Wire bonsai is an important technique for bonsai design. Through the wire the shape of the bonsai is influenced. In this process, the bonsai wire is wound around the trunk or branches. The wired parts are bent in the desired direction. Once the shape has solidified, the bonsai can be unwired.
In a bit more detail, wire cutting a bonsai is, along with pruning, the most important design technique for shaping a bonsai. When shaping a bonsai, a normal tree is shaped according to a given ideal. The goal is usually to make young, not yet developed bonsai trees look old and venerable.
Maxime in proper bonsai wire: As little wire as possible but as much as necessary.
Wire can be used to influence and control the growth of the bonsai and its shape from the beginning. Almost all good bonsai have been wired at some point, often over long periods of time. Without it, accurate shaping is difficult to achieve.
Wiring a bonsai is a continuous process, done gradually often over many years. It involves wrapping special bonsai wire around the trunk, branches and shoots. The wired areas are then bent in the desired direction. Over the next few months, thickening and lignification solidify the shape of the wired plant parts. Then the bonsai can be unwired.
The shaped parts of the bonsai then often remain in their position (e.g., for tree species with rapidly lignifying shoots such as peacock, pepper tree, Satsuki azaleas, boxwood, fan maple bonsai). In tree species with softer wood (e.g. girl pines, spruces) the branches often bend back a little. Then the wire must be applied again.
It is often thought that bonsai care and design is difficult. In our experience this is not so. Once you understand the basic points, keeping bonsai is easy. With one exception: wire the bonsai. To wire a bonsai well and then shape it without damaging it and achieving the goal is really not easy. Learning the technique takes a lot of effort.
But normally, without good wiring, there is no good bonsai. This shaping technique allows the best control in shaping a bonsai, from the movement of the trunk to the smallest shoots. Anyone who is serious about bonsai must learn to wire. The reward for the effort is a bonsai that is exactly as they want it to be.
At first, it all sounds very simple: Buy wire - wrap wire around branch - bend - wait - remove wire and done. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. For the beginner, wire bonsai is often frustrating. But with a little practice and over time, one becomes more confident and successes begin to appear. And over time, you'll find: Wiring a bonsai is very relaxing. The stressful everyday life is quickly forgotten.
How to properly wire a bonsai?
What time of year is good to wire a bonsai?
Theoretically, most tree species can be wired at any time. However, certain times of the year have advantages and also disadvantages for both the bonsai and the designer. Since many different species of trees are designed as bonsai and maintained in different climates, it is difficult to give a general guideline.
Bending the branches into the new shape causes many small cracks in the bark and cambium layer. During the growing season, these injuries can heal easily and quickly. In the process, the new branch position often solidifies after a few weeks in deciduous trees. Outside the growing season, these processes take many times longer.
Fast growing species (such as redwood, most maple bonsai, Chinese elm) take much less time in the growing season to maintain the new shape. Slow growing woody plants (jack pines, junipers, spruces) or tree species with soft wood (larches) take much longer to solidify the new position, regardless of when they were wired.
Spring: is a good time to wire for many outdoor bonsai. Before budding, the branch structure of the bonsai is easy to see, and the leaves that are not present do not interfere when wire is applied. However, good care must be taken not to break the already large leaf or flower buds. In April-May the growth of shoots is particularly strong. This has the advantage that injuries heal quickly and the new form is quickly consolidated. But the wire can quickly push in. It must be controlled regularly. It may be necessary to unwire the bonsai as early as May. With many deciduous tree species, however, the new position has already solidified so that the branch retains its position (e.g. peony, azalea bonsai).
Summer: Summer is the second best season to wire deciduous trees. The leaves present interfere with both branch structure analysis and wire application. The advantage is: the main growth is over so the wire can stay longer on the tree without ingrowing. At the same time, the bonsai still grows enough to close the wounds quickly and stabilize the new shape. Many bonsai enthusiasts perform a complete leaf pruning on deciduous trees to wire the bonsai afterwards. If the plant is healthy and strong, there is nothing against it.
In summer the trees are in full sap. This can easily loosen the bark from the wood. Therefore - work carefully, especially with stronger bends.
Autumn: In warmer areas (e.g. Italy, Southern France, Spain, also Great Britain) early autumn is a good time to wire deciduous trees. The strongest growth has ended, the leaves have fallen or can be removed before the leaves drop. After that, the structure of the branches is easy to see and it is much easier to wire without leaves. In addition, the wire can remain on the tree for a long time (until next April-May). The new buds are still very small and there is little danger of breaking them off during the wire.
Winter: Winter is the worst time of year to wire a bonsai in areas with regular, heavy frosts. Wounds can occur (e.g., cracks in the branch) when the wire is applied or by the subsequent bending of the plant parts. Since the trees (outdoor bonsai) are in the resting phase in this season, injuries heal worse or not at all. If you want to wire a bonsai in winter, it should be placed frost-free and very bright. It is not optimal to wire indoor bonsai kept in a normal apartment during the winter. Due to the short days they grow slowly. It is better to wait until the beginning of spring. In warmer areas or if the indoor bonsai are maintained in a greenhouse, there is no reason not to wire them in winter.
Indoor bonsai from the subtropics (e.g. ficus bonsai, privet, stone yew) can be wired all year round if they are maintained in a bright greenhouse.
Evergreen coniferous species can be wired well from spring to early fall. The wire often needs to remain on the tree for a very long time. Shoots of conifers (such as girl pines) thicken more in early summer. If the bonsai was wired in spring, it is necessary to check regularly during the summer that the wire does not grow in. If the wire is to remain on the tree during the winter, it is advisable to keep it in a frost-free location for a short time during the coldest weeks.
At the beginning of the work must always be fixed one end of the bonsai wire in the ground (blue) or on a branch (green). Fixed in the ground means: simply stick the end of the wire 4-5cm into the ground, preferably behind the tree. Better and more stable is the fixation around a branch.
The wire is applied from the bottom to the top or from the inside to the outside, i.e. always from the stronger to the weaker part of the bonsai. It can be wired clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on the direction in which you want to bend. Example: Fix wire at A, wire trunk up (B) and then wire branches C + D outward.
Lay the wire tightly without it cutting in
If the wire is wound around too loosely it will not give support when bending
Lay the wire in the wing of about 45°. At 45° less wire is needed and at the same time a great bending stability is achieved.
Too many turns have been wired here. The angle wire to tree is too small and gives too little support.
Never cross the wire like this. Damage to the bark is inevitable.
Thus, the wire should not be fixed to the trunk. At least 2 turns wired down better hold and look better. In addition, there would quickly be a prominent pressure point at the junction of the wire.
Good wiring for counterclockwise bending movement of the branch
Good wiring for bending movement of the branch in clockwise direction