Here’s a cool tree, a cascading willow leaf ficus, originally a root cutting, literally the root from another bigger tree cut off so it fits into the pot, then the tree puts out new growth from the cut off root end. Don’t waste those roots!

It needs some TLC. The wire is cutting in pretty strongly, and it’s putting out new growth. Time to work it!

So what’s a guy (or gal) to do?

Well, first, take the wire off. I prefer to unwind (maybe an adult beverage, some smooth jazz, a nice breeze, after a hard day in the nursery) it. I teach unwinding to remove wire as opposed to cutting it off as it teaches you to have respect for the fragility of the branches and gives your hands “muscle memory”, because removing wire is much like putting it on. Also, this is aluminum, not copper. Copper (mostly) has to be cut off, in the larger gauges especially due to how it hardens off after you wrap it around the branches.

Aluminum is soft enough to unwind and doesn’t work harden. Plus, why waste it if it can be used again?

I counted maybe 5 wires total.

With the wire off, now it’s time for some pruning. I know it looks daunting but….

…..I know what you’re saying, “that’s easy for you” but it is easy. Just start with the beginning steps, always: get rid of ups, downs, those in the branch crotches or on the inside of the curves. Then move to the real choices.

But that’s towards the end. Some basics: Leave only two shoots from each branch spilt.

And then you cut for taper, movement, and, overall reduce the trees canopy so you see the trunk and branch lines

Now to the rest of the tree.

Taper cut…


Maybe even further back for more taper…

In fact, this whole branch is just too chunky….buh-bye!


There we go. Simplified. Bonsai is an art of just keeping what you need to tell the story. Be choosy, simple, elegant. If you’re leaving more than you need, it’s just a Bush, not a bonsai.

Now, as always, try to improve the trunk line: below there’s a swelling that stops the flow, so we can sculpt it a bit.

A knob (pronounced kah-nob) cutter works well for this excision.

The knob cutter begins the cut, and a sharp blade cleans it up well.

And sit back to admire the handiwork.

back to the branches. Now, my friends, I know from experience that the lowest branch will raise if I don’t re-wire it (it raised even with the wire on it). Let’s get some back on.

Reuse, recycle (a perk of unwinding) the old wire.

And make sure you wrap it in the opposite direction. It’ll stay on for it to cut in again, which isn’t a bad thing. Why? It’ll take a few more wirings to make it stay in place, and each wire cut shows you the branch has grown.

And that’s it. Well, you know, don’t forget the fertilizer and all that, of course.

A detail shot.

And the final shot.

And I’m still looking for a good pot, or I might make one…..but that’s another post.

4 thoughts

  1. Thanks for your information on Narrow Leaf Ficus. I’ve maintained mine for 35yrs or so and they survive regardless of my mishandling. I bring them inside once night temps reach 45F and finally discovered a window that they favor and don’t drop leaves.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s