The trunk of a Bonsai deserves specific attention, as it is one of the most eye-catching features of a tree. The following features will be discussed: The Nebari, tapering, thickness and overall shape of the trunk.

 

 

How to create a good Bonsai trunk

 

The nebari

The Nebari (root-flare) is important in providing a Bonsai with a well-balanced appearance. More information can be found at the root-flare page.

 

Tapering

A trunk should be thicker at its base than at the top of the tree; this is called tapering. Although it is hard to improve irregularities in the thickness of a trunk (select trees well before buying them) it is possible to achieve minor changes:

  • Thickening part of the Bonsai trunk
    By allocating the tree’s growth to the branches just above the thin part of the trunk this part will benefit from an increase in the flow of nutrients and as a result grow thicker. Allocating growth can be done by pruning the entire tree except for the branches above the thin part on the trunk. This method is slow and it will take at least two years before you will start noticing any changes. As said before; selecting trees on its tapering trunk is important.

  • Thinning part of the trunk
    As it is impossible to make a trunk thinner, the only way to make the trunk tapering is to thicken the other parts of the trunk, using the method described above. However, it will take even longer before you can notice significant change. You might conceal the thick point by creating a Jin or Shari instead.

Tapering on a Bonsai tree

This trunk looks very mature; the base is significantly thicker than the top of the tree.

 

Bonsai trunk of a larch

This trunk also shows a beautiful taper, as well as movement.

 

Thickness

Bonsai plants often look older than they are when they have a thick and gnarly trunk. The only way for a trunk to grow thicker is to let the tree grow freely in a large container, without pruning it for several years. Once you are satisfied with the thickness of the trunk you can train it again and place it in a smaller pot.

One technique to thicken a trunk is to grow "sacrifice branches" from the trunk. These branches are not pruned at all for two to three years, thickening the trunk as they grow quickly. After the two to three years the branches are removed.

 

Sacrifice branch

Closeup

The branch growing to the right is the sacrifice branch, left untouched to help thicken the trunk.

 

 

Overall shape

The overall shape of a trunk is one of the most eye-catching aspects of a tree. As it is nearly impossible to bend a trunk once it reaches a certain thickness (until that point you can use a trunk-bender) it is important to take the shape of the trunk into account when buying it.