Developing and Refining Maples for Bonsai

Spring is just around the corner, and you’ll soon be busy in your bonsai collections doing routine maintenance, this article we will focus on a few techniques for maples.

This article will be split between developing maples and refining maples. Lets start with developing maples

I have come to understand a rather simple technique for jumpstarting the development stage of a maple bonsai that has its trunk line in place and is now ready to develop the initial stages of its branching. I have found that minimising the amount of fertiliser, and allowing the tree to grow some long growth which you’ll be able to wire down later. Once there is this initial strict in place its time to study metsumi.

Above is an example of a trident maple that has been allowed to grow out and subsequently been wired out. This tree will now experience metsumi in the following seasons.

First wiring after allowing the soft shoots to grow out and wired.



Metsumi is loosely translated into ‘bud take’ and can be used in Japan in place for mekiri ‘but cut’ for black pines as well. 


Metsumi is the practice of carefully removing the new growth with tweezers. Once the new buds emerge in spring, you’ll first have a bud emerge with a pair of two leaves, and from the middle of these two leaves, the branch will continue to grow its stem.

Maples are what we call an ‘opposite leaf’ patterned species, where two leafs emerge opposite each other on the stem, and the shoot continues to grow from the centre of those two leaves. Each of those leave have their own latent bud hidden at their base. Metsumi is the practice of breaking that shoot off, so that those latent buds develop into their own shoots, therefore bifurcating the growth.

 At the base of the two leaves, will be a bud on each leaf that will grow once it stoped receiving a growth inhibiting hormone called auxin. If the centre stem is removed, these two buds will emerge and grow a branch stem of their own.  If this process is related, from one bud we can expect 4 in turn in just 2 applications per bud site. Thats an exponential growth of shoot terminals. Meaning it’s possible to develop a relatively dense canopy in just one season. It is warned though, this process can produce some undesired results. Sometimes this can result in stunted growth, so please practice and watch and learn. 

Its also possible to use a combination fo these two techniques year on year, I have bee quite successful on producing conniving results mixing and matching these results year on year. 


Next year’s growth can easily be seen here marked out by the green lines.

I hope this article helps you with the development of your maples.



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