How To Wire A Bonsai To Shape

Ilex Crenata BonsaiIf you ask any Bonsai enthusiast what is the best way to shape your tree, and ask nicely, they will tell you how to wire a Bonsai to shape. Basically, copper or aluminium wire is wrapped around the trunk and branches to form the shape of the tree you are trying to create. By doing this, the wire will hold the branches in place and you are able to control the growth of your Bonsai tree into you desired shape. The wire manipulates the limbs and after a few months can be removed and the tree will stay in its new position. Remember, however, that wiring puts a stress upon the tree and should be done only with healthy plants. If the tree is healthy, the process can result in impressive results.

Most trees can be shaped at any time of year, but a great tip is to wait until your tree is dormant and leafless as this will give you time to wire before the tree starts to rapidly grow again, as during the growth season the trees limbs will grow thicker and faster. You should always monitor your Bonsai’s progress, but remember to do so even more regularly when it is wired to avoid your wire cutting into the growing plant. You do not want to wait too long to remove the wire as this can result in scarring of the branches.

The best wire to use to shape your Bonsai tree is aluminium as it is a far more forgiving material that runs less of a risk of biting into the bark. Copper, of course, is always an alternative but generally not recommended if it can be avoided. As a stronger wire, though, it is more difficult to manipulate and hence harder for a Bonsai enthusiast who is only just starting out, with wire ranging from 1mm to 4mm thick is generally a great starter.

To wire a Bonsai, there are two wiring techniques that are essential to learn. These techniques are: single-wiring and double-wiring. Single-wiring refers to a branch that is wired separately from the rest, where double-wiring is the art of wiring two similar branches with one. As a rule, you should use a wire that is 1/3 of the thickness of the respective branch, you want it to be able to hold the shape. If you are looking to wire the entire tree, you should begin with the trunk and work your way to the largest branches, and then the smaller. Make certain that your wire is not fastened too loose or too tightly and be careful not to wire over any leaves or twigs.

Bonsai tree wiring

Double Wiring

Double-Wiring:

1. Find a pair of branches that are the same thickness and positioned close together.
2. Cut yourself a length of wire that will wind around both of the branches.
3. Remember that you want your wire to wrap around the trunk at least once so that the wire will not be likely to move when you’re bending the branches. In fact, wrapping the trunk twice is preferable.
3. Begin at the base of the branch and move towards the tip before you begin on the next.
4. Use a 45 degree angle, so that you will be able to ensure that the branches grow thickly into their desired shape.
5. If you plan to bend a limb downwards, wrap the wire from below. Likewise, the wire should come from above if you want to bend it upwards.

Single-wiring:

1. Cut yourself a length of wire that will wrap around the trunk at least twice.
2. Wrap the wire in the same way that you would for double-wiring.
3. If you need to use more than one wire, make sure that you keep them neatly together.

Note: if the branch has gentle turns, space the windings wider apart. Also, if the branch has sharp turns, reduce the spacing.

Chinese Elm Bonsai Tree StarterWhen bending the trunk or the branch, make sure to use both of your hands. If you bend the branches from the inside of the curves, you will be less likely to split the limbs. Do not continue to bend a branch after you have put it into position. The more you bend it, the more likely you are to damage the Bonsai tree. Always remember to take care in both bending and wiring your Bonsai.

As stated above, it can take up to several months to shape your Bonsai. The length of time it takes depends on your particular tree and the time of year you decide to shape it. If the wire begins to appear too tight and that it may cut into the branch, cut it off. Do not unwind the wire as this could result in damaging the bark and permanently scarring your Bonsai. On the off chance that your limb retakes its former position, don’t worry, you can always rewire. To go through the process again will be better than risking an unsightly cut to the bark. Not to mention, to cut it is much simpler.

To many, Bonsai shaping is a work of art. It does take a lot of patience. However, the results are often rewarding and worth the effort.

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