Thickening the Trunk

SiliconHeadMarch 30, 2013

Hello. I have two questions:

1. How can we thicken the trunk? Is it necessary to plant the plant in ground to achieve that (trunk thickening)?

2. Should i raise a bonsai from trunk tapering first to reach the first branch and tapper it too and then go to next trunk tapper and next branch tapper to shape it OR should i first make all required branches (by pruning and getting the shape) and just keep it cutting back? Will simple cutting in general shape (of the selected branches) will develop a bonsai?

Thanks & Best Regards

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One thing I've found out about bonsai, it is always a work in process. By planting a tree back in the ground will increase trunk size. A bonsai pot is too restricting and slows growth. As far as trunk tapper, the entire trunk should have a nice flow to it. This not always easy to achieve. Two good video series on youtube are orlandobonsai and bonsaistudent. Both of these gentlemen I've learned a great deal from. Bonsaistudent has a set of videos in which he does a time clip of replanting a tree. It is amazing in a year, how it thickens the trunk and branches. I hope this helps.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 4:04AM
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I have to disagree about planting a tree back in the ground increasing the trunk size. Generally the more wide and shallow a pot is the thicker and older looking the trunk is. The pot size must be adjusted gradually, usually the pot is changed for a wider one ever year or two. Putting it in the ground would let it grow tall and just out of control in general. Time, root pruning, and constantly trimming back new growth are the only things that will achieve a mighty trunk

Jason Moorehead

Here is a link that might be useful: Best-Bonsai

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 7:13PM
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I completely disagree with you Jason. Constant pruning on a tree and keeping it confined in a tiny pot would serve no purpose for thickening the trunk. Planting it in the ground and letting it grow wild is the right way. You want it to go crazy with growth. The more leaves, the faster it'll grow and thicken.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 10:21PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I agree with Ryan. Think of a trunk as a river. The more tributaries (branches/leaves) it has, the faster it widens. More foliage = more food produced = more files of cells laid down in the cambium = more thickening. The root restriction, high temperatures, and other negative cultural conditions associated with containers inhibit caliper increases. Plant your tree in the ground if possible for rapid development of the trunk & primary branches. Move the tree to a pot for finer ramification. If you can't put the tree in the ground for it's early development, use a very fast, well-aerated soil and a very large container. Let the roots run into the ground through the container bottom whenever possible.


    Bookmark   April 7, 2013 at 3:22PM
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Agreed, the only way to thicken the trunk is to drastically increase the amount of weight it has to support, which means letting the plant grow as large and lush as possible. You can't do that in a bonsai container, it needs to be out in actual dirt where it can really branch out (literally, no pun intended).

    Bookmark   April 8, 2013 at 11:29AM
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What works for me is, I bury a dinner plate upside down and plant my tree over it for a year. Spreads roots and helps taper.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 10:58AM
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For Serissa I was told not to cut the leader branch which will make the trunk thicken.


    Bookmark   April 13, 2013 at 9:46PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

If you want to induce the taper you need for your bonsai to look proportional and believable, you'll need to plan some strategic trunk chops.

How much weight a trunk supports strengthens the trunk because the added flexing stimulates lignin production, but it doesn't thicken the trunk. Thickening is id a direct relation with cell files laid down in the cambium. The more food production there is, the more cells laid down in the cambium. So, more foliage/light = more food production = more cells laid down in the cambium = a fatter trunk and branches.

Unless you're purposely after a wispy tree or literati style, it's difficult to develop a good tree without trunk chops. It's POSSIBLE with skillful restriction of top growth over a long period of time, but generally planned chops are the preferred method of inducing taper.

You can see by the cut paste where this maple has been chopped once. It will be chopped again and the main trunk removed at the crotch between the main trunk & the little branch wired up as the new trunk. Then, I'll select another small branch low on the wired branch as the new leader, and let the rest of the wired branch grow wild - to thicken everything below it. This is how we build taper into our trees.


    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 3:25PM
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