What to do at this stage of development?

Hi Jonas,
I have some questions about 2-3 year old JBP regarding the right steps I should take at this stage.
i’ll ask about specific trees and try to use the answers for all the rest.
Start with a simple one:

should I remove long needles from the bottom part to get more sunshine in?
should I reduce the sacrifice leader to one or a few less candles?

tree 2:

the long needle question applies here as well.
There are 3 branches at the bottom section. one will probably be a new leader and the other a branch. I think they start to create a burrell. Should I select now? would you keep the stronger long internode two or the weaker two?
If I have lots of buds at the bottom. can I or should I remove all the needles around them? they are not active.

tree 3:

very similar questions. adding thet the bottom branches on this one are strong with long internodes. should I cut back at this stage? or let them grow freely to thicken up? again. one of the 3 will be a new leader and its going to be a small tree. unless you think this can be a large one and I should act differently.

last one:

I can’t show it now but the nebari on this one is outstanding :slight_smile:
this one has active buds at the bottom. I have already made a selection at the bottom last year… all the long needles at the bottom block the sun. should they all go?
should I cut off some at the top? the candles there are super long…

I guess these are general questions as well. I would like to know your decision making process and reasons for doing or not doing something so I could use it on all the JBPs here.

I really appreciate your help… you are making the bonsai world better!


Thanks for sharing the pics Shay - it’s fun to see the progress!

To come up with plans for these trees, I’d be curious how big you’ll want the trunks to become. If you plan to let them thicken for the next 5-10 years, I wouldn’t worry a lot about the lower foliage beyond ensuring at least one future sacrifice branch. If longer term/larger trunks is the plan, you can simply let the trees grow this year.

Some specifics: for the first tree, I’d let it grow for now. You can thin some of the new growth in fall/winter/spring. When the lower branches are longer, in maybe a year or two, you can replace the sacrifice branch with one of the lower branches.

For the second tree, I’d want to get some bends in the trunk. (There may be bends that I can’t see beneath the needles.) You can wire the trunk anytime. As for a new leader, any of the shoots could work. I might wire one or two now and make the selection later. Depending on how many years you want to thicken the trunk, the swelling likely won’t come into play when you remove the sacrifice branch.

The third tree looks like it’s swelling a bit more, I’d likely remove one or two of the branches at the whorl (last photo of tree 3). This tree could be wired now, in summer or in fall. Once there’s some shape it might be easier to see what needs to happen in terms of which branches to keep or cut.

The answer for the fourth tree will really depend on your plan for it. I’d likely wire the low branch and plan on removing the sacrifice branch either this fall or the following year.

These are good questions as the answers will follow from your goals for the trees. If you know the general size and shape, you can start to imagine what the trunk will need to look like and where the branches will come from.

I’ll often try to create movement where I can and leave myself options so I can delay these decisions without regretting it later. Put another way, I ask myself, how can I make the tree easier to work on next year (by creating more movement, more taper, or branches, by getting the tree healthier, by reducing sacrifice branches, by healing wounds, etc.).

Hope this helps!


Thank you Jonas!
I don’t think I want any of them larger then shohin. I thought the first sacrifice branch stays until I reach the desired thickness
You didn’t say anything about last years needles. So just to be sure, if I have buds they can go?
I think I’ll work on one or two and post the result so it will be easier to see the direction.
Thank you very much for your help!

this is tree #3 after removing old needles and adding some movement to the trunk line and a couple of branches.

any notes on this one?
things I should do different?
was removing all last years needles OK?


When it comes to needles, I leave them unless I have a reason to remove them. I didn’t see any reason to remove them as they’ll help the trees grow faster and they provide more options for branches if needed. If you don’t need additional branches, pulling them is fine too, but it may slow the trees down a little - not a big difference either way.

As for the sacrifice branches, yes, they stay until the trunk reaches the desired thickness. That said, I also think about the taper of the tree from roots to apex. If there’s a single sacrifice branch near the future apex, there will be no significant taper along the trunk. If you’re looking to create taper, then sacrifice branches are needed at different points along the trunk (unless the trunks will be very short or you have outstanding roots which will create flair near the base of the trunk).

To figure out what tree #3 needs, I start with an idea of what the completely styled tree will look like and work back from there. I generally keep lots of extra branches on longer term projects as it can be hard to keep the current ones you have small enough to use. If you plan to use all of these branches, you may need to decandle this year as the internodes are already long for a short tree. Decandling will slow things down, but you can always thicken the trunk later.

Will see if I can post more about trees in this stage. Although there’s a lot to say on the topic, I try to focus on the general principles as the specific answers all depend on the goals for a given tree.

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I really appreciate your effort and willingness to help!
I thought that by using a specific tree it will be possible to deduce on other trees…
Because this one, and most of the others, have an abundance of very low branches, I want to make them shohin.
Is it possible instead of decandling the branches now, to cut back later?
If I decandle, should I decandle the whole tree or only the branches?
I know its inevitable to make mistakes along the way and learning these things long distance is very heard and limited…
I’ll update on all the others when I am done and will keep you informed on their progress.
Thank you very much!

When I’m between two options and have a number of trees to play with, I’ll often try both approaches to learn how the tree responds to each.

It’s definitely possible to cut back later instead of decandling as long as there is something to cut back to! Once the branches get too long to use, grafting becomes the best option.

As for whether to decandle just the low branches or the whole tree, I try to consider how the tree will respond. If the top is really strong and the bottom branches are weak, I’ll decandle the whole tree. (Otherwise the lower branches may not produce buds.)

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I’ll try different approaches and update later on.
Thank you very very much.