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Training Japanese Maple Bonsai

One of the main reasons why bonsai are so unique and beautiful is the training that goes into growing each tree. Training is crucial to not only the appearance but also the health of the bonsai. Japanese Maple bonsai in particular need maintenance pruning as well as structural pruning. Wiring is another crucial training technique used to shape branches and trunks. 

But there is no one way to train a Japanese Maple bonsai. Every bonsai grower is free to style their tree any way they choose. That being said, there are some classic styles which a bonsai grower can choose from. In this article, we will be going over some of the most popular styles for training a Japanese Maple bonsai. 

The Importance of Training Japanese Maple Bonsai

When you look at a Japanese Maple bonsai, the first thing you will notice is how beautiful it is. This beauty is achieved through training the tree. Pruning is used to evenly distribute leaves, decrease the size of the leaves, and more. Branches and trunks that have been bent through wiring present a more pleasing appearance. 

Pruning is not only important for the visual appeal but for the health of the bonsai as well. In nature, Japanese Maple trees’ leaves grow abundantly at the top of the tree. This causes the leaves located at the bottom of the tree to wither up and die, since light is not able to reach the leaves at the bottom of the tree.

How to Prune Japanese Maple Bonsai

Pruning is done by strategically removing leaves from branches. As previously mentioned, pruning is used to force leaves to grow further down and towards the center of the tree. While pine and coniferous trees prefer to be pruned by hand, the Japanese Maple is deciduous and can be pruned with shears or scissors. 

In addition to removing leaves, you can also take branches off the tree. Do this carefully and thoughtfully. You should remove branches that are dead, those that grow too far out, and those that hang too far down, rather than growing upwards. In the end, it is up to you to decide which branches aren’t needed.

How to Wire Japanese Maple Bonsai

Wiring your Japanese Maple can bend your bonsai’s branches or trunk. This is not an instantaneous event; the wiring process takes a few months before the branch will be in the position you want. The wire will need to be removed once the branch is bent. The wire will cut into the bark and scar the tree if it is not removed soon enough.

Begin wiring your tree at any time throughout the year. For Japanese Maples, aluminum wire is preferred. Simply wrap the wire around the branch you wish to bend. Once the branch is wired, bend it to the desired angle or shape. Then, wait!

Different Shaping Styles for Japanese Maple Bonsai

There are many different bonsai styles out there. Take what you will from these styles and leave the rest. Your tree can look exactly like a certain style, or you could take an aspect or two from one and make it your own. This is completely up to you! Experiment and have fun when training your Japanese Maple!

The first common Japanese Maple Style is the Broom style. Japanese Maple is perfect for this style since it works best with bonsai with fine branches with growth primarily at the top of the tree. The Broom style involves lots of growth rounded at the top of the tree. In this style, there is no growth at the bottom half of the tree.

Your Japanese Maple can also be styled in an upright, formal position. In this style, the bonsai’s trunk is straight up and its branches are evenly distributed throughout the tree. This style can be achieved by pruning the leaves and branches so that they grow at the bottom of the tree as well as the top. Their leaves should go out further than the trunk. A similar style is the informal upright style. The only difference is the trunk is not straight. Instead, it is curved into an S shape and the bottom of the trunk is thicker than the top. 

The last popular style we will talk about is the slanting bonsai style. In this style, the trunk is slanted to one side. The trunk’s base should be closer to the pot on the opposite side of which your tree is slanted. So, if your trunk is slanted towards the left, the base of the trunk will be off to the right.

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