Prepare Your Deciduous Trees for Spring: Pruning



This time of the year is a very important time in preparing for the new growing season. I’m not talking about getting growing medium stocks up; I’m talking about making sure that all your bonsai are going to grow from the right places.

In our nursery and my collection, this is a very busy time of the year as we start fertilising to prepare our trees for the coming growth spurt. There needs to be ample nutrients in the growing medium to keep the nutrient cycle continuous throughout the year. But most of my time is taken up by cutting back the deciduous trees to correct errors in the structure and by making space for the new growth that will burst in spring.

We start with an organic fertiliser so that it can slowly be released into the growing medium. This is very important to do because the roots activate a few weeks before the buds swell. Waiting until you see signs of growth is too late, creating a gap in the nutrient cycle.

In the growing season, we normally cut back to two leaves or nodes to create ramification and movement. When we talk about leaves or nodes, we count from where a new branch developed in the growing season from, say, a secondary branch. Most of the time, there will be a leaf right in the axle where the new branch emerged. DO NOT COUNT THIS ONE. Count from the next node further down the branch. Always cut between the first and second node to allow for dieback. Doing this multiplies the branches to fill the spaces better. In late winter, we cut back to one leaf or node: this leaves enough space for new branches and ramification to develop in our designs. If not done, all the new energy in the tree will grow from the tips of the branches first, and this will raise the canopy, sending the composition out of balance. Also, when cutting back, we lose all the energy which could have been used to develop the tree further. Seal all cuts with Kiyonal Cut Paste to prevent any damage or dieback.


Once this has been done to all branches, we can then look at removing those that cross, any abnormally thick ones further in the ramification, and any directional pruning we want to do. This means we cut the branch back to a node that is on the left-hand side of the secondary branch, for example, because we want to fill a space in the left quadrant. We also do this to create movement and taper in the branches.


The trick is to be a little harsh in pruning now so that we can manage the new growth and develop the ramification or canopy in the growing season. Similarly, this makes it easier when repotting the trees as there is less in the way, especially in thorn trees! The balance between pruning roots and pruning branches will make it easier for the tree to shoot after stressful repotting.

For any assistance, contact us so we can help you in this critical time.

#Deciduouspruning #Springprep

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Antony Smith 083 437 1707

Mavourneen Smith 082 314 1158

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