Letting shoots run to develop primary branches

@bonsaitonight - if the end of a branch has been cut already, is there any hope that letting one of its offshoots run will still significantly thicken that branch?

I was told to not cut the tip of a branch if you want it to run/thicken, but I just got a trident maple pre-bonsai (from Lone Pine, thanks for the tip!) and nearly all of them have been cut (probably roughly pruned to shape).

It has some good potential primary branches, but not as many as I’d like are particularly thick, and I also want a bigger canopy. Would you suggest I let this go (mostly) untrimmed for a full year or two, or should I just take what I’ve got and dive into the clip & grow method?

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One of the best things about developing deciduous bonsai is that it’s not a problem to cut off any or all branches that you aren’t happy with and grow new ones. You can wire these new branches into whatever position you like and then let them run so they can thicken up. Once these branches have thickened up, you can start on the refinement of the smaller branches.

That looks like a nice tree. I’d likely cut or bend every branch I see to get the primary branches where I want them. You can do this work anytime before it starts growing in February. I’d also recommend bare-rooting the tree this winter so you can get it growing in bonsai soil in a shallow and wide container like a wooden box.

I also have the same question about branch thicken. Your reply didn’t seem to address that question. You mention cutting off completely and regrowing new branches. I have branches where I want them. But they are thin. Will these branches thicken even though they are pruned back? Or. Is thickening at the base only achieved by letting a branch grow…no pruning?

Whether you cut them all off or not makes no difference - as long as you let a branch run it will thicken.

The tree above was pruned to a rough silhouette. Letting any of the branches grow freely for a few years will thicken them.

I mentioned cutting branches because many of the existing branches are already too thick to bend. I usually cut them short (about 3/4") or remove them entirely and grow new ones as that’s the fastest way to create attractive primary branches.

Here’s an example of what this work looks like on a tree grown at Lone Pine: