Even Athletes Need a Break…

If we constantly nibble at our bonsai with scissors or pruners throughout the year, we usually don’t get anywhere good. Bonsai that don’t get a break from our delight at cutting back become exhausted.

In weightlifting and other extreme sports you can’t lift every day of the week. Some days a bicyclist training for a race will ride 100 miles. Other days they don’t ride a single mile, they take a breather and let the body rebuild. Go out strongly, rest.

For the bonsai this is much the same. If we nibble with scissors every day the plant will give up, because the elongation of shoots gives it energy; it’s like running around the track. Yes, it takes energy to do so, but like a lot of things, it also gives energy back.

A constantly nibbled bonsai looks much the same, save perhaps the perspiration

In early development, bonsai stock are let grow rampant for the growing season. This builds biomass. It also builds a greater response after cutback. Generally, young trees are cut back later in the year, usually in the fall.

Many refined bonsai, on the other hand, are often cut back earlier in the year, just after spring growth hardens off, as we are less interested in biomass building than in ramification with fine twigs—a different goal. And each species has its own cut-back timing.

Both training goals—early development and refined—do allow the tree to run around for a bit. An elongating shoot is growing roots and overall tree robustness. And being timely with the scissors rather than nibbling every week is the path to perpetual vigor.

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  1. Joe Vincenti says:

    Well said

  2. Dane says:

    Unfortunately this is often a lesson learned the hard way. Thanks for publishing a topic that is too often over looked.

  3. GRANT RAUZI says:

    “Old tree or young tree?…Skinny tree or fat tree?…” 🙂

  4. Peter Keane says:


  5. Charlie says:

    Great advice!! So true.

  6. Iris Tio says:

    How does it differ, if any, for conifers, deciduous, tropicals, etc? Always enjoy your posts! Thanks.

  7. Joyce says:

    In 1995 after my son was born, my trees which had previously poked along really took off since I didn’t have the time to nibble them all the time. Now that we are empty nesters, I will have to be careful about the nibbling. Thanks! Joyce

  8. John Wiessinger says:

    Super post. This very basic, yet crucial, information needs to be repeated often. Thanks for sharing.

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