Elongation with ramification to develop size?

Hi folks! New to bonsai Mirai and somewhat to bonsai. Very excited! While I’ve done a ton of studying and research I’ve only watched about ten of the video so far on here and just watched my first live feed this past Tuesday. Even got one of my questions answered on the qna. Which I thought was the coolest thing in the world lol unfortunately I somewhat botched the question and didn’t go into detail enough to really crack open the topic so I figured I’d bring it here. What everyone think of instead of letting a tree grow unchecked for seasons at a time before touching it to develop size and thicken up, what if you let everything grow unchecked to elongate to two or three feet then instead of cutting all the way back to the first two buds as you would if you were trying to develop ramification just cut only the lateral buds at the tip and maybe the first inch of elongated branch. So you really aren’t losing any already developed foliage but in stead of that 2 to 3 foot single branch just continuing to elongate you have five or ten branches elongating from it. If foliar mass is what develops size and if ramification creates more leaves then why wouldn’t elongating with ramification be more effective? It just really seems to me that a branch that has to support the development ten branches is gonna thicken way faster then one that only has to support itself. Also I’ve heard Ryan talk about the importance of cleaning pruning about 20 times now, to increase air circulation, to increase photosynthesis efficiency and to direct energy to the stronger and healthier parts of the tree so the tree is more effective in creating energy. Well if that’s the case wouldn’t it be effective in the long run if you occasionally cleaned it for those reasons even though you are still allowing it to grow out? Thanks in advance


I know exactly what you are talking about. There was a debate on this exact question going on over in the bonsainut forums. I don’t know if I can explain super well and I’m still trying to figure out the details of this conundrum myself but I have one way of looking at it that may help, and this is my interpretation so don’t take it as set in stone. Basically, it’s not necessarily just foliage mass that increases the size/diameter of a branch of a trunk, but just as important or more important is the branch wanting to elongate. If your tree is trying to elongate a branch it will put more resources to it and intuitively the tree knows that if this branch is elongating, than it needs to be thicker (aka structurally stronger) to support its own weight.

When you suggest clipping only the terminal inch of an elongating branch, you are basically describing pinching. Think of pinching on a deciduous tree for example. Typically you would take tweezers and just pluck out the terminal bud at the end of the branch when refining. Cutting off the last inch accomplishes the same thing, just a little messy comparatively. And what both of these practices accomplish is # 1 it will stop the elongation of that branch dead in its tracks and # 2 it will stimulate the growth of slower growing side branches from the buds at each internode.

You may end up with more foliage but the branch will have no need to keep elongating, due in part to the fact that it has more foliage and doesn’t need to to reach more sunlight. I really have to say that the whole “foliage = thickening” is sort of misleading. What really should be said is that the creation of new foliage at the elongating tip alone is what will drive the most thickening. Conifers might not totally fit into my explanation but this %100 applies to deciduous.

So what you want is to make the branch keep trying to build new foliage at the tip of the branch or leader, to get the fastest thickening. My teacher, Bill Valavanis told me to strip off all of the foliage from my sacrificial leader except for the foliage near the tips on my Quince. He explained the tree would recognize it needed more foliage here but it would cause the leader to put out new growth at the apical tip, cause further elongation which causes further trunk thickening.

You could try to do your proposed approach but I think what you will end up finding is that you’re not getting the thickening you want very quickly and your lateral branches won’t be easy to refine and will be constantly shaded out. I think this is a reason why we tend to develop then refine in two separate stages. I think the exception for your technique could be if you’re just trying to develop one or two branches in a tree that is already mostly in refinement.

I hope literally any of that made sense :joy::joy:


Here are a few things to consider or prepare for:

  1. Energy distribution will be diluted. Too early if still in development.
  2. Transpiration rate will increase which means more watering.
  3. Branches would get heavier, might get crowded affecting air circulation and might block sun, shading the internal branch structure limiting budding closer to the trunk.

Might cause problems by the time your tree is ready to be refined.

If the tree is potted, might be difficult due to the limited space for roots to grow to support the foliage. If still in the ground, shouldn’t be a problem. The tree’s roots will have enough room to grow and compensate for the increased foliage and transpiration.

If I remember correctly, this is how fruit trees are pruned to achieve higher yield in harvesting season.

Yup, I do understand what you’re saying. I appreciate your feedback. I figured there was a piece to the puzzle that I was missing. While I was highly curious about it, I had a really hard time believing no one is using this technique and it actually be better. Thanks

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@ThienXiang those are also very interesting bits of info. I thanks for the input

Did you listen to the Dennis Vojtilla podcast? His approach absolutely makes sense - taking time and letting the tree grow as a whole into the bonsai design vs speeding up growth.
I just realized this after listening to the podcast, especially when he mentioned growing the branches out and long depletes the energy and strength, and weakens the inner buds. Same as meds that stimulate the bone marrow to hyperproduce a certain cell line then do chemo. We see the decline in marrow efficiency in the lab results and patient condition. The white cells and red cells that are supposed to live longer and/or mature end up dying earlier either by chemo or body eliminates them because their weakened/have decreased function/unable to mature. Up to a point the body decreases function also which leads to cancer winning and patient dying.

No I haven’t heard about that @ThienXiang. Is that podcast on this site or could you direct me to it? Would love to check it out

Listen to Dennis Vojtilla by Bonsai Mirai #np on #SoundCloud

His approach appreciates and values the essence of “with age comes wisdom”. You grow the tree and with the tree. You work and learn with the tree. The end result is a high quality deciduous bonsai.

It’s a great podcast. I enjoyed it. I love deciduous trees, I collect japanese maples (not all for bonsai).

Take care.


Yep, I was thinking of the Dennis Vojtilla podcast too. What @Larryholsinger suggest is similar to Dennis’ approach - as I understand both are eventually valid but Dennis’ approach takes longer if perhaps producing a better result - which I can’t judge as I haven’t compared his trees with say Bill Valavanis trees that as mentioned in this thread are developed with the traditional sacrifice branch method. One thing to keep in mind is that you can and ought to promote and maintain/refine growth that is not sacrificial at the same time as you promote the growth of the sacrificial branches and the removal of leafs from their bases is also prevents shading on the rest of the branches.

To summarize it for you Larry, it depends with what your long term and short term goal is for your tree. What stage do you want your tree to be in, in about 5, 10 or 15 years.
Dennis Vojtilla, Bill Valavanis, and Peter Adams have different, similar, and somewhat similar approaches. It depends with what the tree is presenting you for you to work on with the tree (in my opinion).
I have a maple (still in the ground) with guy wires tied to stakes to open the interior to air and light. I trim off growth outside the canopy line, prune branches that aren’t needed or are growing the wrong direction. It is on a pot saver (up a daisy) to develop nebari.
I’m not in a rush, so I’m ok with taking it slow.