Bonsai Tonight

Defoliating a Korean hornbeam

Posted in Bonsai Development by Jonas Dupuich on July 17, 2012

I’ve been defoliating and partially defoliating my bonsai for years – particularly my trident maple bonsai. Somewhere along the line I picked up a Korean hornbeam, but this tree I didn’t defoliate. I hesitated the first several years because I was working on developing basic branch structure. I hesitated the last few years our of ignorance about what might happen if I removed all of the tree’s leaves.

During the past year, several Japanese bonsai professionals recommended that I defoliate the tree. I wasn’t sure how the tree would react, but I thought I’d give it a try. It felt strange to wager on the outcome with one of my favorite trees, but somehow I managed enough courage to remove all of the leaves this past May.

Defoliating a Korean hornbeam

Korean hornbeam – May 6th, 2012

Defoliating a Korean hornbeam

After defoliating the apex

Defoliating a Korean hornbeam

And the middle of the tree

Defoliating a Korean hornbeam

And some branches on the left

Defoliating a Korean hornbeam

And the rest of the top

Defoliating a Korean hornbeam

And the remainder of the left side

Defoliating a Korean hornbeam

Most of the right side

Defoliating a Korean hornbeam

And the last few leaves right in the middle

My hope was that defoliating the tree would provide enough light to the interior shoots to keep these branches alive. I knew that keeping the tree full would eventually be too much for these interior branches. I figured that defoliating would also slow the tree down a bit. Vigorous growth is great for developing new branches, but slower growth is best for producing refined branches.

After removing the last leaves and taking some photos, I returned the tree to its place on the bench where it receives full sun. What happened? Stay tuned – I’ll share the results this Friday.

5 Responses

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  1. Daniel Dolan said, on July 17, 2012 at 7:22 am


    Beautiful tree……….can you comment on the after care for defoliated trees?

    Your mention of full sun after complete defoliation, though still in May, caused me to ask…… this stressful for the tree?


    Best regards,

  2. Jonas Dupuich said, on July 17, 2012 at 9:00 am

    Hi Daniel – as I removed all of the leaves, there’s no special after care. I watered the tree when it dried out, which was less frequent than when the tree had leaves. And yes, defoliation is always stressful to the tree! I’ll have more details Friday – thanks!

  3. Dick van Dreven said, on July 17, 2012 at 11:42 am

    Hi Jonas,
    Why do you keep us waiting so long? it’s like a real clifhanger.
    Do you have experience with Carpinus Betulus, the common Hornbeam in Europe? I’ve got some that came out of a hedge that was removed. hesitating also about defoliating or not?
    Looking out for your next post.
    Dick van Dreven

  4. Jonas Dupuich said, on July 17, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Hi Dick – thanks for the note. I haven’t worked with the European Hornbeam so I don’t have a good idea about how it would respond. If the tree is really healthy, it might do alright with a partial defoliation. Maybe other readers have experience with this.

  5. Gareth Morgan-Jones said, on July 17, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    Anxiously awaiting the details on Friday!

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