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How to Keep Bonsai Tree Leaves Small

By Charmayne Smith ; Updated September 21, 2017
Bonsai trees are miniature versions of natural-sized trees.

Bonsai trees are miniature versions of a natural-sized tree. These trees are trained so that they grow smaller-sized branches, stems, foliage, flowers and fruit that are appropriately proportioned to the trunk and root system of the tree. It is equilibrium of energy throughout the tree that provides this overall balance. Achieving the balance requires personalized attention to the bonsai, along with patience and general maintenance.

Remove the bonsai from its potting container and gently remove the excess soil from the root system just before the bonsai's growing season begins.

Prune the root system with sharp, sterile scissors. Trim away damage, dead and wilted roots from the root system. Trim away no more than 1/3 of the bonsai’s root system. Ensure that the root system is balanced with the canopy of the tree.

Repot the bonsai in fresh, well-drained soil. Plant the bonsai in bonsai soil or a bonsai mixture that contains equal parts of nutrient-rich soil, organic compost and fine sand.

Prune the bonsai tree throughout the course of the year. Use sterile pruning shears to trim away new growth on the top and outer areas of the tree. This will force an even distribution of energy throughout the tree and cause smaller, more proportioned foliage. Cease pruning during the dormant periods.

Distribute the well-balanced, slow-release fertilizer evenly around the tree at half strength during the growing periods. Irrigate the fertilizer thoroughly into the soil. Avoid fertilizing the bonsai tree immediately after pruning to prevent burn.


Things You Will Need

  • Fertilizer
  • Pruning shears


  • Keep the bonsai tree in a relatively small container as compared to its current size. Choose a potting container with a depth that is equivalent to the trunk's diameter. Choose more shallow containers for bonsais with wider canopies. Select deeper containers for bonsais with thicker trunks.

About the Author


Writing professionally since 2004, Charmayne Smith focuses on corporate materials such as training manuals, business plans, grant applications and technical manuals. Smith's articles have appeared in the "Houston Chronicle" and on various websites, drawing on her extensive experience in corporate management and property/casualty insurance.