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Defoliate Your Deciduous Bonsai for Better Results


Here’s Juan Adrade’s English caption for this magnificent old Trident maple. “Partial defolation on one of the grandfather trees. Close to 100 yrs old." Here's his Spanish: "Defoliación de las ramas exteriores en uno de los tridentes del abuelo de mi maestro. Este arbol posiblemente se acerca a los 100 años." You might notice the part about exterior branches in the Spanish. This would indicate that Juan is redirecting energy away from the outer tips and down closer to the center of the tree. This photo is from Juan’s facebook feed.

Defoliation is an important technique for redirecting energy, maintaining balance and creating fine branching. Especially on deciduous bonsai. We've shown this information before in various post, but I think defoliation warrants the repetition


Cut… Use sharp scissors to defoliate. Cut in the center of the petiole (leaf stem). If you cut too close to the base of the leaf stem, you may damage the buds that form there.

Don’t pull.... Don’t use you fingers to pinch or pull leaves off. This is a recipe for damage (the unreadable text with the illustration above says: Don’t pull, it could damage the buds). More on defoliation below….


Defoliate, then prune. This illustrations go from right to left, Japanese style. Upper right is before. Lower right is next. It shows after defoliation, but before pruning. The message here is; if you are going to prune and defoliate, then defoliate before you prune so you can better see exactly where to prune (within reason; if you know you are going to remove a whole branch, no point in defoliating it). Bottom center is after pruning (the after pruning tag in the illustration is a little out of place).

Defoliation results in better ramification. The two on the left show what the branch might look like later if you hadn’t defoliated (top) and with defoliation (bottom).

All of the illustrations in this post are by Kyosuke Gun. They originally appeared in Bonsai Today issue #3 (Japanese images courtesy of Bonsai Focus).


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