In bonsai, wire is used for a few reasons. It can be used to set branches in position and give them bends and twists as well as being used for shaping trunks. So how long do you leave the wire on a bonsai tree?
Wiring can give a tree a more natural look – which we are trying to achieve in bonsai. However, some styles can look quite unnatural It all depends on what you like, though, it’s your bonsai tree!
Bonsai are kept small through the process of pruning and wiring. By combining these two activities, you can create a fantastic tree that is kept compact and attractive.
The majority of bonsai trees can be wired any time of the year; however, with deciduous trees, I prefer to do it in winter due to their lack of leaves. This allows you to see the structure a lot easier.
You should be aware that the bark will grow a lot quicker in the growing season, which means that the wire may bite in a lot faster. Make sure to check every few weeks that the wire isn’t biting in.
There are many benefits of using wire on a bonsai tree. The main one is that you can set specific branches in place, allowing you to offset ugly features or contribute to the style of the tree.
Another advantage of using wire is that you can tie trees into pots, which helps prevent them from falling out of their pot, especially in winter or when winds are high.
To tie a tree into a pot, you should run a U-shaped wire from the bottom of the pot to each corner. Once you have placed your tree in the pot and filled it with soil, use the tie-in wires to twist them around the root base and keep it in position. It would be best if you used pliers for this.
An overlooked benefit of using wire is that you can also use it on roots, allowing you to manipulate the nebari (root spread) and position roots where you want them. This will typically only work for roots which are larger in size.
What are the Disadvantages of Using Wire?
One of the main disadvantages of using wire is that it can take a few months for the branch to set fully, and if you take the wire off early, the branch may spring back into position.
This can waste your wire – and it can be pretty expensive! You should leave the wire on for around 2-3 months, maybe four depending on the season and the tree species.
Another disadvantage of using wire is the wire scars that it can leave. If you leave the wire on for too long – especially in the growing season- it can cause wire scars that can stay with your tree for years, depending on how long you left it.
To prevent this, I recommend checking if the wire is biting into the bark every few weeks. Use a pair of wire cutters to remove the wire instead of uncoiling it with your hand.
Uncoiling wire with your hand will damage the bark further and may cause the branch to snap, so make sure you use wire cutters. Cut the wire at the same point along the branch, and it should fall off easily.
Two main types of wire are used in bonsai; annealed aluminium wire and annealed copper wire.
Aluminium wire is mainly used for deciduous trees or young conifers and is most widely used due to its low cost and easy use.
Copper wire is usually used for conifers which require a strong wire and quite a few months to set branches in place. It’s more expensive than aluminium wire and pretty stiff, so it can be harder to work with.
When getting into bonsai, I recommend learning how to use aluminium wire first and then progressing to copper wire. You would waste a lot of money starting on copper wire first!
Tips for Wiring Bonsai Trees
To prevent further scarring of the bonsai tree, you should wire in the scars when you are trying to wire the tree trunk or branch. This will help avoid any more ugly scars on the tree!
You can utilise raffia tape if you’re scared of making overly large bends by wiring.
Raffia tape goes under the wire around the part you are wiring, helping to prevent cracking and helping you get more significant bends in without worrying as much.
You can find it relatively cheap on the internet, and I’ve found it particularly useful working with thick trees.
Don’t overcompensate for something brittle and small! When wiring smaller trunks or branches, you should use a smaller gauge of wire.
Using too thick of a gauge on something of match-stick size can break the bark a lot easier and cause significant scarring compared to lower gauges.
If you’re unsure what gauge wire to use for a tree, you can straighten the wire and press it against the part you are wiring. You should use a thicker gauge if it bends away from you.
Most wire kits will have gauges such as 1mm, 1.5mm, 2mm and 3mm. I recommend picking up one of these if you are a beginner, as they’re particularly useful, and you might only need higher gauges once you spend more money on a giant tree!
Don’t have a thick enough gauge to wire that branch? Try double coiling.
If you are in a situation where you don’t have a big enough gauge to wire a trunk or branch, you can use two coils of wire to get that extra bending force.
Place another coil of wire next to the one you’ve already put on, following it in the same direction but making sure they don’t overlap.
When wiring something, you should use your thumb when applying pressure onto the wire. This will help you be more precise and avoid cracking, which could lead you to lose the tree or a significant branch!
The two-branch principle – if you have two branches next to each other, you can use one piece of wire to wire them both.
Cut a piece of wire long enough to fit both branches; start at the end of one branch and work your way to the second one while putting those twists and bends in.
This helps conserve your wire and makes the tree look a bit neater!
An important note you should take away from this article is that before you wire a tree, ensure it’s healthy enough.
Wire can stress a tree, especially if it’s a large part you’re wiring.
Wiring will crack the cells – especially if you’re bending them very harshly. Ensure that your tree isn’t showing any signs of bad health – such as yellowing or brown leaves or any signs of pest or disease.
After wiring, I usually put my trees away from the full sun for a while and pay attention to the watering needs more meticulously. Some people find this too excessive. However, I always like to be on the safe side.
How long do you leave the wire on a bonsai tree?
Overall, I would recommend that you watch to see if the wire is biting into the bark not. This is the best way of determining when the wire needs to come off the tree instead of following a general timescale. However, 3-4 months is usually a good time. In the growing season, this may decrease to around 1-2 months. This will also depend on the species of the trees, as some are a lot more vigorous than others and can thicken quickly.