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  • Writer's pictureThe Houghton Bonsai and Succulent Show

Styling your Bonsai

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

Styling your bonsai is not only important for your bonsai but it can be beneficial for you too. Styling your bonsai can be mentally consuming and lead to you being fully engrossed to keep your bonsai in shape and growing to your desired shape. This can be beneficial for your mental health as it allows you to have some quiet time. With this said, there are a number of ways to style your bonsai. The simplest and most common are pruning and wiring. If you want a more advanced approach, you can try defoliation, deadwood, surface roots (Nebari), and many more.

In this article we will touch on a basic technique, pruning, you can try to shape your bonsai, stimulate growth, and have your bonsai looking strong and healthy. However, before we can begin it is important that you take time to observe your bonsai. We first need to ensure that our bonsai is healthy. If your bonsai is looking unhappy or unhealthy you might want to wait a while before you style it as styling might lead to its health deteriorating further. This can be due to the season, soil, pest, fungus, and many mother reasons. The best way to identify the type of care your bonsai requires is to identify the kind of species it is. Different species require styling in different seasons. An example is that the best time to prune an indoor bonsai is all year round. This means that you can regularly prune your bonsai regardless of the season. However, in South Africa it is best to prune an outdoor bonsai between March to September over the autumn/ winter season. Styling an outdoor bonsai during summer would lead to your bonsai deteriorating in health.

Before you begin styling your bonsai it is important to identify the desired look or shape you are going for. Pruning refers to a method of cutting the trees’ branches to your desired shape. Most bonsais require regular maintenance to promote growth and help refine their shape. It is important to understand when to prune your bonsai and how to do it correctly. Before you begin to style it, it is best to take time to invision or look for inspiration as to how your bonsai will look. Doing this will provide direction as to what you would like your bonsai to look like.

In order to grow your bonsai into your desired shape, it is important that you continuously prune branches or shoots that are outgrowing your desired shape. New branches often grow at the top, leaving the oldest branches at the bottom. The branches are likely to grow horizontally or below that. Regular maintenance of your bonsai forces it to grow evenly and grow dense foliage. This can be easily done by using the correct pruning instruments. Different trees require different instruments to prune. Some require the use of pruning instruments, such as scissors or cutters, whereas others prefer you to prune by pinching with your hand or using a combination of the two. Bonsais that require pinching are likely to brown and/or have dead foliage as a result of the use of a pruning instrument.

When creating a bonsai asthetics are always important. Majority of the the time indiviudals shape bonsais to achieve a more matured look and feel. With this said, we need to create foliage pads in the lower section of the tree with negative and positive spaces between the branches. It is important that the brunches that form part of your canopy are positioned in a manner that allows them to gather sunlight. Ideally we do not want one branch on top of another as it blocks sunlight for the lower branch which as a result of ack of sunlight it can lead to weakened branches that could potentially die over time.

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