Guide to Kaede Bonsai Defoliation

Guide to Kaede Bonsai Defoliation

Defoliation can be a scary word for some, but for Kaede (Trident Maple), it’s an important technique. In this article, we will delve into the art of defoliating and explore the benefits and best practices associated with this technique.

Understanding Defoliation

Defoliation involves the careful removal of leaves from a tree, allowing for new growth and improved branch structure. It is an important technique for promoting a second and sometimes even third flush of smaller and more compact leaves.
With Kaede, the inner leaves often die and the inner buds fail due to being shaded. However, defoliating the exterior canopy can lead to remarkable rejuvenation of the interior areas of the branch systems.


Defoliating Kaede is a hands-on process that requires a gentle touch. By combing your hands through the foliage with a bit of pressure, you can easily remove the majority of leaves. The tips of the branches tend to offer a bit more resistance. In such cases, it is advisable to reduce the number of leaves gripped at a time or revert to plucking them individually. This approach minimizes any potential damage to the tree while ensuring a thorough clean-up.

Once the majority of the exterior leaves and elongating shoots have been plucked you can take up your scissors to continue to prune back the elongated tips as well as the middle position leaves. The ideal result would have only the interior buds which have leafed out remaining holding their leaves. At this point, upon close inspection you will be able to see a great many dormant interior buds. It is for the benefit of these little guys we do this process.

Timing and Considerations

Proper timing is crucial when it comes to defoliating Kaede. To ensure optimal results, it is recommended to visualize the growing season divided into two or three separate rounds or flushes, typically an April/June/August schedule or a May/July schedule could be kept depending on whether your area can support two or three flushes. By choosing this time, you allow the tree sufficient opportunity to regrow new leaves and adequately prepare for the upcoming winter.

Late spring defoliation:

Aesthetics and Long-Term Benefits

Engaging in defoliation now offers long-term advantages for your Kaede bonsai. Based on your tree's level of energy, continued and purposeful application of these techniques over years is the key to developing a high volume of tightly ramified branching , and will in the long run be very useful in building the interior buds needed when pruning overly long mature branches.


Defoliating Kaede bonsai is a rewarding practice that enhances both the aesthetic appeal and health of the tree. Remember, the window for defoliation is limited, so seize the opportunity to refine your artistry. Embrace the season and cultivate the beauty of Kaede defoliation.

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Visit Tree House Bonsai during the next Kokufu-ten

During the Kokufu exhibition in February 2024, Adam will open the doors of Tree House Bonsai. Join us for a half-day, all-inclusive tour from Ueno on February 11th and February 14th.