Caring for a bonsai tree is an art. Rather than using brushes or paints, the bonsai gardener uses shears and wire to shape a living plant. In a patient gardener's hands, these tools slowly create a sculpture of leaves and branches; a bonsai tree, depending on the species, takes years to train. However, the wrong tools lead to frustration rather than tranquility. Begin with the right tools and enjoy a lifelong hobby.
Bonsai Trimming Shears
Trimming shears or butterfly shears are the go-to tool for general trimming and root pruning. They look like narrow scissors, with the axis jointed close to the tip rather than near the handles. The blades will dull over time and require regular sharpening, otherwise the dull blades crush rather than cut.
Concave Branch Cutter
Arguably the most important tool in the arsenal, according to Erik A. Olsen, author of "Bonsai Gardening Secrets," the concave branch cutter prunes larger branches close to the trunk and allow the cut to heal cleanly. Pruning scars--or worse, stumps--along a bonsai trunk detract from the shape and inherent beauty of the plant. The concave cutters look like slightly tilted wire cutters. The blades are very sharp, and a quality set will not need sharpening.
Bonsai growers may use regular wire cutters, but true wire cutters intended to use with bonsai plants have a rounded head that protects the plant. The sharp blades cut wire evenly, removing the wire used for training and shaping the branch structure.
Spherical Knob Cutter
A newer tool, the spherical knob cutter removes knobs from trunks or roots. Bonsai growers use it to trim out dead wood and larger stubs left behind by previous cuts. The head of the cutters is round, like a ball, and leaves a circular, quick-healing cut.
Bud Trimming Shears
Similar to trimming shears, bud trimmers are smaller and have a petite blade. They are used for pruning new growth or buds, and can reach into the interior of a specimen without damaging the outer branches. Gardeners make delicate, controlled cuts with these tiny clippers.
Root Hook or Rake
Resembling a curved awl, root hooks untangle roots when root pruning is necessary. When used properly, root hooks reduce damage to the root system and make pruning easier. Some bonsai growers use chopsticks to tease the roots apart.