How to Shape a Bonsai Tree


Bonsai refers to how a tree is shaped and potted, not to the actual type of tree. In fact, bonsai can be done using almost any kind of tree. The art of bonsai is a skill that takes decades of dedication. Basically, you are stunting a regular tree to create a miniature tree or even a miniature forest that is then potted in a shallow pot. Another goal of bonsai is to have your tree appear old and full of character. In addition to pruning the branches and roots to create this effect, you will need to sculpt your bonsai tree with wire.

Step 1

Use anodized aluminum wire or annealed copper wire that is one-third the thickness of the branches you are shaping, and cut the wire to be at least one-third longer than the length you are wiring.

Step 2

Hold the wire in place at the base of the branch you are shaping as you wrap the wire toward the tip at a 45-degree angle. Evenly space the coils of the wire as you wrap the branch.

Step 3

Use your pliers to bend the wire rather than bend the branch. Do not force the bend. Bend slowly and steadily while watching and listening for breakage to the branch.

Step 4

Anchor the trunk to the ground or to the roots with another piece of wire to shape it. Anchor the branches you are shaping to another branch or the trunk.

Step 5

Leave the wire on for up to a year but not longer. Remove it by cutting it at each turn with wire cutters.

Things You'll Need

  • Wire
  • Pliers
  • Bonsai wire cutters


  • Bonsai Empire: Wiring Bonsai Trees
  • Herbs 2000: Shaping Bonsai
  • Bonsai 4 Me: Wiring Bonsai Basics
  • Bonsai Society of San Francisco: Wiring for Bonsai

Who Can Help

  • Bonsai Trees: Japanese Styles
Keywords: shaping bonsai trees, wiring bonsai trees, bonsai tree care

About this Author

Em Connell McCarty has been writing for 27 years. She studied writing at the University of Iowa and at Hollins University in Virginia. She writes fiction, creative non-fiction and essays. McCarty's work has been published in Hip Mama magazine.