River Birch Bonsai Development – Dealing with Bonsai that Die Back Easily

I trained this River Birch bonsai from a seedling.  This bonsai first spent about three years in the field on a tile to increase the trunk size and help the roots grow out instead of down. Now the tree has been potted into a squat container and allowed to rest for well over a year. From this point it can begin the initial design process. River Birch are notorious for die back so today I just want to prune to stimulate back budding which will prepare the tree to be shortened without the risk of loosing big parts of the trunk which I’ve had occur on several other Birch.

Here is how the tree currently looks.

River Birch Bonsai in development


Some sacrifice branches were wired down to the edge of the container to keep them from blocking sunlight to important branches and they were tipped to stimulate back budding. The other sacrifice or escape branches are all tipped back and a few totally removed as I felt comfortable doing, again to stimulate back budding. The branches that are usable for the final design were wired to add movement. The tree will rest and be allowed to freely grow and possibly next year the main trunk can be cut down to the new leader. I’m focused on developing new strong growth where I within a cohesive design. At a certain point enough resources will be flowing from the designed area that the sacrifice branches can be safely removed.

Cut back on a River Birch bonsai


Here is the back side of this River Birch bonsai where I removed large sacrifice branch. I don’t want any scars on this tree when it is in a nice pot. Additionally, the sacrifice branch that is helping to close up this wound is simultaneously creating reverse taper at the bottom edge. For now however, I need that branch to close the wound. Later I will be considering adding a few grafts near the base to build better nebari and help the reverse taper at the same time. You should always apply wound sealant if you want the scar to heal completely.

Sacrifice branch scar on a River Birch bonsai


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