Bonsai wiring and pots

Wiring is sometimes seen as another form of bonsai torture for these little trees but it is really no different to staking or espaliering fruit trees. The wire is only on for a short time; long enough to set the branch in the new position and then it is removed. It is quite possible to create a perfectly acceptable tree without wiring using a clip and grow technique but the use of wire speeds up the whole process and allows you more flexibility in your design.

The wire used is a soft copper or aluminum; try to get wire that is about one third the thickness of the branch to be bent. Wire stripped from electrical cable is perfectly adequate but if you can't find any, you may have to contact your local bonsai nursery. The trick with wiring is to make sure that one end is anchored properly; you can achieve this by pushing one end into the soil if bending the trunk or wiring two branches at the same time. Practice on a branch you have removed or on a near by tree before you start on your tree. The turns of the wire should be kept at an angle of 45 degrees and quite firm against the branch, be careful not to tear the bark or worse, snap your branch. Go slowly and keep it tidy, people will be looking at it for a few months before you can remove it.

The length of time you leave it on will vary depending on the type of tree and the time of the year. Keep a close eye on it and when it starts to look too tight, cut it off. If the branch springs back, it will need rewiring. Don't leave the wire so long that it cuts grooves into the bark.

With your tree all wired and roughly to the shape you require its time to pot. The pot is an important part of the whole bonsai process it can make or break your design. Use a proper bonsai pot they should have quite large drainage holes and some kind of feet to lift the base off the ground. As well as these two horticultural requirements this is a piece of art you're creating so the pot should be part of your overall design. This is a new bonsai and as such still has some maturing to do don't try to put it in too small a pot. It will continue growing and you can always down size once some new root is established.

Step 1

Mix four parts potting mix that you can obtain from your nursery with one part small sharp stone. This improves drainage and helps the roots to divide. You can in some places buy a ready made Bonsai mix.

Step 2

Remove your tree from its existing pot and check the roots, look for bugs or rot. Loosen the soil with a root hook or a bent fork. Tease out the roots and remove any large thick roots. People seem to think the tap root is important at this stage, if you are working on nursery stock you are unlikely to find one they will only be present on seed grown stock and usually die when they hit the bottom of the pot anyway. The tap root is for anchoring the tree to the ground and has little to do with feeding the plant so if perchance it is there remove it. Only remove as much root as needed to fit into your new pot.

Step 3

Place small pieces of mesh over the holes in your pot, this stops soil coming out and bugs moving in. Fill the bottom of the pot with a layer of soil and place your plant on top, try to place it off centre and towards the back if possible. Pack soil around the plant, you may need to use a twig or chop stick to push soil around the roots.

Step 4

Cover the soil with a fine stone, the stone used in your soil mix would be fine. This looks nice and stops the water washing the soil away.

Step 5

Watering. A good method for this first watering is to immerse the entire pot in water until all the soil is covered leave it there until the bubbles stop. This makes sure that all the gaps in the soil are filled and no roots are left to dry out.

Step back and admire your new creation.

My Juniper procumbens 'Nana'

Juniper thining

With the front of your tree decided upon you can start trimming away any parts that are not part of your finished Bonsai. Easier said that done. If you do it in small stages it becomes clearer as you go along, start by removing anything that is diseased or dead. If you have picked your tree carefully there should be very little to do here. Then move on to removing anything that is growing down from the bottom of a branch. Don't remove any branches until this is done, it will thin out your tree and allow you to see the branch placement more clearly. Remove any small growth comming directly from the trunk and anything that you are obviously not going to use in your final design.

Juniper first wire

If you are going to wire your tree now is the time. I have seen trees that have just been planted into a bonsai pot and then someone tries to wire them, they usually end up out of the pot or at least wrenched about in their new soil. While Bonsai wire is softened it can still take a bit of effort to bend some of the thicker wires so it is best to do it while you can move your tree around without damaging newly developing roots. If you intend to clip and grow your new tree without wire move on to potting now. Make sure the wire is about 1/3 the thickness of the branch to be bent. Anchor one end of the wire either in the soil or around another branch. Twist around the branch at a 45 degree angle or as close as possible. Wiring can take time and practice, keep it neat people will be looking at it for at least a month or so.

The wire allows you to stand the tree up. The basic shape of the tree can be seen now.

With the basic wiring completed, the rest of the tree can be thinned and unwanted branches removed. After this, fine wiring can be carried out. I would recommend this is left until a later date. There is no rush with the basic shape of your tree established it may be prudent to allow it to recover and give yourself time to look at your tree and refine it in your mind.

The tree ready for potting

To prepare your pot, place the mesh over the drainage holes. Don't try to use a very small pot. Keep the pot quite large for a new Bonsai. This tree has not had time to produce the fine feeder roots that are required to keep a bonsai healthy in a small pot. If you wish to reduce the size of you pot you can do it on your next repot in a years time.

juniper root trim

Trim off any excess roots. Roots to remove would be damaged roots or very thick roots that may prevent the tree being potted. Don't go over board, retain as much root as possible.

Pot your tree. The tree is usually placed slightly off center in the pot to give the tree balance. If the tree looks like it is going to pull the pot over it is probably not placed correctly. How to pot is in the yellow boxes above or follow the link below to go to a photo demonstration.

Repotting your tree

For a more detailed photo demonstration of wiring follow the link below

Bonsai Wiring

To see a photo of the finished tree and learn how to care for your tree go to the next stage.

Care for your new Bonsai

Share this page: