Wiring is a horticultutral and bonsai technique that allows you to control the direction of growth and positioning of your bonsai's trunk and branches. In this article you will learn how wire can be used to manipulate your bonsai tree into the aesthetic style you desire.

How Wiring Works
By applying a bend to a branch or the trunk of your bonsai and using a wire to hold the bend in position, you damage the wood cells. As the bonsai tree repairs the cells, it keeps the shape of the bend and the bend becomes part of the natural shape of the branch or trunk, even after the wire is removed. Bonsai wiring is also called bonsai training because the bonsai tree 'learns' the style it is being held in.

Bonsai Wire
There are two main kinds of bonsai wire; aluminium [aluminum] and copper. Copper is stronger and thius provides more control over your bonsai's growth but can be harder to get into position on your bonsai's trunk/branches. Aluminium is the most popular choice as it is much easier to apply because it is is easier to bend, however it does have less holding power. Anodised aluminium wire is also available, which has a brown coating to make it less visible on your tree. Wires are availablein different guages (thicknesses) and, with a little practice, you will start to get a feel for the guage of wire you will need for a specific task. 

Bonsai Wiring ToolsBonsai Clippers and Bonsai Pliers
Althought there are many specialist bonsai wiring tools available, you can easily perform bonsai wiring with a pair of ordinary long-nosed pliers (for bending the wire) and a pair of ordinary wire-cutters (for snipping the wire). These tools can be obtained from any good hardware store.

Wiring Bonsai Tree
Before you begin wiring your bonsai, you need to ensure that your bonsai tree is at full health. If it is weak for any reason (e.g. it has recently recovered from a disease or you have obtained a tree that hasn't been adequately cared for) then the wiring procedure can cause permanent damage or even kill your bonsai tree. It is also beneficial to let your bonsai tree dry out a little before wiring as a reduction of sap in the branches can make them more supple and easier to bend.

Bonsai wiring ant 45 degree anglesTo wire your bonsai, coil it around your bonsai branch at 45 degree angles, starting closest to the trunk and working outwards. Try not to make the bends of a branch too close to it's trunk as this risks the branch breaking. Keep the coils close together and evenly spaced to provide the maximum strength of the hold. Do not apply the wire too tightly as this can cause damage to the bark (as is shown in the image below). Patience and care are of the utmost importance, so take your time and do the job as perfectly as you can.

Bonsai wiring cuts/scars on the bark

Although temporary, the wire should be left on for at least a period of several weeks to give your bonsai tree time to adjust and 'learn' the shape you want it to have. As soon as the bonsai tree is maintaining the shape on it's own the wire should be removed. If the wire is cutting into the bark of the bonsai tree, the wire should be removed immediately to avoid causing permantant damage - if, at this point, the bonsai tree isn't keeping the bends you require, you can re-wire it although make sure that the path of the new wire does not follow the 'grooves' of it's predecessor.

When removing the wire, it is advised that beginners cut it off with wire-clippers. With practice, it is possible to remove the wire by carefully unwinding it so that it can be re-used (especially aluminium wire) although this method does risk causing damage to the tree.

Other Bonsai Training Techniques
As well as wiring, you can also train your bonsai tree to grow a particular way using anchoring and weighing techniques.

Anchoring involves tieing one end of a piece of string around a branch, pulling it to make a bend and tieing the other end to a solid object (such as the pot).

Weighing is similar to anchoring but the other end of the string is tied to a heavy weight, which causes the branch to droop downwards. This technique is useful for kengai/cascade and han-kengai/semi-cascade styles.