How to Trim a Miniature Tree


Growing miniature trees, or bonsai, indoors has become popular in recent years. Thoughtful trimming is required to maintain the health and design of your miniature tree. Routinely trim your bonsai to maintain the desired shape and design of the bonsai, remove dead or unsightly leaves, stimulate new growth and maintain plant size. There are several basic bonsai styles. Upright style mimics a solitary tree standing alone in nature. Slanting style represents a tree growing at a tilted angle, as if shaped by wind or rain. Cascading style features the tree growing over side of the container, as if bending over a stream or cliff. The characteristic of a particular bonsai will inform how and when to prune. Bonsai trees should look natural, and similar to a mature tree growing in its native environment. Prune during the plant's active growth period.

Step 1

Pinch out any undesirable buds and shoots with your thumb and forefinger to stop unwanted growth and redirect the growth of new foliage to maintain the desired style and shape. Finger-pinching tender new growth offers a more natural look than scissors.

Step 2

Cut out any dead or diseased foliage or stems with fine scissors. Trim back any undesirable stems or branches that are less than 1/2 inch in diameter.

Step 3

Prune back any unwanted branches over 1/2 inch in diameter with knob cutters. Make the cuts flush to the trunk or supporting branch.

Step 4

Water lightly after pinching and pruning. Fewer leaves means that the bonsai has less foliage to supply with water.

Step 5

Wipe scissors and knob cutters with denatured alcohol after use. Clean tools help prevent the spread of disease.

Tips and Warnings

  • Keep scissors sharp in order to make the cleanest cuts. Consider wearing protective gloves when trimming.

Things You'll Need

  • Fine bonsai scissors
  • Knob cutters
  • Denatured alcohol


  • Growing Bonsai Indoors; Pat Lucke Morris and Sigrun Wolff Saphire, Editors; 2008
  • Bonsai Secrets; Peter Chan; 2006
  • The Bonsai Tree
Keywords: miniature trees, bonsai pruning, trimming miniature trees

About this Author

Deborah Hall is a freelance writer from Portland, Oregon. She has written for numerous publications on a variety of topics, including educational trends and sustainable gardening practices. She graduated from the University of Missouri with a bachelor's degree in English.