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5 Easy Steps To Train Bonsai With Wire

Wire-training bonsai trees isn’t exactly a necessity, but it can be an extremely beneficial way to guide their growth and design. 

To train a bonsai with wire, you need to start at the right time of year, choose an appropriately sized wire, and wrap the branches and trunk snugly. 

Also, remember that wiring is a delicate process. 

You need to make sure you don’t wire too tight, and you need to do so at an angle, starting from the inside of the tree and moving to the outside.

Although the process may seem tricky, there’s no reason to fret. 

I’m going to give you my best tips so that you can learn how to train your bonsai tree with wire from start to finish. 

I’ll even explore how to manage the tree and maintain its shape with long-term training. 

When to Train a Bonsai With Wire

Evergreen vs. Deciduous

The ideal time to wire your bonsai tree depends on what type of tree you have. 

You can often wire evergreen trees and shrubs any time of the year without issue. 

However, if you have a deciduous tree that you are using for bonsai, it might be worth it to wait until the later winter months or early in the spring before new growth begins.

Spring is an especially good time to wire bonsai trees that are primarily outdoor plants.

Overall, at these times of the year, the branches will be bare of leaves, and you’ll be able to manage the wiring much easier.

Wire After Pruning

It’s also essential to wire your bonsai tree around the same time that you prune it. 

I suggest wiring the branches and trunk soon after you’ve pruned. 

Wetness/Dryness When Wiring

It usually doesn’t make much of a difference how wet or dry the tree is when you wire it. 

Yet, some bonsai growers prefer to wait a few days after watering so that the flexibility of the branches is at a middle ground. 

5 Steps to Train a Bonsai With Wire

Step One: Choose Your Bonsai Wiring Tools

The first step for training bonsai trees with wire is to select your wire type and other tools.

Many bonsai growers prefer to use pliers to wrap the wire around their trees, but this tool isn’t necessary. 

You may, however, need to acquire a pair of protective gardening gloves if you’re working with a type of plant that has poisonous or irritating sap.

You will also, of course, need some wire. 

So, below, I have listed some of the pros and cons of each type of bonsai wiring option to help you decide which is best for you.

Aluminum WiringAn anodized wire, this choice is best for those new to bonsai growing, works well on trees with thinner barks, is cheap, and is readily available
Copper WiringMore expensive, copper is an annealed wire better for advanced bonsai growers and trees with thicker bark
“Bonsai Wiring”Not necessarily different from copper or aluminum wiring, just marketed specifically for bonsai training

I suggest using aluminum wiring, as it’s easy to correct any mistakes you make with this decent quality wiring.

But, keep in mind that if you use aluminum wiring, you want it to be about half as thick as the branches on your tree.

Additionally, be aware that you should never use a random wire on your bonsai branches or trunk. 

Steel wiring and electric cables, for example, will not work well for bonsai training because they’re too stiff to mold.

Step Two: Prepare Your Bonsai Wire

Next, I suggest pre-measuring and pre-cutting your bonsai wires before you begin to save you some hassle and waste.

You also want to decide the thickness of the wire you’re going to need before you start since a wire that’s too thin won’t help the branches stay bent. 

Conversely, a wire that’s too thick may put too much stress on a branch or trunk and damage it. 

Wire Thickness

Typically, bonsai trees need a wire to be between 1 and 2.5 mm thick. 

However, you’ll need wire of greater strength for larger trees. 

Small trees typically do just fine with 100 g strength wiring, while thicker, more hardy bonsai trees may need 250 g strength wiring.

Wire Length

When it comes to pre-cutting your wires, you should cut them to be about ⅓ longer than the branch or trunk you’ll use them on.

Thus, you’ll need to get a ruler and measure the lengths of each branch or the trunk that you are going to wire.

Overall, pre-cutting and measuring your wires ensure you won’t end up with a wire too short or long.

Step Three: Wrap Your Bonsai Wire

Finally, it’s time to start training your bonsai tree with the wire you’ve selected. 

Wiring the Trunk

You might want to first start with the tree’s trunk, as this is the plant’s main growth. 

Then, afterward, you can work your way outwards to the branches.

To wrap the trunk, I like to begin wrapping the wire at the trunk’s base and work my way up to the top of the tree.

This way, you’ll be coiling the wire from the “strong” parts of the tree to the “weak” parts of the tree (i.e., thickest to thinnest).

Additionally, I suggest applying the wires in the direction in which you plan to bend the trunk. 

Just be sure not to wrap too tightly or force the coils too close together when performing this step. 

If you do wrap too tight, the metal wiring might start slicing into the bark, which will leave it vulnerable.

Yet, you also don’t want to wrap too loosely, as the tree won’t bend right if you do.

And finally, remember never to cross the wires on your bonsai tree.

Wiring the Branches

The process of wiring the branches is relatively similar to wiring the trunk. 

You’ll just be using a thinner wire and have a different length to cover. 

You’ll want to work from the inside of the tree (part of the branch closest to the trunk) outwards towards the branch tips. 

And again, don’t cross the wires, don’t wrap too tightly (but stay snug), and don’t make the coils too close together. 

Should I Double Wire?

In some cases, bonsai growers may wish to double-wire the branches or the trunk of the tree. 

Double-wiring is beneficial if you want two separate branches to grow in the same bending direction, as this method will give them added support as they grow. 

To do this, you should use one bonsai wire, wrapping it in the technique I shared earlier, but this time, you should wrap it around both branches at the same time. 

But whether you use a single- or double-wiring method to train your tree, just be sure not to do any bending until you have finished wiring.

Step Four: Train Your Bonsai Branches Into Shape

Once you have finished applying wires to the desired branches and trunk of your bonsai tree, you can begin training it. 

And there are hundreds of ways to shape and bend the branches of your bonsai tree to achieve different bonsai designs and styles, so you have plenty of options.

Bonsai Training Shapes and Styles 

Some of the most popular types of bonsai styles include the following:

  • Cascading bonsai – branches gradually grow downwards
  • Semi-cascading bonsai – not as severe of a downward growth as cascading bonsai
  • Formal upright bonsai – upward growth, where the trunk is thicker at the bottom and gradually gets thinner towards the top
  • Broom bonsai – for deciduous trees with small branches, looks like a miniature of a natural tree
  • Slanting bonsai – branches lean in one direction at about 60-80 degrees
  • Literati bonsai – a tall trunk with very few branches or leaves except at the very top

Bending the Wired Branches

Whichever type of style you choose, you may want to find a reference picture to guide you as you start bending branches. 

Then, to begin, you need to find a few limbs on your tree that you want to sculpt. 

Next, slowly turn them in the preferred direction. 

And don’t forget that bending the branches is a delicate process where you don’t want to make any changes too fast or too harshly. 

Thus, avoid bending the limbs so far that you stress the plant or the wire cuts into the bark.

You should continue to shape the branches until you are satisfied. 

Step Five: Care for and Maintain Your Wired Bonsai 

The last step of training bonsai trees with wire is to maintain them over time. 

Maintenance training is necessary to keep the shape of the tree. 

Furthermore, as you prune your tree again in the future, you’ll facilitate new growth of foliage and branches, which will need their own wiring over time. 

It will take just a few months before limbs start growing around the wiring, at which point you need to remove the wires before they cut the bark.

To properly take off the wiring, cut them at every coil – don’t simply try to unwind the wire.

Final Thoughts

For bonsai growers wanting to know how to train bonsai with wire, I hope my guide has helped.

With the right tools – such as aluminum or copper wiring, pliers, and gloves – you can pre-measure and cut your wires to apply to the tree’s branches and trunk. 

Next, working from the inside-out and bottom-up, you can wire and shape your tree.

Then, after some time, your bonsai will look just how you want it.

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