Bending Large Branches with Wiring and Raffia

Bending Large Branches with Wiring and Raffia

We’ve talked a little bit about raffia and wiring in previous posts. We thought we might combine those two skills, if you’re feeling adventurous and particularly artistic, by linking you to this very helpful video about bending the branches of a juniper tree with wire and raffia.

Initially, he discusses the health of his tree. He describes that it’s had some issues previously and he shows us where there are some dead/dying leaves. He explains that this is an issue of sunlight and the foliage being too thick (particularly above the areas where the leaves were dying).

At the beginning, the tree is so dense there isn’t even room to wire or use raffia so he starts off by cutting off anything dead and anything growing straight up (this is the style of bonsai, thinking clouds, horizontal, long and wispy). He also takes off branches that are “thin” (he describes them as “toothpick” sized) so he can get down to the basic structure of the plant. This is an important tactic because that’s how we really get an idea of what is possible with our trees. We have to know what they look like, where they want to go, and what we can possibly do with them based on that core structure.

Don't be afraid to thin it out!

Don’t be afraid to thin it out!

One thing to always consider when creating bonsai is that you don’t want to have four main branches. Four is considered bad luck in both Chinese and Japanese cultures. So, stick to three, five, or above. Because of the age and the size of the tree in the video, he is able to get about 8. Some trees are much smaller and that is okay. Again, work with what you have! (Just so long as what you have isn’t four!)

The hardest part of all of this is the actual wiring and applying raffia. It sounds a little corny, but you have to know your plant and listen to it. Don’t bend it more than it can handle (but if you do, again, there are ways to cope with it!) and try not to design something that’s so beyond want the tree wants to do that it is snapping left and right. The trick is to go slow and be gentle. Listen to your plant!

In the video, he has the wire on first, a typical technique to shape the trees. The problem is, wire alone can often create weak spots that break the soft growing part of the branches called the cambia (will likely do a more in-depth post about this later so stay tuned for that).

He has soaked the raffia in water so when he gets ready to wrap, it will go on smoothly and fit snugly around the branches. To enhance the strength of the raffia, he ties together three pieces of it together and then begins wrapping. As in our previous posts, he discusses how long the wire and raffia can be left on. He advises that it can be a few months up to a year but it really depends on how fast or slow growing your plant is. So, again, listen to your plant.



Junipers are coniferous plants in the genus Juniperus of the cypress family Cupressaceae. Depending on taxonomic viewpoint, between 50 and 67 species of juniper are widely distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere, from the Arctic, south to tropical Africa, from Ziarat, Pakistan east to eastern Tibet in the Old World, and in the mountains of Central America. The highest-known Juniper forest occurs at an altitude of 16,000 feet (4,900 m) in south-eastern Tibet and the northern Himalayas, creating one of the highest tree-lines on earth.

Bonsai Branch Bender

This bender is very helpful as you become more advanced in bonsai. This tool is very adjustable and will easily handle tree trunks up to an inch. They are very low priced and can be left in place. I did a short demo video on this bender. Watch the Bonsai Branch Bender demo video.

Bonsai Knob Cutters

A good pair of Bonsai Knob Cutters is essential for advanced bonsai artistry. These tools are great for gettting in close and removing small buds, branchs, gins, and inperfections. This is a high quality pair and is made from carbon steel.

Bonsai Tweezers

This is probably not the first bonsai tool I would buy, but it sure comes in handy. There is always something small, like a bud or a bug that needs to be grabbed. This type is good because there is a blade tool on the opposite end. This can be used to loosen the plant from the edge of a pot.

Bonsai Leaves Branch Shears

For a smaller hand, the best pair of shears is Bonsai Leaves Branch Shears. The smaller opening allow the user greater control and the length allows you to reach deep inside a plant and clip interior leafs and branches.

Bonsai Knife

A good sharp Bonsai Knife is one of the most important tools you can have. There are so many uses that I can't even list them all. You just need it there when it is needed.

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