Letting branches run

Recently an experienced bonsai person in the area said, “every so often you should just let the tree grow. Don’t trim anything. The tree doesn’t have to be ‘show-ready’ all the time.” I have never heard this advice. What do you think? Particularly for bald cypress and trident maples.

I’ve heard that too, though I don’t know how I’d put that in context.

I definitely think trees don’t always need to be show ready, nor do I try to keep them that way. The big question is to what extent do we let a tree just grow.

In general, I let trees grow to the point where any more vigor would compromise branch quality. Depending on the species, health and age of a tree, this could be anywhere between 1 - 3+ years.

I also let trees grow a bit more than usual after a significant repotting, and I hold back on techniques like decandling and defoliation when trees show signs of weakness.

I’ve been letting a trident maple grow for the past 3-4 years without cutback in order to regain vigor. I’ll only considering cutting it back again when the new shoots begin elongating well beyond the silhouette. I’d likely do the same with bald cypress too.

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