Wiring is a crucial technique to train and style Bonsai trees. By wrapping wire around the branches of a tree you are able to bend and reposition the branches. It will take a few months before the branches are set in their new shape; the wire should than be removed.
Wiring can be done year-round for most tree-species. Most deciduous species should be wired in late winter, the absence of leaves makes wiring much easier. During the growth season branches grow thick quite fast and as a result the wire will cut into the bark, creating ugly scars. Check on your tree regularly and remove the wire on time.
Using the right material is essential for wiring Bonsai trees. Basically, two kinds of wire can be used: anodized aluminum and annealed copper. The aluminum wire is used for deciduous species, while the harder copper wire is used for conifers and pines. For beginners it is advisable to use the anodized aluminum wire, which is easier to work with and sold in most (online) Bonsai shops.
Wire is available in a range of different thicknesses, varying from 1 to 8 mm. There is no need to purchase all the available wires; buying 1mm, 1.5mm, 2.5mm and 4mm thick wire should be perfect to start out with. When wiring thick branches it is recommended to wrap them first with raffia, which will protect the branches from being damaged by the wire when bending them.
How to wire a Bonsai tree?
Wiring is a tricky technique to master. Try to wire two branches of similar thickness located near each other with one piece of wire (double-wiring) where possible, and wire the remaining branches separately (single-wiring). Wire all the branches you intend to shape before actually bending them. When wiring an entire tree, work from the trunk to the primary branches and then start wiring the secondary branches. As a rule of thumb, use wire of 1/3 of the thickness of the branch you are wiring. The wire should be thick enough to hold the branch in its new shape.
Both wiring techniques will be discussed in more detail now and information about how to safely bend the wired branches will be provided at the end of this page. A step by step guide follows below. Using the right wire and Bonsai tools will help significantly.
Part 1: Double wiring a Bonsai
- First select the pair of branches you will wire; these have to be of the same thickness and located near each other on the tree. Do keep in mind that the wire should wrap around the trunk at least once (preferably twice) so the wire will not move when bending the branches later on.
- Now cut off the right length of wire to wrap around both the branches.
- Start with wrapping the wire around the trunk and proceed with the first branch. Wire from the base of the branch to the very tip before starting to wire the other branch. The wire should be wrapped around the branches at an angle of 45 degrees; this way the wire will enable the tree to grow thicker while remaining its new shape.
- When you intend to bend a branch downwards directly at the trunk make sure the wire comes from below. The wire should come from above when bending a branch upwards.
- After you have wired all suitable pairs of branches continue wiring the remaining branches using the single-wiring technique.
Part 2: Bonsai branch single wiring
- Similar to the double-wiring technique, cut off the right length of wire and start with wrapping it at least twice around the trunk at an angle of 45 degrees.
- When multiple wires are applied at the same part of the trunk/branch try to put them neatly in line.
- Now continue wiring the branch.
Bending the wired branches
After having wired the entire tree you can start bending and repositioning the branches. Use your hands to hold the outside of the branch with your fingers, now bend the branch from the inside of the curve with your thumbs. This way you reduce the risk of splitting branches by spreading the force around the outside of the branch. When a branch is in position stop moving it, as repeated bending will likely damage the branch. Try to bend straight sections of branches slightly to make it look more natural.
And then? Aftercare
Place the tree in the shade and fertilize as you would normally do. Watch the tree closely during the growth season and remove the wires in time to prevent them from cutting into the bark. Do not try to recycle wire by unwinding it as this might damage the tree; instead, cut the wire at every turn making it much easier to remove.