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How to Trunk Chop a Bonsai Tree

When designing your miniature tree, one of the most important considerations is the trunk. A strong trunk not only looks beautiful but also ensures the well-being of your trees. Bonsai tree cultivation can be rather challenging, especially when you don’t know how to develop a large and interesting trunk.

Trunk chopping is one of the most common techniques used to create the perfect bonsai tree trunk. If you don’t know how to trunk chop a Bonsai tree, then you have come to the right place. In this article, we will take an in-depth look at everything you need to know about trunk chopping your bonsai tree.

Is Trunk Chopping Healthy?

Now, you may have come across a group of people who deem trunk chopping a ‘dirty’ word. Why does this happen? Some trees don’t recover fully from trunk chopping wounds. If you have been to bonsai exhibitions and shows, then you might have noticed this.

However, there is nothing wrong with trunk chopping since the scars are only visible from the backside. To many bonsai tree cultivators, the wounds are not an issue, but experienced bonsai connoisseurs might not agree with this sentiment. They feel that the undesired effect of trunk chopping ruins the entire design.

You must understand the side effects of trunk chopping your bonsai tree before we can move on to the next sections.

Bonsai Tree Trunk Chopping

There are two distinct styles of trunk chopping: Moyogi tapering and Spreading Oak tapering. In this section, we will take a look at both of the styles to help you decide which one suits you.

The Moyogi Tapering Style

The Moyogi tapering style can be traced back to ancient Japan. It focuses on the trunk that emerges from the soil and considers it a crucial component of achieving the desired results. Your trunk must, therefore, show signs of movement before you start trunk chopping.

The trunk chopping should be done straight across since new buds don’t develop at high points. If your trunk is not chopped straight through, then the buds may appear at lower points of your bonsai tree. When this happens, you will have to re-cut your tree trunk.

Re-cutting should be avoided since it will lead to a large scar. The problem with large scars is that they set back your tree’s development. However, you can always chop your trunk at an angle should you spot a decent low bud or branch.

The Spreading Oak Tapering Style

With this style, you will have to start by making a straight-across chop, just like the Moyogi tapering style. It is always a great idea to carry out this stage during mid-autumn to ensure you can pick the best three buds.

You then need to wait for the spring season before you start cutting back your branch when you spot four pairs of leaves. You can also leave your bonsai tree branch with only a pair of leaves intact for better results.

After 3-4 weeks of growth, start adding wire to achieve the spreading oak style. This style requires you to exercise patience for around four years before you get the sound and admirable trunk that you want. Your secondaries should be handled exactly like the primaries while you wait for the tertiaries to build a canopy top.

Things to consider before chopping your bonsai tree trunk

Trunk chopping techniques should be used on well-developing tree species only. Ensure that your bonsai tree is a healthy and vigorous species before you think about trunk chopping. Avoid trunk chopping when your bonsai tree shows signs of slow development.

Careful monitoring and panning are required once the tree-back buds because you have to pick another leader.

Hardwood deciduous trees respond quite well to trunk chopping. Tree species belonging to the Acer genus will also respond very well. These trees have a high survival rate and usually bounce back nicely from wounds.

Consider taking a walk in nature to get inspiration on a suitable shape for your bonsai tree. You will come across unusual patterns and shapes that will open up your imagination greatly.


Planning and patience are essential when you decide to carry out trunk chopping. Remember that the entire process will take time, and it can be quite challenging. Open up your imagination and let your bonsai tree guide you on your journey to achieving greatness.

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