Pruning Bonsai tree guide and tips…. Learn the art!

Your first pruning Bonsai tree session should be exciting and fun!

You will find that Spring and Summer are the busiest times for pruning and pinching, and you can look forward to watching your tree take shape!

So, what is pruning and pinching you ask?

Pinch 2

The main point of pinching and pruning is to increase the ‘bushiness’ and density of the tree’s branches.

By pinching and pruning, you force growth where you want it and ensure your tree remains vibrant, dense and healthy in the right areas.

So, do I hear the next question "how does pulling out these shoots make your tree bushier and bulkier?"

Well, you know how you look at trees in the wild and they have those nice, thick trunks like the one below?


You can achieve this by allowing your tree to grow. Just a lot smaller!

Hmmmm, but Bonsai doesn't allow a tree to grow, does it?

It does!

In pruning Bonsai tree sessions you are allowing the tree to grow, just as it would in the wild, except, it won't grow up and out. By trimming it back it will still outlive you and gain a nice thick trunk and branches, but scaled to the height you allow.

Amazing right?

If you don’t prune and pinch regularly and effectively, your tree will lose its shape, aesthetics and appeal.

We don't want that do we?

Many new Bonsai artists prune their trees to simply maintain the outline. This results in the inner-clusters of branches becoming entangled and long, not aesthetically pleasing!

Lets discuss the basic pruning bonsai tree principles!

Pruning Is the practice of cutting back stem or branch to maintain control over growth. You should usually prune with long handle shears and carefully select the branches you want to trim back.

Pinching Is the practice of using the thumb and forefinger (hence the name ‘pinching’) to pick out the growing tip of a new shoot. Pinching out the new shoot or tip you force the tree to bud further back.

Pruning and Pinching thus increases the bushiness of a tree's branches, rather than allowing it to grow up and out!

pinch 1


• You will see the new shoots, and to touch they are soft and fragile. Take the shoot between your thumb and forefinger and pull.

• Alternatively, you can use scissors, but this can damage the tree if you make a mistake. However, scissors can be practical if you have many shoots to pull.

• It can be a good idea to remove the top leaves or foliage to allow more light to penetrate through to the structure below.

• Pinch during Spring or Summer - periods of growth! Click Here to read more about Pruning in different seasons.....

Pinching Conifers

• Allow new growth to extend slightly before trimming back!

• Use thumb and forefinger to pinch out buds.

• You can also prune a Conifer simply by cutting off the ends of new growth. These ends look like foxes' tails. Simply cut the end of the tail!

Pinching Deciduous Trees

• Pinch off growth that extends past the tree outline or silhouette.

• Thin out density inside the tree.

Pinching Cypresses

• On most Cypresses it is hard to find new growth.

• Simply remove all end growth!

• Use thumb and forefinger to pull away shoots.

Pinching Needle Junipers

• In spring prune the Juniper to encourage new growth, and then:

• In summer, Use thumb and forefinger to pinch out new needles from the top of each 'crown'.

Pinching Chinesis and Media Junipers

• If you can feel soft shoots, pinch them out with your thumb and forefinger.

• Use scissors to prune if the shoots have become too hard.

Pinching Pines

• When Pines grow, they grow clusters of 2-5 'candles' (new shoots). When you can see a cluster (of over 2), pinch out all except 2.

• Use thumb and forefinger to pinch, or cut with scissors.

• By removing the candles you maintain ultimate control over branch weight and balance.


Do not prune a tree if it is sick…. Sick trees need all the strength they can get!

In keeping it very simple, most new shoots should be trimmed back when they reach around 1 or 2 cm in length.

Leave Pruning Bonsai Tree Guide and head back to Bonsai Care!