Clip And Grow Pruning Technique

In this article a different type of shaping, called clip and grow, is discussed.

As was touched upon last week, one must be vigilant with training wire to observe the tree and make certain that the growth of the branches does not become constricted by the coils of wire. Wire marks– depending upon their severity– can over time disappear on some varieties of trees. For other trees, it’s ruined permanently, and the only solution would be to cut off the branch and start training a new one, or change the design to incorporate this newly discovered ‘negative space’!

An alternative to wiring branches is to train them by clip and grow techniques. Simply put, clip and grow is the technique of cutting a branch back to a certain length while bearing in mind in which direction  the new growth will extend. Once the new growth has extended (in a different direction than the length of branch behind it, or nearer to the trunk if you’re having difficulty visualizing), it is cut back again to a length a bit longer than the first clipping, and the process repeats itself. The branch builds exciting and ancient looking zig-zags over time.

Not all trees and shrubs are candidates for clip and grow pruning, nor are all geographic locations suitable for implementing the clip and grow regime. For a plant to be even remotely acceptable for clip and grow, it should be:

–A vigorous and quickly growing variety.

–A variety that responds well to pruning.


–A variety that does not have a powerful callusing mechanism.

–Perhaps a tree with extremely brittle branches that will not tolerate shaping with wire.

Is your locale a suitable environment for clip and grow? Unless you wish to wait thirty years for a decent looking tree, you should live in a warm weather climate and thus have a long growing season.

Who uses clip and grow techniques? Because the resulting angles to the branch structures are rather pronounced, people who wish to replicate Chinese style bonsai would use it. The sharp ‘zig-zagginess’  of the branch silhouette is typical of Chinese pentsai. Of course, anyone is welcome to use clip and grow on their trees! It is a more tedious process than wiring to shape branches, but the results are visually quite interesting. Questions, comments? Feel free to post them!

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