Shaping a Bonsai


(Excerpt from my essay “The Living Art of Bonsai”)

The shaping of a bonsai starts usually only after the trunk of the plant attains some thickness and has some branches. Training can commence even if the plant is in an ordinary pot. Shaping can be categorized into Formative pruning and Definitive pruning.

Formative Pruning

Before shaping a bonsai study the trees’ individuality; look for interesting features such as movement of the trunk, surface rootage, branch positions amp; development, etc.

The following suggestions may be adapted as guidelines for shaping your particular bonsai:

a) Select as the tree’s front the side that reveals the best features of the trunk such as a curve, lean, etc. Visualize the way the plant may look if its inclination is altered or if its branch positions are altered and also as the plant is rotated round its axis. Find the potting angle and the point from which it looks best and from which its branches are seen spreading in all directions. From this position prune away any obviously undesirable branches and try to bring out and highlight the unique characteristics of the tree such trunk line taper, a shapely curve in the trunk, roughness of bark, etc.

b) Keep approximately the bottom third of the plant free of branches. This reveals the structure of the trunk, gives direction to the bonsai and creates an illusion of great age. Choose as the lowest branch (termed as First branch) the longest and thickest one that reaches to the right of left of the selected front. Train it with wire in necessary so that it is inclined slightly forward.


c) While selecting the front, ensure that the plant has a branch located slightly higher up on the trunk than the first branch but at the back (termed as Back branch) and train this also with wire if necessary so that it is visible from the front (approx.. 1 o clock position)

d) To offset the first branch, select a branch positioned slightly higher than the back branch but on the opposite side of the first branch (termed as Second branch) and if necessary train it with wire so that it too sweeps forward. Both the first and second branch taken together would then seem to be welcoming the viewer.


e) The first three branches generally establish the branch structure of a bonsai; the other branches following the inclination of the first branch, all branches creating a spiral of higher, thinner and shorter branches, although if seen from above, no branch emerges from the same degree of the compass along the trunk line and that no branch overlaps another.


Definitive Pruning

Once the plant is pruned initially for basic shape (formative pruning), it should be allowed to develop further by growing for a season or two so that it regains its strength before commencing with pruning to define the shape of the branches and tree (definitive pruning).

While pruning to define the shape, most of the cuts are made just above a leaf which is pointing in the outward and downward direction; the aim of definitive pruning is to achieve a larger and downward inclined spread of the branches. Only such a spread will project the image of an older, more mature tree and define its silhouette.

Pruning in this way results in growth of buds that point in the outward and downward direction as the thrust of growth goes immediately into the lateral shoots just below the cut. This will also avoid ingrowth which is likely to look unsightly and will also avoid overcrowding and eventual dieback of inward growing shoots due to lack of sunlight.

The process of pruning is repeated when sufficient more growth is achieved when it is semi-lignified and the shoots extend to about six/eight leaves. Growth is likely to start from a number of the leaf axils below the cut and with repeated pruning over a few more seasons the branches divide and sub-divide over and over again into a ramified structure.

(Tip: Branches may sometimes have to be thinned out if ramification reaches a stage where further division may so overcrowd the leaf structure that sunlight does not reach to inner shoots resulting in widespread dieback. Removal of dead shoots/branches may also be necessary at some point of time).

The major factor in the directing of bonsai growth is pruning not just of the branches but, even more importantly, of the roots. Even after the tree has reached its designated size and shape it has to be periodically unpotted, root pruned and repotted with fresh soil. Thus, the tree stays the same size and remains healthy through the rejuvenation of the root system.

Plant material for Bonsai

The creation of bonsai requires raw material in the form of plants. All plants with woody stems having a good network of branches and which adapt well to hard pruning are suitable for bonsai. Container grown nursery plants are more suitable because of their compact root system. Plants for making a bonsai can be either self-propagated or container grown or collected from the wilds. All the plants are a product of vegetative propagation one way or the other. They are propagated either by seeds, or by cuttings, air-layering or grafts.

For that matter, grafts are also cuttings propagated in a special way. As bonsai are also ordinary plants in every way, raw material for a bonsai is also obtained from any of these methods. Sometimes plants are collected from the wilds, but these are also seedlings which most times grow in inhospitable conditions and are shaped for a long time by nature and therefore have a more natural form than that given by man. Nursery grown plants are also either seedlings or air-layerings or grafted material. When choosing material for bonsai one must select only those plants which have a lot of branches and have a tapering trunkline as a starting point. These characteristics are sure to ensure that such a plant will eventually make a presentable bonsai in a reasonably short time.

The main options for plant material are, however, collected plants and nursery plants.
Collected plants 
Colleting of plants from the wilds is a difficult proposition. Firstly, the collector has to obtain the consent/permission of the property owner/govt. authorities or sometimes permission may not be required. Secondly, the chances of survival for the collected material depends on several factors such the species of the plant, season of collecting, the amount of rootage remaining after collection, the balance achieved between foliage amp; rootage, the conditions which are provided on transplanting and of course the skill of the collector. In most climates, the best time for collecting is early spring. Dig up as much of the root ball as is possible, wrap the roots with damp sphagnum moss or gunny cloth (similar to hessian) and wrap up the whole plant in plastic sheeting to prevent dehydration. Cut off the top growth as much as possible to match the reduced rootage, keeping the future design of the tree in mind.

Plant the tree as quickly as possible in a large pot or planter box using coarse sand or similar fast draining material; water it thoroughly and keep it in a semi-shaded location, i.e., neither too much shade nor too much sun. Do not prune or otherwise disturb

the plant for the next year or so letting it grow unchecked to recoup its energy. Intervals between waterings too need to be monitored closely; keep the soil moist but not soggy.. Feeding with fertilizers can be started only when consistent growth is observed. Training or pruning can commence only after rank growth is achieved ensuring that the roots have taken hold. In some cases it may take three/four years for a wild plant to adjust to cramped quarters before any major shaping process can be undertaken. (Tip – Be careful; too much water to a plant used to surviving in a more or less dry condition can lead to root rotting).

Nursery plants

As creating bonsai from nursery stock is by far the easiest method, we will confine ourselves to this source of obtaining material for creating bonsai, although the guidelines will equally apply to material from other sources as well with minor differences.

In order to convert a nursery plant into a bonsai, the first consideration will have to be prolific number of branches growing all along the trunkline and in all directions. The second priority should be good rootage. This is not a problem with nursery stock.

Once a likely plant is chosen, the plant should be viewed from all directions to determine the movement of its trunk in order to determine the style characteristic of the tree. If the trunk is ramrod straight, it can be a bonsai in the Formal Upright style. If the trunk is bending in any direction, it can be any of the other upright styles such as the Informal Upright or the Slanting style. If the branches are emerging from a single point on the trunk, it can be a Broom style bonsai. The inclination of the trunk should be the main guideline.

Once the style has been determined, the branches can be pruned. In case of the Formal, Informal Upright and Slanting styles, alternate branches can be removed in a tiered structure so that the remaining branches would seem to move up the trunk line positioned left and right (or vice versa) gradually reducing in length as they emerge from higher up the trunk, describing roughly a spiraling stairway up the trunk line. On the other hand, branches on the Broom style can be tip pruned in such a way that they present a symmetrical outline in the silhouette of an open umbrella.

Wiring is an option that can be considered only where necessary, as is not a novices’ cup of tea.


Potting the newly created bonsai

Once the necessary shape is obtained, the plant can be potted in a suitable bonsai pot. Even a nursery plant which already has a compact root ball and has been living in a pot will not always survive the radical root pruning needed to put it directly in a shallow bonsai pot. The move should therefore be made in stages to ease the shock; the plant should be moved into an intermediate training pot after the first pruning and over the next two growing seasons it can be gradually shifted to shallower pots until finally it can be put into its final pot. Pruning and training can continue even in the intermediate pots. (Tip: Potential material can be grown in oversize pots or in the ground to initiate faster growth and development of trunk and branches. Once a noticeable trunk girth is developed, it can be gradually transplanted into a bonsai pot).

For the more formal styles (i.e., Formal Upright or Slanting styles), a pot with more formal lines such as the rectangle should be chosen; for the Informal Upright and Broom styles, a pot with softer outlines such as an oval or round should be chosen. Plastic mesh should be placed on the drainage holes of the pot and after a layer of granular soil is placed on the bottom, the plant – which has been removed from its original container and a part of the old soil is removed – should be placed slightly off center in the pot in such a way that the lowest and longest branch is positioned over the larger portion of the pot and its tip is projecting over the rim of the pot. Once the position of the plant is satisfactory, more soil is added in the pot and poked gently so that all air pockets are filled without compacting. As soon as this is overand the plant seems stable, the pot and the plant is watered copiously and placed in a shaded spot to recover.

The newly potted bonsai is gradually exposed to more sunlight once new growth is evident and sustained.

The branches are allowed to elongate & grow and further pruning and fertilizing is undertaken only after a growth of say, six to seven leaves per branch. The bonsai is pruned only periodically to maintain its shape and also to develop further growth in a compact space. A bonsai is normally allowed to grow and pruned alternately so as to achieve maturity and ramification.

Repotting depends on the rate of growth. Normally, vigorously growing plants are repotted every year or every second year; slower growing plants are repotted after 3-5 years only.

Bonsai for the Layman


Bonsai is the art of growing ordinary plants in shallow pots by the selective application of some common principles of horticulture and techniques of gardening to bring out the natural beauty of the plants and create a look of age-old maturity in them. This scientific art and the plants cultivated through it are both termed as bonsai. The fascination of bonsai is capturing the imagination of everyone these days. It has gained popularity, as it is eminently suitable for today’s lifestyle especially of city-dwellers in their search for greenery.

For some reason, a few misconceptions about bonsai are also prevalent – that they are tied with wire to prevent their growth; or that they are given just a thimbleful of water and are generally starved to remain stunted. I would like to make it very clear at the outset that this is not true. Wire is wrapped only to alter the shape of the trunk and branches in order to conform to a natural shape. Bonsai are watered thoroughly at least once every day depending upon the climatic conditions and they are also fed nutritionally from time to time. In fact, all bonsai growers lavish a lot care on their bonsai and pamper them as if they were children or pets.

I think that misconceptions such as the above arise mainly due to the reason that the layman has a misplaced idea of cruelty to plants usually born out of seeing oddly shaped, distorted plants displayed in nurseries which do not even know what a bonsai is but are eager to cash in on its glamour. A layman is therefore most likely to be misguided and is far from being able to find correct scientific information or to actually learn the techniques of bonsai; the layman is therefore deprived of the enjoyment of nurturing and viewing bonsai. For such people, I give here some simple tips and pointers that will dispel the misconceptions and induce them to grow bonsai on their own. After all, it is man’s love for nature which leads him to discover newer ways of keeping nature nearer to him in today’s fast growing concrete jungles and disappearing greenery.

What is bonsai – Bonsai are nothing but common plants shaped to look like their bigger counterparts in nature, having all the attributes of foliage, flowers and fruits like mature trees and aesthetically looking like common trees in nature. But then, how do bonsai come into being? Let us see………

Material The techniques of bonsai can be successfully applied to any ordinary woody plant material. There are actually no special plants for bonsai. Any ordinary plants from a number of plant species to choose from can be made into a bonsai. But those with naturally small leaf size are better and have a better chance of being convincing as a miniature tree image. Plants normally grow from seeds which can normally be found anywhere or are also propagated artificially from cuttings, air-layers amp; graft in nurseries the world over. Material for bonsai can be obtained from any of the above sources i.e., from common nursery grown plants or seedlings (both newly germinated saplings amp; thick, mature plants) or collected seedlings/plants/trees from the wilds. It is however easier for the layman to select plants from a nursery for their first attempts in bonsai as these will have an already established root-system used to growing in a small, compact container and will not involve the hardship of propagating and nurturing seeds/cuttings/grafts, etc.

Selection of plant– Choose a plant with thick woody stem but small stature. If possible the plant should have good, attractive foliage, all-round root spread, a tapering trunk amp; a profusion of branches distributed along the length of the trunk line.

Creating a bonsai

If you have ever observed the natural forms of trees around you, you may have seen that most tree species conform to some commonly recognizable genetic shape, e.g., tall straight trunks of Ashoka, rounded shapes of Mango trees, the fan-shaped appearance of Pipul trees, the flat umbrella type growth and aerial roots of the Banyan (Vad), etc. So, trees may essentially be similar but the genetic forms and shapes are different from specie to specie. Plants bought from nurseries, seedlings and dug out plants need to resemble with one of the basic shapes mentioned above. Or one may have to wait till a given plant gets such a shape or choose another plant which has such a shape. Once it is seen that the plant has one of these basic shapes its training can be started.

Training– Initially, cut short the top growth of the plant to make it look shorter and to emphasize the relative thickness of the trunk. Also, cut off the branches which look un-necessary and cluttered and are crossing each other. If necessary, change the shape of the trunk by gently wrapping it from base to apex (tip of trunk) with an ascending spiral of aluminum wire of a sufficient strength and then slowly but firmly bend it to a shape which conforms to the tree forms seen in nature. Shorten the length of the top branches so that lower branches appear bigger and longer; if necessary, wire the branches also so that their shape may be altered by gently sloping them downwards. If there is a flow to the trunk then a similar flow should be maintained in the branches also. The shape of the plant should look natural and not tortuous.

It is also possible to commence training in stages by letting the plants grow initially in bigger containers, periodically pruning them without materially altering their recognizable shape and watering amp; feeding them regularly so that over a period of time the plant becomes thicker and mature, a basic pre-requisite of a bonsai. This is a matter of choice and certainly of greater patience. After the plant resembles a mature shape either naturally or by changing it through wiring and pruning, it can be transferred to a flat ceramic of earthen container as you would plant any other plant provided you use a soil textured to be well drained. Normally, only red earth/soil are not used alone for bonsai but a quantity of organic material and draining material (such as brick crush or granular river sand) are mixed in a generous proportion to the soil. Choose any of the recognizable tree shapes mentioned above but take care not to force the plant to grow in a style which is not natural to it. Bonsai is supposed to be an aesthetic statement, not a horticultural oddity.

Maintenance– The bonsai will need only daily watering and exposure to sunlight (at least 2/4 hours a day), monthly fertilizing and pruning and re-potting after 1 to 3 years depending on its growth rate.

General– As most specie of woody plant material needs at least 2/4 hours of sunlight, it is advisable to keep bonsai outdoors only. Of course, they can occasionally be displayed in your drawing room, but care must be taken not to expose it to extended periods of air-conditioning
or excessive heat. The tree must also be checked to see if wire wrapped round the trunk/branches are not cutting into the bark and if needs be, are to be removed; wire is not applied as a fad, it is there for a purpose- the purpose of altering the shape of the part which is wired. Once the purpose is served (maybe in one season or one year or more, as necessary), the wire need not be kept on the tree. Fertilizing has to be a regular monthly feature (preferably half the recommended strength), daily watering a routine and pinching of new growth and pruning of cluttered amp; crossing branches a habit.

Please remember, nothing which is worth human effort is easy, keeping a bonsai more so as it is a commitment – just like keeping a pet. It will need constant care. But if you give it this care and attention it will definitely reward your creative instinct with green foliage, flowers and fruits, depending on the specie.

It is also my first-hand experience that bonsai are the best stress relievers and will teach you to live in harmony and peace not only with nature but also with your inner self, assets which are getting scarcer in today’s stressful lives but are so easily within our reach.

Misconceptions about bonsai

As the art and science of bonsai cultivation remained the prerogative of a privileged few for a long time in Japan and China, bonsai was shrouded in mystery. It is not surprising therefore that a person who sees a bonsai for the first time looks askance at these diminutive trees and feels certain that some magic is involved. These persons are very much prone to form wrong notions about bonsai especially due to the half-truths and mis- interpretations propounded by self styled experts and even half-baked nurserymen out to make a fast buck out of a high price item like bonsai. The public is ignorant about the true nature of bonsai – the sound horticultural principles on which it is based. They are only aware of the final beautiful form, not the creativity, the painstaking care or the patience and skill acquired over the years by the bonsai artist.

It would be worth our while to have a clear perception of what bonsai is or is not.It would be better to differentiate between what is a mis- belief and misconceptions (born out of ignorance and what is reality (based on knowledge and fact). Let us examine the misconceptions objectively:

A] The main objection to bonsai is that plants are confined, pruned and are not allowed to grow. This is deemed to be unnatural; it is argued that bigger tree varieties especially should not be confined to pots
but should be allowed to grow unchecked in the ground where they belong.

This argument is senseless and unrealistic.

Firstly, it is not only bonsai that are grown in pots; plants are also grown in general in pots. It is Natures’ bounty that plants and trees can be grown in pots and that they display every characteristic that is seen in plants and trees grown in the ground. If plants should not be potted, then plant lovers the world over would be deprived of the facility of growing plants where they can. Nowadays the price of city dwellings is at a premium and the size of flats is reducing day by day. Concrete jungles are replacing natural flora #038; fauna everywhere, disturbing the ecology and resulting in global warming. The city dwellers are forced to breathe canned air as heat and pollution in cities is high. Potted plants, which act as natural air purifiers and oxygenators are a boon to city dwellers as they can maintain plants on balconies, window sills, patios, etc and somewhat restore the natural balance. Pot culture is able to satisfy the craving of plant lovers of indulging in the ability, nay, the passion for growing plants in their own homes. Bonsai are also potted plants in a way except that the shape of the pot is flat rather than bucket like and in most cases, more plants can be accommodated due to the small sizes of the pots.

Further, even ordinary potted plants require occasional pruning and repotting, in fact all the things that are objected to in the case of bonsai. Potting/repotting and pruning are necessary to maintain the health of plants. In bonsai, since the shape of the plant needs to resemble a tree in nature, pruning is all the more necessary. Actually, timely pruning results in more vigorous growth. Then why should there be any objection to the potting and pruning of bonsai?

B] It is said that the bonsai are stunted by deliberately depriving them of water #038; starving them to keep them dwarf.

This is absolutely incorrect.

All living things including plants require water. Bonsai are no exception. The water requirements of bonsai-just as that of other plants- may vary according to species as well as climatic conditions #038; season. In very hot weather they need to be watered maybe twice a day depending on the temperature and strength of sunlight. In winter, some plants may need water only on alternate days although most plants may need to be watered daily or at least misted on days when they are not watered. In temperate climates it is said that during cold freezes, plants may require watering only once every week or ten days. But this is a common practice for all potted plants, not just bonsai.

In case of flowering plants, watering is held back during flowering to induce profuse flowering, but that is also a standard practice, not confined to bonsai.

Generally speaking, no plant – be it bonsai or ordinary potted plant- can survive without water and therefore cannot be starved of water if they are expected to be healthy and remain alive for many years. Bonsai, being living ordinary plants are not deprived or starved of water in any condition; in fact, contrary to common misconception, they are always watered very well and fertilized from time to time in order to maintain optimum health.

C] It is argued that it is cruelty to tie bonsai with wire; their roots are cut often and also tied to prevent them from growing fast.

This is also untrue.

Although wire is wrapped around the trunk and branches of bonsai, it is as a means of bracing these parts in order to bend them to alter and conform them to a specific shape as planned by the bonsai artist. Wires are not expected to be kept permanently. In fact, wires are required to be removed before they cut or bite into the bark of the trunk and branches and before they scar the bark.

Further, the roots of bonsai are never wired at all, period. But sometimes, in case of planting tall trees in shallow pots or where the roots are inadequate and unstable to support a newly potted tree, or where small plants are placed in very small (mame) pots, the plant is tied into the pot for a brief period till its roots are well established to support the weight of its foliage.

As can be seen from the above mentioned points, there is no cruelty involved in the cultivation of bonsai. In fact bonsai fans are ardent lovers of nature and keep their plants in optimum health by the sometimes simple #038; sometimes complicated horticultural practices of pruning shaping repotting watering #038; fertilizing. If they are genuine bonsai fans then it is certain that they would take care of their bonsai like they would take care of their children or pets.

Tree Styles in Bonsai

Most tree species develop a form which has been genetrically determined. In fact the program for the germination, formation, shape and development of each tree is encoded in its seed (speak about natural microchip) The movement of its trunk has a distinction which forms the genesis for the shape, structure, stature and development of the tree and it is this trunk movement which is the basis of the classification of bonsai into various styles.

The five recognized styles of bonsai as defined by the Japanese are as follows:

1) Formal Upright (Jap: Chokkan)– where the trunk is absolutely straight from base to apex. (example: Ashoka tree; Latin Saraca Indica)

2) Informal Upright (Jap: Moyogi)- where the trunk the moves from side to side and from back to front (example: Gulmohor; Latin Delonix Regia)

3) Slanting (Jap: Shakkan)– where the trunk cants sharply at an angle of about 45 degrees to the base, either from the base or from about the level of the first branch. (example: any tree whose roots are unable to support its upright stature at some point of time onwards)

4) Cascade (Jap: Kengai and Han – Kengai)– where the trunk drops down from the base to the apex and the apex hangs below the base line of the pot (Cascade) or below the top line of the pot but above the base line (Semi-cascade) (example: any tree growing on a incline on a mountain-side)

5) Broom (Jap: Hokkidachi)– where all or most of the branches emerge from about more or less the same point on the trunk and fan out in all directions (example: Banyan or Vad; Latin Ficus Benghalensis)

Forest or Group plantings (Jap: Yose Ue) are a separate style category where a number of plants representing a grove of trees is planted in a cohesive arrangement in a single pot.

Apart from these five basic styles, there are other styles which emerge from the five basic styles:

1) Windswept style (Jap: Fukinagashi) – where not only the trunk but also the branches lean and sweep in one direction as if by strong wind action.

2) Clump Style (Jap: KabudachI)– where a number of trunks emerge from one root structure but still appear as separate trees.

3) Twin / Triple Trunk Style (Jap: Sokkan & Sankan) – where two or three trunks are divided at the base.

4) Exposed Roots (Jap: Neageri)– where the roots of the tree are exposed to a great extent before the trunk starts.

5) Bunjin Style (Jap: Bunjingi) – where the trunk is bare for most of the lengthy of the tree and the branches are sparse and almost at the top 1/3 rd of the tree.

6) Rock grown (Jap: Ishitsuki) – where trees are planted on a rock which acts as a pot

7) Root over rock (Jap: Sekijoju)– where the tree sits on the rock and the roots go down the rock and into the soil under the rock.

8) Twisted Trunk Style (Jap: Bankan) – where the trunk is very twisted, coiled and contorted.

9) Driftwood Style (Jap: Sabamiki/Sharimiki) – where the bark of the trunk is peeled off all along the length of the trunk (Sabamiki) or portions of the trunk or branches are peeled off (Sharimiki) to expose the dead wood underneath.

In the Forest style also there are variants, such as,

a) Raft style (Jap: Ikadabuki)– where a branches emerging from a single straight recumbent trunk assume the form of individual trunks but in a straight line, roots emerging from points along the original trunk.

b) Root Connected (Jap: Netsunagari) – where the trunk twists and turns along the horizontal axis and branches emerging along the line assume the form of individual trunks although they are connected by a single root system.

Probably the best reference books on styles as well as other aspects of bonsai are:

Bonsai Techniques Part I and II by John Naka and Bonsai by Yuji Yoshimura and Giovanna Halford.

Features & Characteristics of a Bonsai

A bonsai is distinct from other plants mainly by virtue of its tree-like shape and appearance. It should firstly have the common attributes of its bigger counterparts in nature. Bonsai are differentiated from ordinarily potted plants because to all intents and purposes they look like full grown trees, albeit on a miniature scale.

But to look like a tree, a bonsai should have the following characteristics of a tree –1) it should have a tapering trunk line;2) an abundance of branches reaching out in all directions; 3) a good spread of roots emerging from the base at the level of the soil disappearing into the soil gradually so as to denote stability and agedness; 4) a tree as natural looking as possible with reference to its species; and 5) a pot which is in aesthetic and visual proportion to the tree, neither too big nor too small, both together forming a harmonious unity.

The branches too should have a pattern: the first branch should emerge from about 1/3 rd of the trees height above the base, the second branch should emerge from the opposite side of the trunk but slightly from a level higher than the first branch,

the third branch again from the side of the trunk opposite the second branch; a branch growing from the back of the trunk away from the front (somewhere between the first and third branches) to give a third dimension to the tree. All other branches would then follow this pattern each emerging from a higher point on the trunk, the entire branch arrangement rising in a gentle spiral up the trunk. The branches, as they emerge from the trunk should reduce in thickness, length and development from the lowest to the topmost branch.

All the attributes mentioned above are equally applicable to bonsai created from plant species from the temperate as well as the tropical climates. However, most tropical plant species, because they have virtually three seasons per year to grow in, have a somewhat faster rate of growth then the temperate plant species which, in comparison, have only one growing season per year, Consequently, tropical plants most times do not have a triangular outline but have a more rounded appearance, with the branch lengths somewhat more extended than temperate climate trees, particularly the ficus family which also feature aerial roots which enhance the appearance of branch spread. The style classification is therefore not as rigid as they are for temperate plants.


There are things which are to be avoided in a bonsai design:-

Branches should not cross each other. They should not face in the direction of the front, i.e., the best viewing side of the bonsai.

Branches should not emerge from opposite sides of the trunk from exactly the same point on the trunk (called Bar branches).

Taper should be uniform, i.e., there should not be any reverse taper.

Extreme distortion of trunk or branches is deemed to be unnatural and therefore avoided.