How to Cut a Bonsai Tree


Bonsai is an ancient form of living art that originated in China and later moved to Japan. Bonsai utilizes many usual species of trees, which are grown on a rock or in a small, decorative pot that keeps them dwarfed. Keep bonsai plants outdoors, but you can move them indoors for short periods of time if you want to set an elegant table for a special party or other event. To keep your bonsai tree small and attractively formed, you must cut it to your desired shape on a regular basis.

Cutting a Bonsai Tree

Step 1

Begin forming your tree to the shape you desire when it is young. Study the growth habit of your plant to determine the form you want: for example, if your tree has a twisted trunk, emphasize that feature when you cut it back by pruning off lateral branches that will detract from the interesting trunk.

Step 2

Make cuts with your sharp scissors or clippers by cutting off branches all the way back to the main trunk. Be careful not to cut into the tree's trunk.

Step 3

Cut off all branches that appear dead or unattractive. Also cut branches that cross over another branch and touch it. If you do not want to cut off an entire branch, cut it above a node, where another branch or leaves emerge, leaving about ¼ inch between your cut and the node.

Step 4

Cut off all dead leaves and unwanted leaves by carefully pruning them at their connection to a branch.

Step 5

Pinch off new growth with your fingernails to keep the tree bushy and in the shape you desire. If you pinch off new growth at the top of the tree, it will help to give your tree a more compact, "tree-like" growing habit.

Step 6

Continue pruning and training your bonsai plant on a regular basis to create and maintain an artful shape. A good rule to keep in mind is to keep tall plants at 80 percent of the total size, with the pot comprising 20 percent. If you're growing a shorter plant or one that spreads, keep the plant at 60 percent of the total size and the pot at 40 percent.

Things You'll Need

  • Bonsai tree
  • Sharp garden scissors and/or clippers


  • The Bonsai Site
  • Growing bonsai
  • Bonsai Empire
Keywords: bonsai tree, pruning cutting, ornamental plants

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hiā€˜iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Barbara wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, and She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.