Pruning Pine Bonsai Trees [Methods and Correct Timing]

It is best to start one of the most popular techniques in pine shaping right in the middle of summer. 

Pruning pines in summer is more beneficial than doing so in winter. To increase light penetration and reduce the size of the pine needles, you can use shears or scissors to prune them in the spring. This is especially useful for black pines with long needles and strong regrowth.

Japanese five-needle pine bonsai

Read further to learn the correct methods to prune pine bonsai and when to prune them throughout the year.

Pruning Pine Bonsai

Pruning for needle removal involves removing all or part of the pine’s newly formed candles. This task can only be done if the tree is strong and has not been re-potted in spring. Also, the needles must be fully formed and mature to be successful. 

Do not prune immature needles.

The period best to prune pine bonsai can vary depending on the climate. It may be from early July through early August. There is also the possibility of new growth becoming too weak or getting off to a bad start. To restore strength to the tree, it is necessary to plan how fertilizer will be applied in the autumn. 

Pruning weaker trees or those with shorter needles should take place in July. Black pines that have large new shoots should go in August. 

Summer pruning is a great way to stimulate a second growth phase (after the spring), and it will reap the benefits of the autumnal increase.

Pruning Methods for Pine Bonsai

Pinus thunbergii
Pinus thunbergii Bonsai

Use fine scissors that have sharp edges when pruning. Cut back long, new branches by cutting them off above a new shoot. 

Pro tip: the tree’s reserves will be exhausted by the second growth period. However, this can only happen if fertilizer is not applied before autumn. 

Before deciding on the shape of your bonsai, study the tree carefully and consider the species’ natural form. To achieve an impression of age and reality, observe the way mature trees of the same
kind grow in their natural setting.

Virginia State University “The Art of Bonsai”

This works well with long needles (Pinus Thunbergii, black pines) and medium-sized needles, such as Scots pine, red pine, and mugo pine. 

For small-needled trees like the Japanese five-needle Pine, it is important not to weaken the tree by doing the same pruning over and over again. 

Image Credit – New Mexico State University

Others will need to consecutively reduce the needle size for at least three years. There is still time to remove the old needles if you haven’t done so by last autumn. 

You should not attempt to remove them by hand. This could lead to the risk of removing the buds at the base of the sheaths that will be needed to form the new branches. 

It is important to know your desired outcome, depending on which tree you are working with. You need first to understand the species and the stages of shaping.

Then, consider the overall shape of the tree. Because styles tend to be more important for certain areas, it is important to determine your intended outcome.

Summer pruning, in any case, is an operation that forces the tree’s ability to grow new needles. Without them, it will die. Some trees are not recommended to be pruned every year. 

It is not advisable to prune weak or sick trees or those with mature ramifications. 

You can also use pinching to balance out the growth of these trees. Pruning to reduce needles is not the only way to create fine ramification. However, it allows the process to be expedited and done in one season. 

After pruning is complete, do not overwater or apply fertilizer before autumn. The new growth will begin at the end of summer so place the tree in a sunny location to encourage the tree to produce buds in the pruned areas and the inner parts of the branches.

The needles will develop naturally after the candle is removed.

The number of candles is thinned by 1/2 to 2/3, and those that remain are shortened.

Harvard’s Bonsai and Penjing Collection Care

The new growth is extended in June and leaves a space between old needles and new ones.

The needles become hardened and almost mature in July. Then, cut in the middle of the space.

Cut back any points that are too long, as well as any new shoots which are too thick or poorly placed. Radially trim the branches’ points and the apex. This is the most active and busiest area of the tree.

You can finish the tidying task by cutting the twigs and quickly plucking the needles. To encourage inner buds, cut back excessively long twigs. It is important to trim and thin out areas exposed to the sun, particularly at the apex. Summer pruning is an act that exhausts the tree’s reserves. It can also be used to control bud growth. This is the best way for you to balance the vigor in different areas of your growth.

Pruning is not about replacing the needles. This is the only way to reduce the needle size. It is a safe technique that can be used on all pines.

The Meaning of Bonsai [Origins, History, Influences, and More]

Bonsai (pronounced bone-sigh) was first known as “Punsai.” This is the practice of growing single specimen trees in pots to mimic mature trees. 

“Bonsai” is a Japanese term that translates as “planted inside of a container.” This art form derives from an ancient Chinese horticultural technique, which was partially redeveloped by Japanese Zen Buddhism.

Bonsai in the Beginning

Japan Art of Bonsai Earliest Proof
Image Credit – Collection of Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan (706 AD)

Bonsai was primitive in appearance and had few leaves. The trunks were also very gnarled. These trunks looked like birds or dragons.

Many legends and myths were created about them, which made them highly sought-after. 

Bonsai consists of two words: “Bon” and “Sai.” The term “Bon”, which means “tray,” and “Sai,” which refers to “growing” or planting, are two words. The words together translate to “tray growing” and “tray planting.”

Artist: Kitagawa Utamaro 喜多川歌麿 (1753-1806) – Image Credit Smithsonian

When they hear the word, people often associate Bonsai with a specific type of tree. 

Bonsai can be used to grow many species of trees, including Juniper and Pine. Bonsai is about making the tree look old, which is achieved through training.

Bonsai in China

Sun Kehong Ming Dynasty Bonsai Art Blossoms
Artist: Sun Kehong (1532-1610) Ming Dynasty Bonsai Art

Chinese Bonsai originated approximately 1300 years ago. Bonsai was originally only practiced by elites of ancient China. The miniature trees were given as gifts and considered a luxury. The Bonsai was introduced to Japan by Buddhist monks around 1100 AD. 

Bonsai, also known as “Penjing” in China, is thought to have its origins during the Han Dynasty. Legend has it that an eccentric Emperor built a spectacular courtyard with hills, rivers, and lakes. This was to represent the empire he ruled over. 

His landscaping plan was meant to give him a view of his empire from his private home. 

Sun Kehong Ming Dynasty Bonsai Art
Artist: Sun Kehong (1532-1610) Ming Dynasty Bonsai Art

The Emperor considered his courtyard a valuable possession and issued a decree that anyone found with a miniature landscape like his would be executed.

 Another Chinese legend states that Bonsai dates back to the 4th century. It was planted by Guen-ming, a Chinese poet and civil servant at that time. 

Many believe Guen-ming started growing Chrysanthemums with clay pots after he retired. This is what historians believe was the start of Bonsai. 

This same practice was observed 200 years later, during the Tang Dynasty. The legend may be true, but it was amazing to discover the tomb of Prince Zhang Huai, who ruled the Tang Dynasty between 618 and 901 AD. Two wall paintings from the past depicted servants with several plants and were proof of the Bonsai.

The first historical reference to penjing is a scroll from 800 AD documenting a well-developed art form that can be traced back as far as the Han and Qin Dynasties (221 BC to 220 AD). 

Matthaei Botanical Gardens

One of the paintings depicted a man carrying a miniature scene, while the other showed a servant carrying a small pot with a tree.

Bonsai in Japan

Early Japanese Print of Bonsai (Uma zukushi)

Japan was introduced to Bonsai during the Heian period (794-1191) by Zen Buddhist monks. The Japanese adopted many of the cultural marks from China and quickly influenced the art that made Japan so popular.

The Bonsai trees grew beyond their monastic status as Buddhist monks or monasteries and became an emblem of honor and prestige. 

Bonsai’s philosophies and ideologies changed drastically as a result. The Bonsai is often associated with ancient Japanese beliefs, while Eastern philosophies consider Bonsai to be a harmonious link between the soul and the natural world. 

Meiji Period Bonsai Ceramic (1868-1912 Japanese Art)

Many believe that the Kamakura period saw Bonsai being grown in Japan. 

The belief stems from a translation of an old Japanese scroll which reads: “To love and appreciate curiously curved potted tree is to love deformity.” With the Chinese invasion of Japan in the 14th century, Bonsai became a sophisticated art form. 

Bonsai in a Japanese Garden
Bonsai in a Japanese Garden

Bonsai were used to decorate homes and sit on specially-designed shelves. 

The Bonsai at that time was still a wild tree and had not been trimmed or pruned. They were very popular until the 18th and 17th Centuries. The majority of this tree was taken out to improve its appearance. This was by the Japanese philosophy of simplicity and beauty. 

We know that early Bonsai masters were influenced by China because the characters used for Bonsai represent the same characters in Japanese as in Chinese.

Bonsai in Korea

The Bonsai, also known as “Punjae” (in Korea), was introduced from China during Silla and Koguryo kingdoms in the 1st Century C.E. 

The “Three Kingdoms of Korea” saw the Korean peninsula divided into three distinct empires.

These were between the 1st to the 7th Centuries C.E. The Bonsai was popularized during the Lee Dynasty in 1392 C.E. 

Mugo Pine Bonsai

The Suseoks tradition – Korea’s Unique Bonsai Perspective

This art form captures natural phenomena that were also created at this time. It used miniature stones to create landscaping. The Bonsai is still valued in Korea today. Korea has a number of Bonsai associations, including the Korea National Bonsai Association.

Bonsai Throughout the World

In the middle of the 19th century, Japan began to share bonsai with the rest of the world. The Bonsai was eventually displayed in Paris, London, and Vienna. It finally made its way to the 1900 Paris World Exhibition. 

This was the time when the Bonsai was fully exposed to the public.

People fell in love with the Bonsai just like the Chinese and Japanese for many years. You can see that Bonsai became a hugely popular item, and people were eager to own one. 

The naturally stunted trees were hard to find, so commercially produced trees were created. 

Blooming Japanese Wisteria Bonsai
Blooming Japanese Wisteria Bonsai with pink flowers (Wisteria floribunda)

These young plants were trained by horticulturists to resemble the Bonsai. The experimentation resulted in a variety of styles, including wire and bamboo skewers. By the end of World War II soldiers returned from Japan with information about Bonsai, sparking further interest in the west. 

Some soldiers brought trees with them, but most of the Bonsai died soon after. 

These Bonsai survived long enough to be fascinating and interesting people. This was the first time that most Americans had ever heard Bonsai.

Now, they have a new respect for Japan’s amazing art form. The Japanese saw the value in capitalizing on the interest of the rest of the world in Bonsai. New nurseries were created to grow, train, and export Bonsai trees. 

Ficus Retusa Bonsai

It was found that different regions of the globe have different climates, and not all trees thrive in the same area. So, different plants were used to make Bonsai accessible to everyone. Because of the variety in tree species, the methods used to raise them must be compatible with their specific tree. 

The Japanese prefer to use only native species for Bonsai, despite all the trees available. You would typically see Azaleas and Maples here. The Bonsai is evolving so that there are now many different varieties and practices. 

The Bonsai, a symbol of Japan’s culture and ideology, is still powerful. Every New Year, Japanese homes will create a Tokonoma. This is where precious ornaments and treasured possessions are displayed. The Bonsai is a key part of this display. 

You can find Bonsai trees in your local nursery, gardening center, department shop, or nursery. Most Bonsai trees are young starters or cuttings and do not produce true Bonsai as the masters. Many Bonsai that are not authentic Bonsai are known as “Pre-Bonsai”, and they are used to begin the process of growing bonsai.

Early Bonsai Exhibitions

The first bonsai public exhibitions in the west were held at international expositions and world fairs. However, these temporary displays lasted only six months to one year. 

London’s Royal Botanical Garden

One of the first public displays in a botanical garden was likely to have been at Kew, London’s Royal Botanical Garden. In a March 3, 1900 issue, The Gardeners Chronicle mentioned a collection of miniature trees at Kew. It is possible that this was a temporary display and not a lasting one. 

San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden

This commercial venture was started by M. H. de Young (a San Francisco businessman) after he visited the Japanese exhibit at the Chicago Columbian Exposition. 

Young’s Japanese Village was so popular that it was permanently installed in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. 

Water Jasmine in Bonsai Garden

Makoto Hagiwara took over the operation of this village and transformed it into a Japanese Tea Garden. He was an artistic and talented person who appreciated Japanese gardens.

He began to import Japanese garden items, including lanterns and other art objects. 

Hagiwara’s efforts were stopped in 1900 when the state transferred Golden Gate Park from San Francisco to him. Hagiwara’s participation was terminated after he and the city could not agree on terms. Hagiwara established a rival operation near the city. 

The operation of Hagiwara was very successful, while that of the city was not. Hagiwara and Hagiwara reached an agreement in 1910 to allow Hagiwara the Japanese Tea Garden. 

He constructed a house in Japanese style and managed a successful concession. The gardens were further developed and improved with ponds and an arched bridge. These amenities were acquired at the 1915 Panama International Exposition in San Francisco. 

Hagiwara continued to import bonsai and garden items until he died in 1925. Goro Hagiwara and his family ran the garden until World War II. During the war, the Hagiwaras had to close their home and business in order to relocate to a camp. The Tea Garden was renamed the Oriental Tea Garden in wartime.

Brooklyn’s Botanical Gardens

Brooklyn Botanical Garden White Pine Bonsai
White Pine Bonsai (100+ Years Old) – Image Credit Brooklyn’s Botanical Gardens

The Brooklyn Botanical Garden, also known as the “BBG”, was established in 1910 by New York City’s Borough of Brooklyn. The new institution was soon followed by the designation and construction of a traditional Japanese garden. 

Ernest F. Coe, a Connecticut plantman, may have been inspired by this development to donate his 32 Japanese bonsai collection, which included 21 species of trees or shrubs. 

The Elm City Nursery was located in New Haven Connecticut. Mr. Coe was the President. The bonsai he had purchased from Japan in 1911, probably from the Yokohama Nursery, was likely imported by him. 

Coe’s initial 32 bonsai, which he donated, were not displayed for many years (Scholtz 1979). This garden started to pay more attention to them after the Second World War. 

George Avery (1965), Director at the BBG, credits a lot of the public’s interest in bonsai to the many American servicemen who went to Japan right after the war ended. After their return, people in New York City began to inquire about bonsai maintenance every week. 

The garden published a 12-page article on bonsai in their summer 1950 issue of Plants and Garden. This paper was written by Mr. Kan Yashiroda (a Japanese horticulturist who also owns a nursery in Japan). 

George Avery invited Mr. Yashiroda in 1951 to edit the BBG’s first bonsai handbook. Avery and Frank Okamura (curator of the Japanese garden, bonsai collection) taught their first bonsai class on January 1954. Their class enrolled 86 people. The BBG’s bonsai collection grew and is now one of America’s most prominent bonsai collections.

Early Influential Bonsai Artists

Traditional arts, such as bonsai, were just a few of the many contributions the Japanese and Chinese made to America and other western countries. Here are a list of early bonsai artists that helped shape the bonsai art in the world.

Frank Fusaji Nagata

Frank Fusaji Nagata

Frank Fusaji Nagata was an artist in bonsai and lived in Los Angeles before the war. Kay Komai, his daughter, says that Mr. Nagata and Morihei Furuya placed bonsai along with a friend on a curb near their home. They then tried to sell them. 

Nagata was permitted to bring his entire family to Santa Anita Race Track. His family rode on a bus to make it easier for him to transport more. 

Frank brought several of his bonsai, including some of the most prized ones, to Camp Amache in Colorado near Granada. Some plants that were not sold were donated to Frank’s Caucasian friends, who kept them safe by planting them in the ground. 

Morihei Furuya was a friend of Nagata and also lived in Los Angeles. Nagata was one of the first bonsai leaders of Southern California and was open to teaching others. 

John Yoshio Naka

John Naka with Granddaughter with his Bonsai “Goshin”

John Y. Naka is why bonsai’s rapid growth in North America and other western countries. John Y. Naka’s extraordinary talents as a bonsai stylist, teacher, and leader have created new generations of bonsai leaders and artists. 

He inspired and encouraged thousands of people to learn bonsai and published two books highly regarded and widely used in West. 

Naka is the only American immigrant or American who has had such an impact on bonsai and received international and national recognition. Naka, the third child born to Yukino Naka and Kakichi Naka, was born in Fort Lupton, Colorado, on August 16, 1914. His parents sent him and two siblings to Japan in November 1922 to care for Kakichi’s dad. Sadahei, John Naka’s grandfather, strongly influenced John Naka’s education in Japan. 

Sadahei shared with his grandson his love for nature and bonsai knowledge. Sadahei advised John Naka to not force trees into something they weren’t, but to accept them as is. John was able to learn the basics of bonsai at this time. 

Naka, aged 21, returned to Colorado and worked on Watenburg’s farm with his brother. John married Alice Toshiko Mizunaga, and they started a Colorado family for the duration. John started working in landscape gardening after the Naka family relocated to Los Angeles in 1946.

 He also began bonsai during this period. Sam Doi was also in Los Angeles during the war years. He spent his time in the interment camp in Granada, Colorado. 

John found him and continued to study with Doi until Doi’s return to Japan in 1948. Doi introduced Naka and other bonsai enthusiasts to him, including Frank Nagata and Morihei Furuya. John Naka signed up for the Japanese language Bonsai Magazine. It was edited and largely written by Norio Kobayashi.

He also bought many books about bonsai in Japan. John started exhibiting bonsai at horticultural shows in 1950 when he first displayed some trees at Pasadena’s Fannie F. Morrison Center. In 1951, he and four other people formed the Southern California Bonsai Club.

 He and four of his friends entered bonsai specimens at the Pasadena Flower Show in 1954.

Eventually, Naka wrote Bonsai Techniques I. Naka’s Bonsai Institute of California published Bonsai Techniques I. The demand for the book was so high that there were many reprints. He co-authored a book entitled Bonsai Techniques For Satsuki Azaleas in 1979. 

Naka recognized that his students became more skilled in art and needed more instruction. 

In 1982, Naka published 73 of his Bonsai Techniques II. This was a massive 442-page book. John Naka also illustrated this book with hundreds of line drawings.

 His Bonsai Techniques I was translated into several languages by 1987. The first lecture by Naka and his demonstration trip to South Africa lasted most of October 1980. He amazed the audiences in Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Cape Town. 

This was his first trip to the country. John Naka, bonsai master of the west, was the most admired and loved bonsai artist in the 1980s. 

John Naka donated “Goshin,” one of his finest bonsai specimens, to the National Bonsai Foundation, Washington, D.C. on March 7, 1984. This tree was the first to be donated to the North American Pavilion at U.S. National Arboretum, Washington, D.C. Naka’s well-known gift of leadership in a bonsai style led to many outstanding specimens being gifted by Americans. 

The Japanese government conferred the most prestigious award on Naka. Taizo Watanabe from the Consulate General of Japan, Los Angeles, informed Naka on October 7, 1985 that he would be receiving the Fifth Class of the Order of the Rising Sun. 

This award is the highest that can be given to a citizen from a country other then Japan. John Naka was also given national recognition in the United States. 

On July 31, 1987, Washington, D.C. announced that the new North American Pavilion at National Bonsai & Penjing Museum would bear the name Naka. John Naka was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts on May 26, 1992. 

This federal agency recognizes select folk artists from the United States each year. This award was given to him because he displayed the highest level of performance in bonsai, his art form. John Naka was awarded the Japanese American National Museum’s Lifetime Achievement Award on March 5, 2004. John Y. Naka kept practicing bonsai into his 80s. 

John could rely on his wife Alice’s support and dedication throughout his career. Alice was there to support him behind the scenes and help him achieve the recognition he deserved. John Yoshio Naka, the greatest bonsai master of North America during the nineteenth millennium, will be remembered for a long time.

Flame Tree Bonsai (Delonix regia) Care Guide [Updated 2022]

The Flame Tree (Delonix regia) is also known as Royal Poinciana or Fire Tree. It is endemic to Madagascar and Zambia and is well-known for its fern-like leaves and beautiful orange to red flowers.

The Flame Tree is a tropical tree of the legume family that produces large, fiery red and golden flowers which bloom from spring to summer. It is in the Fabaceae family, with compound foliage common within the legume family. Delonix regia is an extremely popular bonsai choice for its colorful blooms and hardiness.

Flame Tree Bonsai Care Guide

The Delonix regia needs what most tropical plants require: frequent watering with well-drained bonsai soil and a lot of sunlight.

Pruning

The Flame Tree can be pruned heavily. They are fast growers and can handle a lot of different bonsai pruning techniques.

It is best to prune during the growing season when the plant is at its strongest throughout the year.

Oftentimes, bonsai growers will spread regular white glue on the wound of the Flame Tree to encourage healing. This is regular with larger cuts to the main trunk.

Wiring

Many growers choose to wire their Flame Tree bonsai. Medium to heavy gauge wire can be used. Just make sure to check the wire every 3-4 weeks so that the plant does not get damaged by growing into and through the wire.

Propagation

A common way to propagate Royal Poinciana is through seeds. It’s best to soak the seeds in chlorine-free water for 24 hours prior to planting them.

To encourage germination, place the seeds between a few wet paper towels and place them in a plastic container. Make sure to spray-mist them every day. Be aware that too much water will lead to mold and poor germination rates.

Another way to germinate the seeds of the Flame Tree is to use coco coir. First, create a thin layer of coco coir in a plastic container. Then place the seeds in a row along the top of the medium. After that, sprinkle more coco coir on the seeds and spray the entire area liberally. Remember, too much water is not good. You just want to wet the entire growing medium but not soak it.

After five days you will begin to begin to see germination.

At this point, closely monitor any seeds that have yet to germinate and make sure they do not have mold or disease on them. You will want to separate out any seeds with these issues so that the entire batch doesn’t go bad.

After ten days, take out the seeds and plant them in starter pots.

Soil

A good soil mixture for the Flame Tree includes coco coir, 1/4″ gravel, aged compost, sand, and a portion of inert material such as Akadama clay. The Flame Tree is a tropical plant that is accustomed to rapid rainfall and periods of dryness.

The soil mixture needs to be proportioned well and take into consideration the unique requirements of the Flame Tree.

Anything to help the soil drain well, such as inert material, is very important. Some bonsai growers even use chipped brick, finely ground up, as an additional amendment to their bonsai soil.

Appearance

Royal Poinciana or Flamboyant tree (Delonix regia)
Royal Poinciana or Flamboyant tree (Delonix regia)

The Flame Tree (Delonix Regia) reaches a maximum height of 40 feet. The trunk is large and buttressed towards the base. The bark is smooth and greyish-brown with many dots (lenticels).

 In reference to the prominently clawed petals, the generic name ‘Delonix” is derived from a Greek delos (visible) and onyx (“claw”), respectively. The genus name comes from the latin regis meaning royal, majestic, or magnificent.

The inner bark is light brown. The crown umbrella spreads with long, almost horizontal branches, forming a diameter greater than the tree’s height. Twigs are stout, greenish, and become brown when they get older. 

Roots are shallow. 

The many leaflets are completely thin and stalkless. They are rounded at their base and apex, with very fine hair on both sides. 

Natural Environment

The Flame Tree is a Madagascar and Zambia native and is common in all tropical and subtropical regions of the globe.

They are “dry” deciduous trees. It sheds its leaves in areas that have a dry season. In other areas, it can be almost evergreen.

It prefers a tropical climate or near-tropical, but it can tolerate drought and salty conditions. It likes sandy loamy or sandy soils that are free-draining and rich in organic matter. It does not like clay soils or heavy soils.

It now grows naturally in the following locations throughout the world: Brazil, Cyprus, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda

 It can be grown at higher elevations than suggested, but it will not flower as well. The tree needs light to thrive and will grow weakly in shade. 

It can grow in areas with a lot of rainfall and those with little. 

The Flame Tree is a shallow-rooted plant that competes with nearby shrubs and flowering plants.

It leaves no trace of the ground beneath its canopy. It should be planted separately from any other plants in the garden. Only in areas with a long, dry season are trees deciduous.

Other Names of Delonix regia

Depending upon the region referencing the plant, Delonix regia (Flame Tree) has other names it goes by. Here is a non-exhaustive list of other names you may have heard it referred to:

  • Flamboyant flame tree
  • Gold mohur
  • Flame Tree
  • Julu Tree
  • Peacock Flower
  • Flame of the Forest
  • Gul mohr
  • Royal Poinciana
  • Gold Mohar
  • Phuong (Vietnamese)
  • Flor de Pavo (Spanish)

Ficus Retusa Bonsai Care Guide [Ginseng Ficus Bonsai] Updated

The Ginseng Ficus (Ficus retusa), also known as the Cuban Laurel, is an evergreen species that forms a large, round head of leaves and grows quickly.  The trunk of these trees has smooth, grey bark. The bark is also dotted with horizontal flecks known as lenticels that promote gas exchange within the bark. 

Beautiful Ginseng ficus in a small clay pot.
Ginseng ficus in a small clay pot.

The Ginseng Ficus is a popular houseplant and a very popular bonsai.

Ficus Retusa Care Guide

A wide range of trees and shrubs in the family Moraceae are named “ficus”. There are approximately 850 species of plants that bear the name ficus. However, the the Ginseng Ficus (Ficus retusa) is the most well-known ficus species.

Temperature65°F to 75°F (16°C to 24°C)
LightingWell-lit but not in direct sun.
HumidityDaily misting is recommended during summer.
WateringLet the top 2 inches to become dry between watering.
SoilFast-draining. Recommended mix of 30-40% organic matter, 60-70% aggregate
FertilizationOnce monthly between April-September.
RepottingEvery two years.

They live in tropical regions that are not cold enough to cause them to lose their foliage. Deciduous ficus plants that grow in warmer zones or at higher elevations are more likely to become deciduous. Deciduous ficus plants can be found in certain areas outside the tropical zone.

Ficus Retusa Bonsai Tree

Temperature Requirements

When planting ficus outdoors, the most important factor is the temperature.  Ficus retusa can withstand temperatures around 30°F (-1°C) or just below freezing. 

This means that ficus trees can be planted outdoors in USDA zones 10-12 in the United States. 

 If you decide to keep your ficus trees outside, bring them inside before the first frost.

The perfect temperature for Ginseng ficus is between 65 to 75 degrees. While it might be able to tolerate temperatures as low 60F, prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can be detrimental.

 You should place your ficus in a heated room if you live in an area where it gets very cold in winter. 

To prevent extreme temperature fluctuations, you may want to keep your ficus away from doors and windows during winter. 

A ficus tree can survive in an average humidity level. However, there are many things you could do to raise the humidity. 

Ficus Retusa Bonsai

You can mist your tree with water at least once a day. Or, you could place warm water in a small area near your ficus tree. 

Humidity is very important for young ficus trees, or those that have just moved to a new location and are going through adjustment periods. Another option is to place a humidifier inside the room where your ficus trees are kept.

Proper Soil

The Ginseng Ficus needs well-draining soil. A proper bonsai soil provides adequate nutrition for your ficus. Your ficus will die if the soil isn’t well-drained.

Plant the ficus in a large pot with holes at the bottom to ensure drainage. This tree prefers loamy soil. You can make it yourself by adding 3 parts loam to 1 part peat and 1 portion of sand. 

Fertilizer

The Ginseng ficus grows quickly and needs additional nutrients to keep it growing. 

You should fertilize your ficus at least once per month during its growing season. 

Fertilizers should be added only during the spring and summer growing seasons. The ficus tree will soon be producing new leaves and branches so fertilizer will be needed to help fuel this growth. 

Use a general-purpose fertilizer that has been diluted by 50% once every three to four weeks during the growing season. 

Ficus trees are sensitive to fertilizers. By using half the strength of the fertilizer, you can reduce the chance of the fertilizer burning the tree. 

You should not fertilize your Ficus trees during winter.

Ficus trees can grow strong roots and may eventually become root bound if they outgrow their pot (especially dangerous if grown outside). Choose a pot approximately 2 inches larger than the original pot to allow your ficus tree to spread. You may need to replace the pot if you buy a new ficus tree.

How Much light does a ginseng ficus need?

If ficus trees are kept indoors, they need bright, indirect sunlight.

However they can thrive in partial shade as long they have some sunlight during the day. 

For optimal growth, ficus trees can be planted outside in direct sunlight, which should not exceed 6 hours per day. If you intend to keep your ficus outside during the summer, and then move it indoors in the winter, you will need to slowly acclimatize it to full sunlight before you bring it inside again after the winter.

Bright light is essential for ficus trees to thrive. Your ficus tree is recommended to be placed near a large window that receives sun for at least a few hours each day. 

If ficus trees are not accustomed to direct sunlight, they can become irritable. Your ficus tree can also be placed outdoors, on a patio or covered porch during the summer months.

However, it should not get too hot or cold. 

Other indoor conditions can also affect your plant. Because of the potential for plant damage from temperature extremes, ficus should be kept away from cooling or heating vents. 

Watering

The soil and air need to remain moist. You need to consider whether your environment will support the needs of your ficus tree. 

If you choose to plant your ficus outside, you will need to water it once per week until it settles in.

Once it is settled, the root system of the ficus will be able to store water during dry periods. However, you should be careful with the ficus. Water it if the leaves turn yellow or fall from the tree (this indicates that it is deprived of water).

Water your ficus only after the top inch of soil has dried. In the summer, you will only need to water your ficus once a week. 

Pests

There is a greater chance that your ficus will be infected by insects and diseases if kept outdoors. But you can still have these things happen indoors. However, they are much less likely if you provide the right growing conditions for your ficus. Some pests are more common in certain regions.

Red mites, for instance, prefer dry, hot areas. To determine if it is worth taking the chance to plant your ficus outside, do a little research about the pests that are common in your area.

Repotting

Your Ginseng ficus should be repotted every one to two years. 

When the root system fills the pot, it will be time to repot your bonsai. 

Remember that although a small amount of the root system will be visible above ground in some cases, most root growth occurs below ground. If you don’t repot your bonsai ficus bonsai often enough, it may become root bound and might not thrive.

Pruning

To keep your ficus in bonsai form, you must trim or pinch back any new growth. This will ensure that the tree is healthy. The Ginseng ficus has a fast growth-rate so it is important to watch your bonsai all year.

Expert Care Tips

  • Ginseng ficus requires higher humidity than other species. So plan to mist the plant at least once a day and ensure that the soil drains well. 
  • The ginseng ficus tends to grow quickly in the first few years of being in a new container. Once it slows down, it is time for a larger pot.

Resources

There is a lot of great information on Ginseng ficus bonsai on the internet and in printed text. Here’s a list of some of the great materials we drew upon for this article:

The World of Bonsai Youtube Channel

The Complete Guide to Growing, Pruning and Caring for Ficus by Bernard Brook

Notion Bonsai Youtube Channel

Rainbow Eucalyptus Bonsai [In-Depth Bonsai Guide]

Rainbow eucalyptus (Eucalyptus deglupta) is an evergreen tropical tree that is native to the Philippines and can reach over 300 feet high and 6 feet wide. The Rainbow Eucalyptus, also known as Rainbow Gum, is a tree that can be made into bonsai with the proper care.

Mature Rainbow Eucalyptus
Rainbow Eucalyptus tree in Maui island, Hawaii

Its beautiful colors emerge when the tree is approximately half an inch thick. Contrary to popular belief, the tree’s bark is not vibrant. The tinted wood beneath the bark is revealed when the thin bark is removed. 

Although they may not be the best option for beginners, rainbow eucalyptus bonsai can be great for large, tropically-climate specimens.

Rainbow Eucalyptus Overview

Scientific NameTrade NameHeight (mature size)Bonsai heightSunlight
Eucalyptus degluptaRainbow Gum 250 feet+3-7 feetDirect Sunlight

Rainbows are tropical trees that have adapted to living in a rainforest environment. Although they tend to grow slower in cooler winters, rainbows can still retain their leaves all year. 

Rainbows must be protected against freezes, they cannot survive light frost conditions for short periods (contrary to popular belief).

Rainbow Eucalyptus Bark

These trees are most active in summer when they can display their strength and speed of growth. These trees can grow up to eight to ten feet during a single growing season and more if they are well cared for. These growth rates are wonderful for bonsai purposes because they allow frequent pruning to thicken the trunk.

Its striking color stripes on the trunk and limbs of the tree give it its common name. Although they appear painted, the ever-changing colors of rainbow eucalyptus trees are a natural feature. 

Rainbow eucalyptus is not like other trees, such as oaks. It doesn’t have a thick layer of bark that is hard and corky on its trunk. Instead, the bark is smooth, vibrantly alive, with thin layers of exfoliated tissue as it grows. This happens in different areas at different times. The layers are removed, and new, fresh green bark is revealed.

As the bark is exposed, it becomes darker, bluish, purplish and pink-orange as it ages. The color turns brownish-moonlight after exfoliation. The colors change in this way are constantly changing because they occur simultaneously at different stages and zones on the trunk.

The tree will never be the same color twice, which makes it a living work of art.

Rainbow eucalyptus needs water, especially when it’s young. This tree will grow slower if there isn’t enough water. The exfoliation will take place in smaller dots than long strips. It should not be allowed to dry out in containers.

how to grow a rainbow eucalyptus bonsai

To thrive, your tree will need plenty of water. For best growth, keep the soil moist but not too wet. To keep your plant small, trim off the top and sides shoots. 

General Eucalyptus Growth

Eucalyptus trees can grow up to a foot per month. If you’re diligent about pinching back, a bonsai that is three feet tall can be achieved.  Eucalyptus trees have large leaves. Careful pruning can help keep them balanced and encourage a smaller leaf size.

Step 1: Seedlings

Seeding is the best way to start a Rainbow Eucalyptus bonsai. You should buy enough seeds to ensure a good germination rate. After the seeds are fully dried, they can be placed in the sun. They should germinate within three weeks. The best seed to start bonsai is the one that has shown progress.

Germination tips

Expect a die-off of at least 50% when germinating Rainbow Eucalyptus seeds.

 Your chances of germination are improved by soaking your seeds overnight. Sow your seeds mid- to late in the spring. A hot summer is the best time to harden your saplings for a rainbow eucalyptus bonsai.

Keep your seedlings hydrated during germination. 

Germination can take as long as three weeks. Your best bonsai candidates will often be the first to emerge. Monitor their growth rate to affirm if they are the strongest seedlings.

For success, it is essential to incubate your seedlings. 

After their first transplantation, you can begin incubating them immediately. Put them in a plastic container and place the box in a cool, shaded area that doesn’t get too hot. Allow them to rest for at least a week. Water as often as necessary. They might appear to be wilting and even dead at first. The best candidates will come back. After a week, remove the box from the sun and begin acclimating them in full sunlight for three weeks.

Step 2: Saplings

Once approximately 6 inches and above, your Rainbow Eucalyptus is considered a sapling. At first, keep them in a shady spot that is not in direct sunlight. Gradually increase the sun exposure. It is important to water your bonsai regularly until it establishes its roots. 

There are several stages of growth for Eucalyptus trees. 

Your saplings will begin to grow quickly after the first month. You must be diligent in reducing growth otherwise, the trunk will remain skinny and never achieve the proper bonsai aesthetic.

Step 3: Planting

When your sapling is approximately ten inches tall, it is ready to be placed in its final growing pot. 

Rainbow eucalyptus bonsai can grow fast.

Be careful when choosing a container, as it will most likely be the container for the Rainbow Eucalyptus for a few years. Choose a 20-inch pot to allow your plant’s roots space for the typical eucalyptus growth. 

A bonsai’s best friend is quality soil. Give it plenty of organic matter to encourage growth.

Step 4: Outdoor Care

Rainbow eucalyptus Bonsai are tropical and will not tolerate cold winters. 

They can be grown outdoors in zones 9 through 11, but they will require special care if the outside temperature drops below 55 degrees. 

It will not grow well if it is brought inside. To keep the roots warm, wrap straw or mulch around them. If you experience colder temperatures, place your rainbow eucalyptus bonsai in a covered shelter that receives direct sunlight year-round. The best option is an outdoor greenhouse or conservatory. Rainbow Euclptyus bonsai artists often over-winter their plants in a greenhouse and cover their soil with 5 inches of extra bonsai soil for added insulation.

Step 5: Pest Protection

Rainbow eucalyptus is generally pest-free. Although there are occasional mealybugs and aphids that may be present, the tree can still be grown without too much concern. Mycorrhizal Inoculum should be applied to plants, particularly in areas that have been heavily disturbed.

Unique Bark

One feature that makes these trees easily identifiable is their multi-colored bark. Their multi-colored bark is what makes them distinctive. They have different colors underneath their bark, and the flaky barks that fall when they grow taller are revealed.

The barks show light red, green, orange, and purple streaks.

These colors earned them the Rainbow Eucalyptus name. This tree is a popular Eucalyptus species, and many people plant it for its unique characteristics. 

Fun Facts

  • Eucalyptus deglupta (Rainbow Eucalyptus), hails from Mindanao’s rainforests. Mindanao is the easternmost and southernmost island of the Philippine islands group.
  • The Rainbow Eucalyptus doesn’t produce the aroma oils that other Eucalyptus are famous for.

Where to Buy Rainbow Eucalyptus

Chinese Elm Bonsai Tree – Care Guide [Comprehensive Advice]

The Chinese elm bonsai tree is a favorite of growers everywhere.  It is especially popular with beginners.  It’s fast-growing and easy to care for. 

Chinese Elm's Autumn Bloom
Chinese Elm’s Autumn Bloom

Although the Chinese Elm’s trunk develops slowly in a container, the branches grow very quickly.  Frequent trimming of the branches creates beautiful ramifications.  Many different styles can be created through pruning with little effort, making the Chinese Elm a great beginner bonsai plant.

Another plus is they can be either indoor bonsai, outdoors, or a little of both. Many people grow them indoors in winter and out in the spring and summer.

Caring for Chinese Elm Bonsai

The Chinese Elm (Ulmus parvifolia) is native to Asia. Most imported Chinese Eelm bonsai have been grown in a warm climate (southern China) which is important to remember when caring for this great plant.

Ancient Chinese Elm Bonsai
Ancient Chinese Elm – Semi-Cascading Style

Environment

The ideal location for a Chinese Elm bonsai is somewhere that provides full sun. It can handle partial shade as well, but this will hinder growth.

Leaving the plant outside during the summer is recommended to encourage new growth.

Chinese Elm Indoors?

It is fine to bring the Chinese Elm indoors during the winter months. They can handle some frost, but deep winters can kill them.

These are imported from different areas in Asia, and depending on the specific region determines how cold-hardy they are.

Chinese Elm Bonsai - Traditional Styling
Chinese Elm Bonsai – Traditional Styling

Watering

Do not let the soil get completely dry. Ensure to water the Chinese Elm immediately when the soil begins to dry. Also, do not overwater as it creates other issues (various diseases).

A great way to check if it is moist enough is to press your finger into the top of the growing medium. Is it squishy? Or is it dry like rocks? Make sure it feels like a moist cake. That’s the perfect texture and moisture level.

Fertilizer

Feed the Chinese Elm heavily during the growing season to promote health and growth. It isn’t picky either. Most generic plant fertilizers work fine.

Consider a combination of pellets and liquid fertilizer. Usually, this ensures balanced nutrition for the plant.

Chinese Elm bonsai tree, Ulmus, isolated on white
Chinese Elm Bonsai – Upright Styling

Pruning

One of the great things about the Chinese Elm is that its trunk thickens quickly if allowed to grow freely. It also does great with frequent trimming.

The best time to prune is late fall, and can be shaped very easily with any wiring technique.

Repotting

Make sure to re-pot the Chinese Elm bonsai every two years. As the plant gets older, the duration of its time in the same pot increases, but young Chinese Elms should be repotted every two years.

The best time to repot is the Spring, right before their growing season begins. Their roots are notorious for becoming a bundle. Be careful when pruning roots.

Chinese Elm Bonsai - Forest Styling
Chinese Elm Bonsai – Forest Styling (Courtesy of National Bonsai Foundation)

Propogation

Cuttings are the best and easiest way to propagate Chinese Elms for bonsai. Seeds can also work but take a much longer time and do not guarantee the efficacy of the new tree.

Pets & Diseases

If you allow the humidity to become low, spider mites can quickly become a problem. Moisture, such as frequent misting, can help alleviate this problem.

Chinese Elm Bonsai (Ulmus parvifolia) - Over Rocks Styling
Chinese Elm Bonsai (Ulmus parvifolia) – Over Rocks Styling

Chinese Elm vs. Japanese Elm (Zelkova)

The Chinese Elm is often confused with the Zelkova (often referred to as the Japanese Elm. An easy way to distinguish the two apart is to compare their leaves. The Chinese Elm has double-toothed leaves while the Zelkova has single.

Ulmus species and in particular Ulmus parvifolia/Chinese Elm are very often confused with Zelkova species in particular Zelkova serrata/Japanese Elm. Zelkova are classed as a seperate genus to Ulmus as they have fruits that are unwinged – as opposed to the winged fruits of UlmusZelkova also differ in that they have single-toothed leaves whereas Ulmus have double-toothed leaves.”

Harry Harrington – British Bonsai Artist

Chinese Elm Imports

Many imported Chinese elm bonsai are not of the best quality regarding styling. It’s best practice to buy your tree for the trunk and remove any branches that don’t work in your design.

Remember: Cut branches will quickly be replaced with new growth.

Air Layering Chinese Elm

Air layering an unwanted branch is a good way to add another elm to your collection.

This very “curvy” import became two very good bonsai starters.

An air layer (covered in foil) can be placed on a good branch to use as a new short, fat, informal upright. New elm plants are easily grown from cuttings and air layers. Even pieces of elm root, can be grown into bonsai!

Styles for Chinese Elm Bonsai

Forest plantings are just one of the many uses for elms. The roots of this tree tend to be very long and are perfect for root over rock and exposed root style.

Chinese Elm Bonsai – Forest Styling

The trunks are often straight when grown from cuttings and make good upright trees. While young, they can easily be wired into curved shapes and are suited to many bonsai styles.

Beautiful Upright Chinese Elm Bonsai
Beautiful Upright Chinese Elm Bonsai

Many bonsai growers like to expose the long roots, as seen in this tree, to create the neagari style.

Upright Chinese Elm – Over Rock Styling

Selby Gardens, Sarasota, Florida – A Bonsai Retreat

By Guest Author – Sho Fu Member – Kay Karioth

Southwest Florida’s premiere bonsai garden is proudly sponsored by the Sho Fu Bonsai Society of Sarasota.

This is a project that started in 2007 after Sho Fu members John and Cindy Petterson returned from a visit to the Morikami Gardens with the thought that Florida’s West Coast would be the perfect location for a bonsai exhibit, and the Marie Selby Botanic Gardens would be the perfect home for that display.

John and Cindy Petterson (shown here,) together with Erik Wigert and Mike and Lunetta Knowlton, set about to make the dream a reality.

After months of negotiation and planning with Selby – and months of fundraising efforts by Sho Fu – the bonsai garden was unveiled in the spring of 2009 at the annual Asian Festival, which draws thousands of visitors to Selby.

The Society itself was established in December of 1975. In celebration of their 35th anniversary in December 2011, the beautiful Torii Gate was installed as an entrance to the exhibit, with several original founding members in attendance.

The Selby Gardens permanent bonsai exhibit is maintained by Sho Fu’s volunteer curator Richard Dietrich (here by the Tori gate.)

Richard works with a dedicated exhibit maintenance team made up of Sho Fu members. Selby Gardens provides the perfect venue for the display and support staff to help volunteers care for and protect the trees.

By the formal opening in February of 2009, Sho Fu had accumulated an inventory of eleven trees and two forests for the small but impressive display.

These bonsai trees came through a combination of donations from members, as well as from noted bonsai artists such as Erik Wigert, Mary Madison, Hal Mahoney, and Cliff Pottberg (all Sho Fu members), as well as Jim Smith, Alan Carver, Joe Day, Ernie Fernandez and Dorothy Schmitz.

Sho Fu is constantly upgrading and adding to the exhibit. This assures returning visitors of new and exciting bonsai.

Selby Gardens hosts over 130,000 visitors annually. Sho Fu is happy to share our exhibit with these guests. What a wonderful collaborative effort this is!

Courtesy of Sho Fu Bonsai Society

Where to Go From Here

To see photos of the actual trees in this bonsai garden and learn more about the Sarasota, FL society visit: Sho Fu Bonsai Bonsai Society website.

Tips for Sharpening Bonsai Tools

Sharpening bonsai tools is an important part of the bonsai process.

Dull bonsai shears can cause damage and aggravation! Here are some helpful techniques to consider from Dave at Bogan’s Bonsai. He shared many details with me. Here, in part, is our conversation.

Where to Start?

Dave Bogan, Guest Author

“Get all your bonsai tools together. Give them a thorough cleaning first. Sharp tools are a must. If your tools are dull, they will crush the wood fibers instead of cutting cleanly.”

What To Use?

“Most tools will only need a quick honing with a stone or diamond file. By stone, I mean a sharpening stone, generally a fine grit. Many refer to them as Japanese water stones, and they come in grit sizes of 100 to 6000 grit.

Diamond Files?

“For weekly sharpening bonsai tools, I use a diamond hone to simply touch up the edges. These diamond files are available at most home stores. Lowes and Home Depot have them for around $25. Diamond hones look like a file with a handle. One side is labeled course, and one is fine. I use the fine sideto continually keep my tools – especially scissor types – always sharp.”

How To Maintain the Bevel?

“Always try to maintain the original bevel … using a marker, paint the bevel with ink. As you sharper the tools, the ink will be rubbed off, showing you if your angle is correct. Always sharpen against the edge or up the bevel. Sharpen a cutting tool until you can feel a slight edge forming on the bottom. This is a slight curling of the metal, showing you have created a very fine edge. Once you feel this curl, lightly run this edge across a very fine hone, which will remove it. This only takes one or two swipes.

Don’t overdo it.

Never allow a pair of bonsai shears or scissor-type cutters to close until you have removed this burr from the bottom side.” 

Final Thoughts

Like so many aspects of bonsai, different artists use different techniques. Whichever technique you decide upon … use it! Check out our bonsai tools page if you want more discussion on the best tools for bonsai!

Bonsai Shears – Ease of Use

Bonsai shears, also called bonsai scissors, are the most often used tool in creating and maintaining our small trees.

Many growers have more than one pair, but different sizes make different jobs easier. When using the wrong size tool, we often make mistakes. In addition, using the wrong size can easily damage your shears.

A pair of garden shears alongside a concave bonsai cutter

Just Getting Started?

If you’re a beginner, one pair of medium-sized bonsai scissors – used for general pruning things such as young branches – will be adequate.  Although not necessary, an additional pair of small shears could be a convenience for trimming leaves and the tips of new growth. (Also known as bonsai “bud scissors.”)

The larger shears can often do the job of both. The smaller one should never be forced to cut more than it was meant to trim.

Never force any tool.   It can be an expensive mistake.

I read once that you should “never use household scissors” on bonsai.  But remember, there is no magic in using bonsai tools.  

Special tools may not be necessary if you have one little tree that occasionally needs a trim.  Of course, it’s always fun to have a real bonsai tool. As your bonsai collection grows, you will find value in having “real” bonsai tools.  In the meantime, a pair of sharp household scissors may work just fine.

Hand cutting a bonsai tree with shears

The key is to keep all tools sharp and clean.  

Dirty tools can transfer dangerous pathogens from one plant to another in any horticultural hobby. Furthermore, dirty tools rust. Make sure to clean your tools properly after each time they are used.  Review bonsai tree tools cleaning notes on the Bonsai Tools page.

Styling Tools (In Addition to Bonsai Shears)

As your hobby develops, you will know when you need additional tools.

If you are shaping, styling, and creating new trees, you will need other tools.  In addition to the bonsai shears, the concave branch cutter is another of the ‘first real bonsai tools.

An assortment of bonsai tools

That one is difficult to duplicate.  A branch cutter will make removing the branches you don’t want much easier and quicker than using heavy-duty garden shears.

Free Tools?

Many folks use chopsticks to help remove soil or even use them when adding soil to a container.  It’s an easy-to-find, free tool.  Take some home from your favorite Oriental restaurant. You will probably use them more than you think.

The ‘Magic Cloth’ is another highly recommended “tool.” 

Where to Go From Here

Leave Bonsai Shears and read about other Bonsai Tools, and see more Bonsai Supplies.

Concave Branch Cutter – A Perfect Bonsai Tool

The concave branch cutter, also known as Mataeda Hasami, is one of the most difficult bonsai tools to substitute when creating bonsai. This tool enables bonsai owners to prune their plant’s branches without damaging the main stem. If you don’t want to scar your bonsai when pruning it, use a concave branch cutter.

Courtesy of American Bonsai

Personal Insight

When I began creating bonsai, “real” bonsai tools were not that accessible. I would cut a branch off with heavy garden shears and then scrape the nub with an Exacto knife. 

My first real concave cutter seemed like a miracle.  It did exactly what its name says. It took less time and did a much better job. The unsightly stubs along branches and trunk lines were quickly eliminated, no “shaving” needed.  This tool comes in at least four sizes, and several variations.

Courtesy of American Bonsai

Buying Tips

Do not buy the two very smallest unless you intend to work with very small plants.  The largest size cutter takes most people two hands to manipulate.

The medium size (approximately 8″) is good for most pruning unless you are working with very large branches. In that case, you may even consider a saw first. Do not purchase what is called a “melon cutter” until you have more experience.

Using the Concave Cutters

If the wood of a branch is especially hard, take a few “bites” at a time. Even though they are overall very sturdy, bonsai tools can break. Never force any tool!

Be sure you have the correct size to do the job. Forcing it can cause damage to the equipment, your tree, and sometimes yourself.

When NOT to Use A Branch Cutter

Some plant examples with these segments (but not the only ones) are:

The reason not to use the concave cutter, in this case, is that these segments will die back to the next ring when cut into. Keep in mind, that any trees that tend to have ‘die-back’ should be flat cut, not concave.

Pitchecellobium tortum, also known as Chloroleucon tortum (the Brazilian raintree) is another good example of when not to use this bonsai tool.

Working on a tree with obviously segmented branches? You will see the rings on stems, branches or trunk. Put away the concave cutters.  They often cut into a different segment than you intended.

Select Tools Carefully

There are several types of branch cutters. One that looks similar is the spherical knob cutter. This tool makes a much deeper cut and is not recommended as a first tool.

If you are only going to buy one “real” bonsai tool, a concave branch cutter is the one.

Where to Go From Here

The concave branch cutter is just one of the ‘first’ tools‘. There are many other bonsai tools to consider.