Shaping and Styling your Bonsai

Bonsai is a miniature tree reflecting your inner creativity. Selective pruning can be used to shape the tree but to further refine it and  attain a perfect style in order to create a piece of art, wiring is essential.

Pruning alone can:

    • Remove certain sections to allow other areas to grow better.
    • Direct growth by pruning at a bud or shoot that is growing in the desired direction

Wiring gives more control over the shape of our trees. It helps in moving .an entire branch up, down or sideways to get it to the desired place in the overall tree structure. It also speeds up the shaping process. Overtime the plants stays in the shape given to it through wiring.

Material required :

  1. Wires

There are two type of wires used for wiring a bonsai

    • Anodized aluminum wire – This is mostly for deciduous species.
    • Annealed copper – This is used mostly with pines and conifers.

Wires should generally be about 1mm, 1.5 mm, 2.5mm and 4mm thick. The wire used for a branch  should be preferably about 1/3 of the thickness of the specific branch.

2. Wire-cutters

The right time to wire

The best time to begin to wire a bonsai tree is when it’s young and healthy. Care should be taken to never wire an ill or distressed tree.

It is best to wire deciduous in early spring—before new buds appear. Coniferous trees are better from the end of autumn to the start of winter as at this time the tree’s growing process slows down and there is less sap high in the branches, thereby increasing flexibility.

The Wiring Procedure

Before starting wiring the plant carefully study it and decide the branches or the trunk which you want to shape in a different direction keeping the picture of the end result in mind. This could mean wrapping the entire specimen or only certain branches. Measure the wire to about 1/3 more length than the section you intend to wire.

Wiring technique

Wires are wrapped round the trunk or branch in a spiral at an angle of  45o. When the tree is bent the wires hold the bend in place until the tree grows into that position.

Wiring methods

    • Anchor the base: If you’ll be wrapping the trunk, insert the wire flush with the base deep into the soil until it feels stable. Coil twice around the base and continue up the trunk. (Always start from the thickest part of your tree and work your way upward and out.)
    • Anchor to the trunk: When wiring branches, always wrap the wire twice around the trunk and work your way to the tips. (This applies to both double- and single-wiring.)
    • Double-wiring: Always work from the trunk outward. Wrap from the base of one branch all the way to the tip and then start wrapping around the second branch the same way. Do double-wiring whenever possible; this entails wrapping two branches of similar size together to increase stability and reduce the risk of snapping.
    • Single-wiring: Follow the same steps as above, but you won’t loop back to wire a second branch.
    • Spacing and angle: Angle your wire at a 45-degree angle (pointing toward the branch tips) to allow the tree to increase in diameter while growing in the desired direction. Be sure to wrap with consistent spacing.
    • Wire all the branches right up to the tip and the tip ends should be lifted up towards the sun and not drooping down. This leads to better branch growth.

Bending the wire


Once the branch has been wired hold the outside of the branch and apply pressure to the inside of the branch as you slowly bend and secure it into position.

    • Try to avoid gentle S curves as these are not how trees grow in nature. Try to make your tree shape up as natural as possible.
    • Do not shape your branches in the same plane. Give it a 3D look with branches bent to go backwards and forwards as well as up and down.
    • In younger branches exaggerate the bends as the bends tend to disappear as trees grow. As the bend provides the shortest path for the sap to travel to the upper branches they tend to grow more on the inside of bends and less on the outer edges. As the trunk thickens bends tend to soften and appear to straighten.
    • It generally looks better when curves diminish in size and radius as we move up the tree. Really tight curves near the base and sweeping curves above does not look so good.
    • The shape of the branch should match with the trunk shape. A strongly bending trunk looks better with branches that also have bends and twists.

Removing the Bonsai Tree Wire

After wiring your bonsai leave it through the growing season. The tree should be monitored closely and the wires should be unwrapped as soon as the branches begin to outgrow the wire. This is very important for deciduous trees, which are wired right before the start of the growing season as the wire may cause wire bites if left for too long and weaken or scar your tree’s bark.

Never remove the wire by unwinding it. The tree is healing from the trauma caused by the wire and needs to be handled gently. The pressure exerted while unwinding the coils without cutting increases the risk of snapping or damage to vulnerable branches.

Always use wire cutter to cut  along every coil. If the branch has some wire bite, carefully peel the wire away with pliers until you’ve made enough space to cut without gnashing into your tree.

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