How to Train Bonsai Trees


Training a bonsai is a hobby and art that often requires years to master. In some cases, it may take decades to master certain forms of bonsai. Training your bonsai requires time, patience, and practice. By learning how to train a balanced tree, you can work to create trees that both look beautiful and increase in value as they grow and age.

Step 1

Prune any undesired branches from your newly potted bonsai. Prune the branches by clipping them close to the trunk.

Step 2

Consider breaking a large branch and creating a sharp piece of protruding deadwood for aesthetic reasons. Look carefully at the angle of the protrusion and the eventual overall balance of the tree. On some trees, leaving this protrusion may interfere with the final balance.

Step 3

Thin the upper part of the tree once you have pruned the lower areas. In some trees, you may need to remove a lot of foliage to allow light to shine through the tree. Use bonsai shears or sharp scissors. Prune unwanted foliage and small branches close to the larger branch.

Step 4

Begin wiring the tree once you have removed most of the undesired branches and foliage. Wrap wire around the trunk or branch to be formed at a 45 degree angle to the trunk or branch. The more wraps, the more force the wire will exert on the tree. Using too few wraps may not exert enough force to change the shape of the tree.

Step 5

Bend the trunk or branch after wiring. Listen carefully for sounds of cracking or breaking. If you hear cracking or breaking, stop bending and allow the branch to heal. For major shape changes, you may need to wire the branch several times and make several adjustments.

Step 6

Examine your tree and wiring. Once wired, you may want to do a little more light pruning.

Step 7

Use bonsai weights to cause limb droops. Bonsai weights are rare and not often used in modern times. Bonsai weights are iron weights cast in the shape of traditional symbols for luck or other natural shapes and forms. To use a weight, simply tie it to the branch and allow gravity to shape the tree.

Step 8

Remove the bonsai wire after 3 months at the longest. Some trees will take the form more quickly, and others will need to be rewired and re-formed for further 3-month periods. Always cut off the wire using wire cutters; do not try to unwind the wire. Unwinding the wire sometimes results in tree damage.

Step 9

Watch your tree carefully for new growth buds. If one forms near the base of the trunk, rub it out or pinch it off to prevent new growth and to send nutrients and growth energy in the desired direction.

Things You'll Need

  • Potted bonsai tree
  • Bonsai pruners
  • Scissors
  • Bonsai wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Bonsai weights (optional)


  • Bonsai Styling and Advice Corner
  • Bonsai for Beginners
  • Simple Styles and Techniques

Who Can Help

  • Styling; The Basic Forms of Bonsai
  • Bonsai Styling
  • Training True Indoor Bonsai
Keywords: bonsai styling, bonsai pruning, bonsai care

About this Author

Christopher Earle is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colo. He has been writing since 1987 and has written for NPR, The Associated Press, the Boeing Company, Ford New Holland, Microsoft, Active Voice, RAHCO International and Umax Data Systems. He studied creative writing at Mankato State University in Minnesota.