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Thread: Trimming; The Do, Don't, and When?

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    Bonsai Apprentice Kourtneyhk is on a distinguished road
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    Trimming; The Do, Don't, and When?

    So in my first post (when my tree was having difficulties) it was mentioned that I shouldn't trim it if I want the trunk to grow larger. Or at least that's how I interpreted it.

    My tree has been growing like crazy, and I've read care sheets that say to trim almost all the new growth back. But I do want the tree to grow a bit larger. I like the look of a thicker trunk and I just want a little 'more' to it.

    So should I just leave all growth alone for this? Or do I still need to prune? I'm just confused on what to do to ensure larger growth.

    Thanks,
    -Kourtney

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    Super Moderator iamurthman has disabled reputation iamurthman's Avatar
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    Hi Kourtney, glad to hear your tree is doing well. Getting the trunk size to increase is more involved than simply not trimming the tree, several factors need to be considered. First of all, and this took me a few years of trial and (mostly) error to get my mind wrapped around, is that, simply put, bonsai trees live in bonsai pots, but they don't grow in bonsai pots. They are grown in larger grow-pots or boxes or in the ground until they reach the required size and then are trained by various methods to live in a bonsai pot. A tree is basically a three part system, root, trunk and branches. In nature this will be roughly 50% root, 25% trunk and 25% branch. They're all connected and they all work together and determine the size of the tree. That means if you want the tree to get bigger you have to allow the whole tree to get bigger, including the roots, which means you must increase the container size to allow more root growth. Then don't prune the tree until the trunk is a big as you want. Trimming is different than pruning and can be done periodically along the way. Trimming involves each years new growth, pruning involves branches. Letting the new growth grow out will increase the size of the branch and as the branches grow out the trunk size will increase accordingly. This will happen to some degree in a bonsai pot, but the degree is so little that the result is barely noticeable over several years, on average the ratio is about 7-1, meaning that one years growth in the ground/large grow-pot is equal to seven years growth in a small pot and a large percentage of the growth will be in the branches and twigs with very little increase in trunk size. There's just no way around it, if you want bigger, you have to give to tree room to grow and then reduce the overall mass to fit a bonsai pot again. Any prunning or trimming during this time will slow the trunk growth. Here it is, tree trunks grow big in response to the need to hold up larger branches. Branches grow bigger in response to the need to hold up more twigs. If the roots are not there to feed all of this then the tree stops or will die back to what the roots can support. It's all connected and needs to be addressed as a whole, you can't get one without the other.

  3. #3
    Bonsai Apprentice Kourtneyhk is on a distinguished road
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    Thank you for the information!

    So if I increase the pot size in order to increase the overall mass of the tree, when I trim the root system to fit it into a bonsai pot again, will that cause major die of in the twigs and branches due to decreased root system to feed all of it?

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    Super Moderator iamurthman has disabled reputation iamurthman's Avatar
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    When the tree has grown to the size you want it will have alot more branch work than you'll want for the "finished" tree. This will be cut back hard in most cases and a new, smaller branch work will then be developed on the now increased trunk. Then the enlarged root mass can be reduced safely and still support the smaller branch and twig network. Bada Bing! A Bonsai! We're talking a process of about 5 years running under optimal conditions.

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