How to Trim a Bonsai Plant


Bonsai trees originated during the Han Dynasty in China, and were made popular by the Japanese. The term bonsai means to grow in a flat tray. Known for their small size, the pruning and design of bonsai trees adds to the beauty of the tree. Trimming also increases the health of the tree. Many new bonsai growers fear pruning their bonsai trees. But Bonsai trees will grow and even when mistakes happen, they grow out eventually. Looking at your bonsai tree carefully, and thinking about the desired shape of the bonsai tree before trimming, reduces mistakes.

Step 1

Start by cutting the roots. Although the roots do not show, trimming the roots lays the proper foundation to the overall beauty of your bonsai tree. Untangle the roots with a root hook and dislodge large portions of soil from the roots. Use bonsai scissors to cut off the bottom third of the roots. Remove any damaged roots.

Step 2

Prune your bonsai tree seasonally. Prune during the bonsai tree's dormant season. Dormancy depends on the type of tree. Pine trees go into dormancy in the autumn. Deciduous trees go dormant from late winter to first part of spring. Prune bonsai juniper trees between early spring and winter.

Step 3

Cut off branches located on the lower third portion of the bonsai tree. The tree trunk adds to the beauty of the tree. The removal of lower branches shows off the beauty of the lower portion of the trunk.

Step 4

Cut off branches directly opposite each other. Prune the branches until they become equal in size to the branches across from them. Slightly trim branches smaller in size. Focus on cutting larger branches.

Step 5

Cover the cuts on your bonsai tree with sealant. Bonsai Japanese wood paste, specially formulated for bonsai trees, works on all types of bonsai trees. Seal cuts on deciduous trees with tar-based paint. Grafting wax works well on evergreen trees. Petroleum jelly works well as a substitute on any type of bonsai tree.

Things You'll Need

  • Root hook
  • Garden shears
  • Bonsai scissors
  • Hand saw
  • Bonsai sealant


  • "101 Essential Bonsai Tips"; Harry Tomlinson; 1996
  • "Bonsai in Your Home"; Paul Lesniewics; 1997
  • "Bonsai: The Art of Growing and Keeping Miniature Trees"; Peter Chan; 1985
Keywords: prune bonsai plant, cut bonsai tree, trim bonsai plant

About this Author

Rebecca Moore has been a writer since 1994. She has been published on Associated Content, Suite101, eHow and numerous print magazines. Moore attended Living Word Bible College and Leeward Community College. Moore enjoys spending time at garden shops and botanical gardens and experimenting with hydroponics and square foot gardening.