning.

What To Consider When to Trim A Bonsai Tree

Observe whether it is ready to treem

If you want to prune your bonsai tree, you should do it when it grows really well and looks bushy. When you can easily count the number of leaves on your bonsai tree, then it’s time to wait until it becomes healthier.

Timing Matters

It is interesting to note that you can prune your bonsai tree more than twice a year. What matters is the timing of it all. It is imperative to assess if your bonsai requires pruning or not. Typically, in late winter or early spring, it is better to do significant pruning. This is when the tree is not active and can take proper care of itself. 

Be careful not to trim too much at one time

It is always better to trim your bonsai tree a little at a time instead of cutting it all in one go. It’s good to remember that just like people, plants also need some time to recover after they’ve been cut. Plus, they do not produce new growth immediately inside. Heavy pruning can seriously damage your plant and kill.

Shorten branches instead of removing them

Trimming the overgrown branches of your bonsai tree is okay, but removing them completely destroys its shape. So it’s better to shorten them by cutting off a few leaves or twigs instead.

Choose the right tools for bonsai

Be careful when choosing the right cutting tools for bonsai. It’s crucial to use tools specifically designed for plants to protect both yourself and your plant. A good pair of pruning shears is best, but other options include hand pruners or pruning saws. Use a reliable and sharp set of bonsai shears to trim your bonsai tree. If the edge of the bonsai clipper is not sharp enough, it might tear the bark or cause damage to the leaves. 

Cut at a 45-degree angle

The best time to prune your bonsai tree is when it’s growing. Prune your tree in the right direction, but do not cut any growth flush to the trunk. Instead, always cut at a 45-degree angle to ensure that you preserve the maximum amount of the bark and bark tissue while preventing scarring.

Cut branches back by no more than 1/3

One of the essential things about cutting back is knowing how far you should go? While trimming your bonsai tree is necessary for its survival, never cut too much from it all at one time. It’s best if you can follow these rules for trimming your bonsai plant. If you have a healthy tree, it can have up to 1/3 of its leaves cut off.


Bonsai is an art. The artist trims and shapes the tree to create their own look. The goal with pruning is to make sure your plant stays in the same shape as it grows. This is the act of pruning to keep your bonsai plant healthy and looking good. It consists of removing old leaves, dead branches, or any other parts that are interfering with the proper growth of the plant.

It is possible to provide excellent bonsai tree care without being a professional. With the right tools and patience, you should be able to trim your own without too much trouble. Follow these steps and techniques to create a healthy and beautiful bonsai tree full of life.

Whether you do this as a hobby, educational purpose, or need to keep up with maintenance on trees in your landscaping business, we hope this blog post has given you some valuable knowledge on how to get started with trimming bonsai trees.

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