Before I prune on my deciduous bonsai in spring, I check to see if they’re up for the work.
Here’s a trident maple at the end of March.
Trident maple – March 30th
Although the leaves are healthy, they are pale green and there are no new shoots developing. This tells me that the tree isn’t a great candidate for pinching and that it needs to gain strength before I work on it.
Here’s the same tree a month later.
Red leaves on new shoots, April 29 – 18″
The tree is now producing elongating shoots but the color is still pale so I’m going to fertilize it and let it grow for the time being.
It’s common for trees to grow slowly in spring after repotting, especially when the weather remains cool. I’ll check to see how it looks in another month and will start pruning when the tree shows signs that it will respond well to the work.
The trident maple below sits on the same bench as the tree above but has responded well to repotting despite extensive root-work. It’s ready for cutback and thinning.
The first step is shortening the elongating shoots back to one or two pairs of buds.
Trident maple with healthy new growth
Next, I removed large leaves and thinned crowded areas so light could reach into the tree’s interior.
After thinning – 27″
I’ll repeat this process as often as necessary during the growing season to maintain the health of the interior shoots. I’ll do more refined pruning in fall when I can see the trunks and branches clearly.
Clay King (medium) available for local pick-up in St. Louis area
If you’re in the St. Louis area and looking for Clay King pre-mix with particle size 1/4″ – 1/2″, send me a note and I’ll put you in touch with a bonsai grower that has extra soil on hand for sale.
Shipping is not available – the soil is for local pick-up only.
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Terence Vaughn Krista says
Another great post and very topical. I live in the Bay Area and was just looking at all the rampant growth on my trident and Japanese maples yesterday and wondering, is now the best time to cut back? I’m getting out the trimmers today.
Jonas Dupuich says
Thanks, Terence – and good luck with the maples!
Interesting…so do you pinch back before the initial flush of growth lignifies?
Jonas Dupuich says
I pinch when the goal is to slow down a branch. If I want the the branch to divide into two smaller branches, I’ll let it grow out a bit and then prune.