How long do you leave wire on a bonsai tree

Wiring Bonsai trees to shape and bend the branches

When should I apply wire?

Most tree species can be wired at any time of the year. However deciduous trees are much easier to wire in late winter due to the absence of leaves. Be attentive when wiring during the growing season as branches grow thick quite fast can result in ugly scars from the wire cutting into the bark. Check on your tree regularly and make sure to remove the wiring on time.

Types of wire

There are two kinds of wire that can be used for Bonsai: Anodized aluminum and annealed copper. Aluminum wire is better when used for deciduous species, while the harder copper wire is best for conifers and pines. However, If you're a beginner we advise you to use the anodized aluminum wire. It is easier to work with and sold in most online Bonsai stores.

Wire is available in sizes from 1-8mm thick (gauges 20 to 2). There is no need to purchase every available wire gauge. We suggest starting with; 1mm, 1. 5mm, 2.5mm, and 4mm thick wires. When wiring thick branches we recommended wrapping them with raffia soaked in water first, to protect the branches from being damaged by the wire when shaping. Raffia is a palm fiber that's available in most garden supply centers.

Copper wire.
Aluminum wire.

Wiring can be a tricky technique to master. Whenever possible, wire two branches of similar thickness near each other using a single piece of wire. This technique is known as 'double-wiring' and it provides more support for both branches. The remaining branches should be wired separately using single-wiring. Make sure to wire all the branches you intend on shaping before actually bending them. When wiring an entire Bonsai tree, work from the trunk to the primary branches, and then start wiring the secondary branches. As a rule of thumb, use wires that are 1/3 of the thickness of the branch you are wiring. The wire should be thick enough to hold the branch in its new position.

We will discuss both double and single wiring techniques in more detail now, and we'll cover how to safely bend the wired branches at the end of this section. Follow this step-by-step guide, and be sure to use the right wire and Bonsai tools.

Wiring a Bonsai tree illustration, click to enlarge! Try to wire two branches with a single piece of wire, and try to avoid crossing wires whenever possible. This illustration provides a general guideline, but keep in mind that every tree is different.

Bending the wired branches

Once the entire tree is wired, you can begin bending and repositioning the branches. Hold the outside of the branch you want to bend with your fingers and bend the branch from the inside of the curve with your thumbs. it's important to apply force on the inside of the branch to reduce the risk of splitting. When the branch is positioned where you want it, refrain from moving it. Repeated bending will likely damage the branch. Try to bend straight sections of branches slightly to make them look more natural.


Guy-wiring is a method of bending branches downwards when they are too thick, old, or brittle to be bent with coiled wire. Be sure to anchor your guy-wires on sturdy points such as a strong surface root, a strong branch, or even the pot. The guy wire is usually a thin (1mm) wire. Make sure to protect the branch with a small piece of rubber or plastic as the wire will put a considerable amount of force on it, also see the step-by-step guide below for more detail.


Place the tree in the shade and fertilize as you would normally. It's important to keep a watchful eye on the tree during the growing season so the wires don't damage your tree. Branches will grow around the wires in 1-4 months, depending on how fast the tree grows, damaging the bark and leaving permanent scars. Make sure you remove the wires before they start digging into the bark. When removing wiring, it's best to cut the wire at every turn. Do not try to recycle wire by unwinding it off of the branches. Unwinding will most likely damage the tree.

When Do You Remove The Wire From Your Bonsai? – Back Garden Bonsai

So you’ve wired and styled your bonsai tree and now you are asking how long the wire should stay on your bonsai?

I can’t give a straight answer as there is too many variables. Wire can stay on a bonsai tree for a couple of weeks all the way up to a couple of months. It depends on the tree, the size of the branch, the time of year and even how it was wired.

As a very general rule, the wire needs to be removed when it’s been on long enough for the branch to have set into place, but not long enough to cause any damage.

You need to find that sweet spot and that is going to be a different time for each individual piece of wire you apply.

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How Bonsai Wiring Works

Wiring a bonsai works by holding a branch in the position you want. You take a piece of wire that is stronger than the branch and wrap it around it. (This is the very basic explanation). You then bend the branch and move it into the shape or position you like. As the wire is stronger, it keeps the branch in this new position.  

As the branch grows, it sets in this new position.  (You can read more information about Why We Wire Trees)

Bonsai Wire should be applied so that it is snug against the branch. You can sort of compare it to a ring on your finger. Rings should be tight enough so it touches the skin and doesn’t slip off the finger, but isn’t so tight its hurts or gets stuck.  Wire on a tree needs to be like this too.

You almost want there to be a little bit of space between the wire and the tree to allow the branch to grow in to it. As it starts to grow become tight against the wire, it should have hopefully grown enough to have set into place.

On the other hand you cannot have the wire too loose or it will not be functional and you will not be able to bend the branch effectively.  

If you watch a new shoot grow, it will come out soft and green. As it grows it become thicker and stronger. You will also see it also starts to turn woody and lignify. Even older branches do something similar. As they grow new layers of cells are formed under the bark making the branch thicker and stronger.

If you have changed the position and shape of the branch the cells under the bark will still grow. They thicken and strengthen the branch in this new shape so it permanently set in this new position.

At this point you can then remove the wire and the branch will remain in the new position or shape that you chose. 

When Is The Ideal Time To Remove Bonsai Wire?

The goal is to keep the wire on for as long as possible so it can let the branch set, but remove it before it causes any damage.

You need to find the sweet spot in-between this, where the branch has grown enough to allow it to set in place, but not grown so much that it has started to cut it.

There is no set time for how long this can take!

This could be three weeks, this could three months or it could even be three years. The wire needs to be removed when it is ready to be removed.

As a general guide you want to remove it just as it is getting a little too tight. If there is a slight mark left, this is usually fine, but anything more than this can be bad.

I discuss below in more detail about the effects of removing the wire to early or too late.

If you remove it while it is just getting a bit too tight, you should be fine. It is safer to do this and find out you have removed it too soon, rather wait until it is too late and have damaged the tree.

 (I will be coming back to this article to add some pictures, showing the stages of wire getting tight, which will hopefully be more helpful)

How To Check If Your Bonsai Wire Needs To Be Removed

As there is no set time for how long wire should stay on a bonsai tree, the only way to check your wire is to look at it. You need to physically inspect each piece of wire to see if any of it has gotten too tight.

You will need to keep an eye on the tree and see how it is growing. The faster it grows, the quicker the branch will thicken and start cutting into the wire.

You need to consider factors such as time of year, how much fertiliser you have given, the thickness of the wire, how you applied it and the general growth habits of your species.

If it is the middle of winter and your tree is not growing, you probably don’t need to check it that often.

If it is the middle of spring and it is having some crazy growth spurts you might want to check your wire a little more often, the branches are likely to thicken really fast.

It is also important to know that throughout an individual tree some areas will grow quicker than others. So you need to look at each branch you have wired individually. Just because one branch is looking fine, does not mean another is not cutting in.

You will also find that a single branch may thicken up quicker at one end compared to the other. So you should check the whole length of the wire to make sure nothing is biting in.

If this is the case, you can remove wire from certain branches or even remove sections of the wire along one branch if it is cutting in. You do not need to remove all the wire at once. You can remove it in stages and leave parts on until it is ready to be removed.

What Happens If You Remove Bonsai Wire Too Soon?

Taking wire off to early will not harm the bonsai tree, but it will harm your artist/ aesthetic goals.

If you remove it before the branch has set it will just move back to where it was originally was.

Basically, if you take it off too early you are pretty much wasting your time. It’s like taking something out of the oven before its finished cooking.

Depending how aggressive the bends where and how long the wire has been on the tree will determine how much it springs back to its original position.

If this happens, and you are not happy with where the branches are now, you will have to re-wire the branch and bend it back to where you want it.  

What Happens If You Leave Bonsai Wire On For Too Long?

Removing wire too late can actually be a very big problem.

As the tree grows, it will start to push up against the wire. As wire is applied in a coil like fashion, it looks as though the tree is being squeezed by the wire. The reality is that the tree is expanding outward and actually growing into the wire.

As the wire is stronger than the branch, the tree cannot move it so the wire stays in position. This means that as tree expands it will have to grow around the wire.

At first it will push right up against the wire and it will look like the wire is on very tight against the branch.

Eventually it will get so tight that it will start to dig in. This will now start leaving marks on the branch.

As the tree keeps growing it will really start to bite in. The branch will start to grow up and around the side of the wire almost looking like it has started to dig in to the branch.

If this is left the wire will be almost consumed by the branch. The wire will be really deep into the branch and may be impossible to remove at this point.

The branch will eventually fully grow over the wire and you will not be to see it anymore.

What Do You Do If Wire Has Damaged Your Bonsai?

If you wait too long and the wire has started to cut in to your bonsai, you need to remove it as soon as possible.

If it is just starting to cut in, it may leave a mark. If this is the case you might be okay. In some species the mark will just fade away over time and in other more delicate bark trees, it may be scared for life.

If the wire has started to really bite in, you need to carefully remove it. You should cut away small sections at a time. You need to carefully pull the wire straight out, vertical to the angle it is at. Basically you do not want to touch the bark on either side of the wire. It is very easy to pull this bark off.

If the back is removed here it can come off almost in a ring, as it follows the coiling of the wire. If you remove a ring of bark like this, there is a strong chance that you will kill the whole branch.

If you have left your wire on this long it will leave your tree with deep scars. As the branch swells around the wire you will be left with deep grooves along your tree. These grooves are made worse by the branch swelling and growing straight up along the side of the wire, so you will get a number of peaks and troughs along the branch.    

 This can look very unsightly and it may never heal over. It will depend on the severity, the species and the size of the branch.  In general you want to avoid this. There is no real cure. You will just have to wait and see how the tree heals.  Often you may need to remove the branch and grow a new one, if this is possible.

If you are finding this article useful you should also check out my YouTube Channel, I post new video’s every Sunday.

I like to show each of my Bonsai trees journey throughout the year in a sort of time lapse, along with some tips and techniques throughout the video.

Back Garden Bonsai Youtube Channel

Can You Leave Bonsai Wire On Forever?

Technically the tree will keep growing around the wire and swallow it up.

In some species, although not ideal, this is harmless and over time the wire will just get buried in the branch.

This is sometimes used to thicken up some species of pine trunks. Wire is wrapped around the trunk and then left.  The tree grows into it and then over it. The swelling over the wire actually makes the trunk look thicker.   

In other species this technique is not advised. The wire will cut in and actually constrict the flow of sap up the branch, so it effectively strangles it and it causes it dies.

As a general rule you shouldn’t leave your bonsai wire on any longer than it is needed.  It will usually cause more problems than advantages in the long run.   

You may also be interested in reading about What Is Bonsai Wire?

Shaping bonsai with wire

Shaping bonsai with wire

The use of wire is the most important method of shaping bonsai. By wrapping tree branches with wire, you can bend them and give them the desired shape and position. It will take several months before the branches "remember" the new shape; after that, the wire can be removed.

Wire laying time

Most tree species can be wired all year round. During the growing season, the branches thicken rather quickly, and as a result, the wire can cut into the bark, leaving ugly scars on it. Check your tree regularly and remove the wire in a timely manner.

Choosing the wire

It is important to choose the right wire for your bonsai. Generally, two types of wire are used: anodized aluminum wire and annealed copper wire. Beginners are advised to use anodized aluminum wire, which is easier to use and is available in most (online) bonsai shops. The wire of different section is on sale: from 1 to 8 mm. There is no need to buy wire in all available sizes; for starters, it is enough to purchase a wire with a cross section of 1mm, 1. 5mm and 2.5mm. Before winding thick branches, it is recommended to pre-wrap them with raffia, which will protect the bark from damage during subsequent bending.

If possible, try to wind two branches of the same thickness next to each other with one piece of wire, and the remaining branches with separate pieces of wire. Wrap all the branches that need shaping first, and then start bending them. When wrapping the whole tree, start with the trunk, then move on to the primary branches, and only then to the secondary ones. Use wire with a cross section of about 1/3 of the thickness of the wrapped branch. The wire should be thick enough to hold the branch in its new position.

In the following we will take a closer look at both wire laying methods. At the end of this chapter, you will find information on how to safely bend wired branches. Using a good tool makes this process much easier.

Wrap two bonsai branches at once

  • First select the pair of branches you want to wire. They should be the same thickness and located close to each other. Keep in mind that you must first secure the wire by making at least one turn around the trunk (preferably two turns) so that the wire does not move when the branches are subsequently bent.
  • Now cut a piece of wire to the required length to wrap both strands.
  • First wrap the wire around the trunk and then move on to wrapping the first branch. Wrap the branch with wire from its base to the very end before moving on to another branch. The wire should be wound around the branch at an angle of 45 degrees, then the branch can continue to grow in thickness, maintaining a given shape.
  • If you intend to bend the branch down, wind the wire around the trunk below the branch first. Conversely, the wire must first be wound on the section of the trunk above the branch, if it will be bent upwards.
  • After completing the wire wrapping of all matching pairs of strands, continue wrapping the remaining strands, each with a separate piece of wire.

Single branch wire

  • As in the case of two branches with one piece of wire, first cut a piece of wire to the required length and wrap it around the trunk at least two turns at an angle of 45 degrees.
  • After that, proceed to wrapping the branch.
  • If several pieces of wire are wound around the same part of the trunk or branch, try to do this carefully, winding them side by side parallel to each other.

Bending wired branches

After wrapping the whole tree with wire, you can start bending the branches and change their position. Holding the base and tip of the branch with both hands, bend the branch by resting your thumbs on the fold point. Thus, by distributing the force along the entire length of the branch, you will reduce the risk of it splitting. When the branch is in the right position, leave it alone, as bending in the same place multiple times will most likely damage it. Try to slightly bend the straight sections of the branches so that they look more natural.


Place the tree in the shade and fertilize as usual. Carefully inspect the tree during the growth period and promptly remove the wire before it cuts into the bark. Do not attempt to unwind the wire as this may damage the bark. Instead, it is better to cut the wire with special wire cutters at the place of each of its turns, after which it will be much easier to remove.

Trimming and shaping Bonsai

Without a doubt, the most important way to stimulate the growth of your bonsai is regular trimming of the crown and branches. There are 2 main ways to shear a bonsai - regular trimming to maintain the existing shape and a more radical method - shearing to create the style and initial shape of the bonsai.

Before learning both techniques thoroughly, it is important to first understand the general information about tree growth. This knowledge will help us cut bonsai in the most efficient way.

Trees have a natural tendency to grow upwards, which is called "apical dominance". This mechanism is a defense mechanism for the tree that helps the plant avoid being shaded by other trees in the forest.

When the top and side branches grow effectively, the inner and bottom branches usually die, while the top branches grow disproportionately. This feature of the tree's natural growth is highly undesirable when growing bonsai. But understanding this fact gives us the opportunity to correctly trim the bonsai to give it the correct (desirable) shape

Prevention of the apical dominance factor is achieved by carefully trimming the top and side branches of the plant, thus forcing the plant to redistribute the growth of the inner and lower parts of the crown.

The main purpose of trimming is to shape and maintain the shape of the tree, so it is important to trim the top and sides regularly to encourage growth of the inner parts of the tree.

Bonsai maintenance

When to do it?

Trimming bonsai can be done throughout the entire growth period of the plant.

How to do it?

As stated above, bonsai shearing is necessary when the shape of the tree needs to be maintained. To do this, simply trim the branches/shoots that have grown over the desired bonsai shape using scissors. Don't be afraid to trim your bonsai; it is important, especially for the top and outer parts of the tree, to trim regularly to make the tree grow more evenly and for the tree to develop denser foliage.

Unlike deciduous trees, coniferous bonsai do not need to be trimmed, but plucked with your fingers. If you use conifer bonsai scissors, brown needles will form at the cut points. To avoid this, hold the top of the shoot between your fingers and pull gently, the shoot will break off at its weakest point and the brown tips will not appear.

Basic rules for shaping bonsai:

1. Give yourself time to think and observe the plant to determine the shape of your future tree. Do not immediately take scissors in your hands !!!

2. Try to create as low a bonsai as possible, the ideal proportions of trunk thickness and tree height are 1:7, for example, trunk diameter is 2 cm, tree height is 14 cm.

3. First, cut strong branches, because they are long and very difficult to shape and direct. Leaving thinner branches gives the impression that the trunk is thicker

4. The top should grow straight up

5. The side branches should grow straight to the sides. Thus, most of the trunk and branches will be visible.

6. The branches on the front of the bonsai must be removed, only small branches and shoots may remain on the upper part of the crown

7. Only the lower part of the crown may be bushy

8. The lower part of the trunk (about 1/3 of the plant) must be completely branchless

9. The main branch must grow as low as possible

10. Unnatural branches that cannot be guided with wire are best removed; It is also necessary to remove branches that grow opposite each other at the same height on the trunk or grow very close to each other

11. Viewed from above, the branches should be placed so as not to overlap

12. After trimming, the crown should look less "poorer" than the ideal state of the tree

13. Each cut/cut is an interference with the hormonal state plants, so after shaping (basic) bonsai haircuts, let the plant rest for at least 2 months.

14. Ficus and euphorbia ooze white matter at the cut sites. Its outflow can be stopped by a plentiful spray of clean water or a short (1 second) cauterization with a lighter.

Another method of bonsai shearing is to remove leaves from deciduous trees in summer to force the bonsai to release new leaves. This method quickly leads to a decrease in the size of the leaves and a sharp increase in the branching of the tree.

Basic Bonsai Forming

To give the bonsai its basic shape, you have to decide which branches you keep and which you need to remove completely or partially.


Early spring or late autumn is the right time to give the basic form to the tree (before or after the growth period of the plant).

Bonsai is a miniature tree. The different forms that we give to it, we copy from nature (see the Bonsai Classification section). Sometimes it is necessary to give shape to create a bonsai from a plant or to maintain the character of an existing bonsai. Trimming the crown and guiding the branches with wire are the most important steps in maintaining a perfect bonsai shape. The growth of different types of indoor bonsai is different and some of them, such as ligistrum, need to be cut very often. But unlike him, the podocarpus must be cut once a year. Indoor bonsai are sheared, wired and transplanted at any time of the year, but the best time for any intervention is March or April. It is necessary to do a basic haircut of the crown after transplantation and maintenance regular haircuts during the growing season. It is necessary to use scissors, a special nail file or a knife. For the safety of the plant, we seal large areas of cuts with a special paste for bonsai.

Cutting shoots and leaves

It is necessary to leave the kidneys only where the branch should grow, it is better to remove the rest. To maintain the correct shape, it is best to always prune new shoots. Thus, the tree will be healthier and stronger. The crown will receive more air, light, while continuing to give new shoots.

The first leaf on the branch after cutting shows the direction of growth of the new shoot. This property is used by the Chinese "cut and let grow" method. You should always remember this when cutting. We constantly cut off new shoots that grow above the crown with scissors or pinch off with our nails. You can use tweezers. On bonsai with small leaves, we cut new shoots along the contour of the crown or “cloud” of the branch.

Large-leaf bonsai, such as ficuses, we cut 2-3 leaves deeper than the crown. If the bonsai has outgrown its desired shape, we can prune it radically (cut it clean, right down to thick branches) in the spring-summer period (a period with enough light). This manipulation should never be done in winter and you should not pluck the leaves, it is better to cut them. The best way is when it is possible to place the tree afterwards in the garden or on the balcony in a well-lit area.

The correct way to prune large dry and old branches is to cut them deep, to the very bark, leaving the stem smooth and covering the cut with special bonsai paste. After using this method, after a while the bark will tighten and the place of scars will not be visible.

To change the shape of the stem, branches or to create a bonsai, the method of wrapping the stem or branches with wire is used. The wire is left for the necessary time to fix the desired direction of growth of the branch or trunk. In some cases (eg trees with very soft stems) weights are sometimes used to change the direction of growth.


After the basic formation of the trunk, a new top will be formed from one of the branches of the tree. If it does not grow vertically upwards, we can fix it in the required direction with a wire. After shortening the top to 3-5 buds after the last branch, we get the required height of the tree.

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