Wiring your Bonsai PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bonsai King   
Saturday, 25 October 2008 13:15

Importance of Wiring

For me, wiring is the most important aspect of developing and maintaining bonsai. This is where most of your time will be spent. Some proponents of the clip and grow method push for the idea that you can create bonsai by clipping and cutting alone. They say that by knowing the direction of the bud you will know the direction of the future branch. But if you think about it, it will take probably 5 times the amount of time compared to if you wire the branch and direct it to the proper direction. Second, the growth of the branch will be very angular with no smooth movements. Third, there will be a lot of compromises on the position of the branches. This can not lead to a nice bonsai. I do not believe in this cutting only method. You will either end up with a plant that can hardly be called a bonsai or you end up with a small bushy plant. Proponents of this idea are gardeners who have so many plants to attend to and have no time to wire, or they are commercial bonsai growers who fool unknowing buyers by selling bushy short plants. To create a bonsai, one has to spend some amount of time. There is no short cut to this. The beauty of your bonsai reflects the amount of time you gave. It is time well spent.

Copper vs. Aluminum

Two types of wire are available; copper wire and aluminum wire. Copper wires are very expensive compared to aluminum wires. Copper wires can not be reused because it hardens when worked on. Ordinary copper wire used in household wiring has to be heated or annealed at high temperatures to make it soft. Aluminum on the other hand is cheaper but is shiny and silver in color and does not match the color of nature. Because of this, there are now aluminum wires which are coated with copper cladding, or dipped with dark plastic coating that enhances its appearance. The softness, cheapness, and improved appearance of aluminum wires have made it popular and are now used by most bonsai professionals.

Early wiring

Early wiring will save you a lot of money and will give your branch a very nice movement. When you wire young branches you can use smaller gauge wires. Although aluminum price is the same per kilogram, smaller gauge wires are cheaper per length because it is lighter. When you wait until the branch becomes thicker, you need to use larger gauge wires to bend it. Sometimes the branch cracks or it is too hard to bend even with the largest gauge wire. The branches of your bonsai would then appear straight with no movement. This is not good. Wire as early as you can. The rule of thumb is, wire it when it is about 3 to 4 thumbs long. You can save as much as ten dollars per bonsai if you can wire early. Be observant and watch your branches as they grow.

Reusing wires

It is sometimes shameful to admit that one reuses wires. In bonsai collector clubs, where the richest of the rich in bonsai meet, no one ever reuses wires. “Why remove wires at the risk of accidentally hitting and killing branches? You have to cut at every turn so that the wire will just fall off”. For bonsai professionals (those who create a living from creating and maintaining bonsai) new wire is seldom used. Old wires are reused and reused until it becomes too short. When you learn how to skillfully wire a bonsai, you can also skillfully remove the wire without any risk of damage at all. When you have a lot of bonsai to maintain as is always the case when you have spent enough time in bonsai, the cost of aluminum wire will start to hurt. For the rich collectors the cost of wire is meaningless but to professionals, artists, and ordinary enthusiasts, it hurts. Learn how to remove wire and reuse wire. You save the environment from recycling and the money saved will go a long way.

Wiring for competition or shows

When you go into bonsai shows and competitions, you will notice that all bonsai are wired. This is because of the fact that wires are allowed in shows and competitions. When your bonsai is fully wired, all the branches can be moved to the exact locations where they are perfectly beautiful. Why then would you not wire? Would you want to risk the chances of not winning because you did not wire? For competitions I prefer to use new wires as the color of the old wires fade and is not uniform. Do not worry as the new wires can be reused anyway.

The rules of wiring

  1. Wire in such a way that the wire wraps around the branch at an angle pf 45 degrees with respect to the branch.
  2. Wire tightly to get enough holding strength when you bend and form the branch.
  3. Never cross wires as the one beneath would wound the branch at the point of crossing due to increased pressure at the intersection.
  4. Wire from the trunk to the tip of the branches. Or start wiring from the largest part of the branch to the tip of the branch.
  5. When you reach the tip of the branch turn the wire back to lock it and cut excess wire.
  6. When wiring the trunk, start from the soil by inserting the wire into the ground then wire upwards.
  7. Anchor the starting point of the wire by turning it around another branch or trunk before wiring the object branch. Three turns would usually do.
  8. Wire two branches at one time to make sure both ends are anchored properly.
  9. Use the proper size wire. Do not undersize to avoid over bending of the branch and risk breaking it.
  10. If you made a mistake of under sizing, you can remedy this by wrapping another wire around the branch, creating the effect of using a larger wire.
  11. Bend and shape the branch. Move it left and right then up and down as well.
  12. The branch will grow in time. Remove the wires as it starts to cut the branch.


Let me go deeper in explaining the principles of wiring as this topic is often not detailed by other authors.

This is the correct 45 degree angle for a wire going around a branch. Most books and websites are not accurate enough and show an angle of around 33 degrees. Some authors may not understand the meaning of a 45 degree angle. I made this illustration as perfect as I could. So take a good look at the picture and burn it in your memory so that you can wire your bonsai properly.


You can imagine a square and draw a diagonal line. The angle it makes with the horizontal is 45 degreees.


Your can also imagine a pie and divide into 8 slices. One slice would have an angle of 45 degrees.



Now look at this typical branching. This shows secondary and tertiary branching. Note how the wires go from branch to branch. The size of the wire changes in relation to the branch. There are no intersections.




Last Updated on Thursday, 28 July 2011 12:03