How to Wire Bonsai: A Beginner’s Guide

Wiring is an essential technique used in bonsai to shape and train the branches and trunk of a tree. Here's a beginner's guide on how to wire bonsai.
A small wired bonsai on hand.

Wiring is a fundamental technique for training and shaping a bonsai tree’s growth. It involves bending the trunk and branches into the desired shape by winding wire around them. While beginners might find wiring intimidating, if mastered, it is a satisfying skill that can turn your bonsai into a beautiful piece of art.

So, how do you wire a bonsai tree? The first thing to do is locate pairs of similar-sized branches you will wire. Next, wind the wire firmly around the branch, starting from where it joins the trunk. You will wind the wire around the trunk until you reach the chosen branch pairs and then continue wiring to the end of that branch. Lastly, you will bend into the desired shape. You can now repeat this process for the other selected branch pairs.

Whether you are a skilled bonsai lover or just getting started, this blog post will discuss everything you need to know about wiring bonsai. Read on to learn.

How To Prepare Your Bonsai Tree for Wiring

Before getting into the details of how to wire bonsai, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with how to prepare your tree for wiring.

There are several steps for prepping bonsai for wiring, including removing unwanted leaves and branches, pruning opposing branches, and removing crotch growth.

The first step in preparing your bonsai for wiring is cutting the leaves off every branch’s first half inch. This enables the wire to grasp the branch securely and keeps the wire from falling or hurting the branch.

Use a pair of pruning shears to carefully cut away the leaves and branches, not harming the surviving branch.

Next, trim the branch’s crotch growth if there is any. The buds or tiny branches that sprout at the joint of two branches are called crotch growth.

A bonsai tree wrapped in a wire.
It’s essential to familiarize yourself with how to prepare your tree for wiring.

These growths could make weak spots in the branch and mess with wiring. Clearing crotch growth helps achieve sturdier and more stable branches that are easier to wire.

Lastly, cut any opposing branches to avoid structural issues with the branch. Opposing branches are those that develop on a branch directly crosswise from one another.

As the tree grows, such branches may lead to structural issues like an inverse taper. You can prevent these problems by carefully pruning out one of the opposing branches, keeping the other one intact.

It’s crucial to ensure your bonsai is healthy and watered well before wiring it. A malnourished or dehydrated tree might not withstand the wiring process and is more at risk of damage.

So, before designing your bonsai, ensure it gets enough water and grows well.

Step-By-Step Guide to Wiring Your Bonsai Tree

Now that you have finished preparing your bonsai for wiring, it is time to wire it. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to wire a bonsai.

Step 1: Locate pairs of same-sized branches

The first thing  you need to do is to locate pairs of branches of similar size that are growing next to each other. You will wire these branches together to get the desired form and shape.

Wiring branches in pairs helps to secure the wire to the bonsai, thus holding the branches firmly in place.

A hand pointing at the wires at the bonsai tree.
You will wire these branches together to get the desired form and shape.

Selecting branches of comparable sizes helps you to choose the correct wire gauge that suits both branches. This ensures it is thick enough to secure both branches but not so thick that it could break them in the process.

Step 2: Apply 3 bends of wire to the first branch

Wind the wire firmly around the branch, starting from where the branch joins the trunk. You should wind the wire thrice at a 50–60 degree angle.

Ensure the wire is level with the branch as you wind it and be careful not to disturb or damage the surrounding leaves.

Once the wire has been wound three times, it should be sturdy enough to be twisted in the opposite direction towards the pair branch.

Step 3: Wire along the length of the paired branch

Wind the wire around the trunk until it reaches your chosen pair of branches, then proceed to the branch’s apex.

Always keep your turns at a 50–60 degree angle to prevent hurting the surrounding foliage. With this angle, the wire can bend as required while retaining the turn.

Step 4: Finish wiring the first branch

You can now finish wiring the branch you started with to the end.

Step 5: Bend the branch into the desired position

Applying little pressure, bend the branch gently into a natural curve. Make sure you retain the leaves on the outside of the curve and prune any that appear inside of the bends.

With the branch, try to imitate how a tree grows naturally by giving it a natural movement. If you are working on younger bonsai, allow the branch some flexibility since the bends will look more natural as the tree and the branches grow.

A copper wire at the bonsai.
Don’t be alarmed if you hear a slight snap or pop in a branch.

Overbending or forcing the branch into place can damage it or its bark. So, take your time and be gentle on the branch, making little modifications until you attain the desired shape.

Don’t be alarmed if you hear a slight snap or pop in a branch. This usually comes from the branch’s outer layer, which almost always heals if less than 50% of its diameter is broken. 

If a branch does break, leave it alone and use a wound sealant to fasten the healing process. 

Step 6: Repeat

Repeat the same procedure for the other branches, wiring them in pairs to maintain the tree’s symmetry and balance.

Take your time on each pair, ensuring the branches are well-positioned, the wire is tight, and the leaves are properly aligned to give your bonsai a natural look.

How to Remove Bonsai Wire

You must be as cautious when removing bonsai wire as you were when fixing it since you may cause as much damage either way. There are two methods used to remove bonsai wire;

The first is to unravel it. However, this can be dangerous since the branch may bend and break if you don’t support the rear end of the wire as you unravel the front.

You can use this technique, but you must be extra careful to learn how to do it right.

The second way to remove bonsai wire is by cutting it off using specialized cutters. These wire cutters have a rounded snout to prevent cutting the branch or trunk during wire removal. 

The safest and easiest way to remove wires is to cut them off in sections at each rotation point. Some people unwind wire so they can straighten it out and reuse it.

However, this is not advisable since once a wire is used, it becomes weak and cannot hold equally well.

Besides, making it perfectly straight again is impossible, so if you reuse it, its tiny knots may cling to the bark and bruise or damage your bonsai.

Common Mistakes Made When Wiring Bonsai

Using incorrect wire thickness

You may damage your bonsai if you use a wire that is either too thick or too thin. If the wire is excessively thick, it may cut into the bark and injure the tree, leaving unattractive scars.

Similarly, if the wire is thick enough, it won’t provide the support the branches need, so they may not bend properly.

A hand wiring a bonsai.
You may damage your bonsai if you use a wire that is either too thick or too thin.

The rule of thumb is to use a wire about a third of the diameter of the trunk or branch you are wiring.

Wiring part of the bonsai

Beginners frequently make the mistake of wiring half of a bonsai and leaving the other half for later. If you forget to wire the second half, your bonsai may prioritize the unwired branches over the wired ones.

This is especially true for junipers, and it might lead to the wired part dying because bonsai prioritizes the development of the unwired branches.

Leaving the wire on for too long

If the wire is left on the branch too long, it can cut into the bark and cause permanent scarring or injure the tree.

Therefore, you need to remove it as soon as your bonsai takes on the desired shape. This can take anywhere between a few weeks to months, depending on the type and size of the tree.

A tiny wire bite is okay in species with rough bark, but severe scarring might harm the branch’s structure.

Wiring in the wrong season

Wiring your bonsai at the wrong time could damage it. The best time to wire a tree is during its active growing season, generally from early spring through late summer.

A bonsai indoor.
Wiring your bonsai at the wrong time could damage it.

Wiring during the dormancy period may result in the death of the branches since the tree has a lower capacity to repair any damage.

Final Thoughts

Wiring is essential for achieving and maintaining your bonsai’s desired form and shape. With suitable wire, perfect timing, and proper preparation, wiring can help you attain the ideal look and improve the health of your bonsai.

You can encourage your tree’s growth and health while enhancing its natural beauty by following the above guide and avoiding common mistakes.

With enough practice and patience, you may master the skill of bonsai wiring and create stunning bonsai you will admire for years.

Last update on 2023-07-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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