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The answer several, there are many great examples of wonderful blogs out there that show you exactly how to de-candle. Micheal Hagadorn went from famous pot maker to famous Bonsai artist and teacher…he can be found at Jonas Dupuich has a great blog called Bonsai is one of the most in-depth blogs out there today. He has studied with Boon for many, many years and also traveled to Japan to capture the latest information and shows on film. His blog is One of my earlier teachers Peter Tea has a great blog and while he was in japan he was able to work on some amazing material and post lots of blogs of his work there, he is at These are just a few of the west coast guys who do blogs. In fact if you google "who discovered the de-candling technique" you will find many great blogs....many of them proteges of Boon Manakitivipart. With all these wonderful blogs out there, why start or do another one. If you ask someone what type of ice cream they like, you will get many answers. Ask someone what is their favorite meal, again you will get many answers. So...there is my answer....or as some would say “different strokes for different folks”. We all have a little something to share and tell the same story a little different.

Why in the world would someone chop off the tips of a branch right when it's just starting to look its best? By now most of you bonsai enthusiasts know that de-candling was discovered by accident. You see some overly hungry caterpillars happened upon this garden in Japan and decided to have a feast. And so they did.....they ate all of the spring growth from the tips of one of his trees. I would think the nurseryman would be a little devastated. Never the less there was not much he could do. As time passed the half eaten tips began to send out adventitious buds. Having never witnessed this before the bonsai nursery man noticed these buds as they grew were much smaller the previous year’s candles. He must have thought what if I intentionally cut the spring candles. I can only guess his excitement and anticipation waiting for the next spring to begin experimenting. So he began doing just that....cutting candles at different lengths and at different times of the month. After many experiments, he figured out the best times to de-candle in Japan was around the first of the month in June for his largest and fastest growing trees, and closer to the end of the month for his smaller slower growing and shohin trees.

Now you know the rest of the story. But how does that translate to us here in the USA. For us here in California it almost translates identical give or take a few days to a week depending on the tree. The further east you go you need to adjust for your weather. Please stop by my Facebook group


De-candling tree in training to control balance

But why do we de-candle anyway? One reason is if you left your spring candles grow the entire tree would be out of proportion by the end of July. The spring candles have too long of a base to use in your design. Why else do we de-candle? The newest growth once de-candled will come back 3 to 4 times smaller. This in turn makes your tree look larger. Ok why else? De-candling can promote back budding...even on old trees. The best reason to de-candle that I believe is everyone hopes for the needles to come back smaller....much smaller. Since you changed the flow of energy by de-candling you weaken the strongest areas. That allows the weakest parts including the interior to grab more energy and become stronger. In other words we are creating balance over the entire tree. When else do you de-candle? When you are forming a branch and one area is stronger than the tip of the branch. When building a branch we have to remember that we are wanting the tips of branch elongate until we have back budding strong enough to take over that branch.....ok I could go on.......


Big fat strong candle near the top of the tree

So why do we need balance? Your Japanese black pine is usually strongest on the top portion of your tree. If you de-candle thus weakening the strong area, you promote new vigor to the weakest areas.....hence the saying....weaken the strong....strengthen the weak.


Large candle from the top of the tree and the smaller candle from the bottom of the tree...the goal is to make all the candles the same size over time

One may ask; Are there times when you don't de-candle or it's not necessary to de-candle? I have talked about Japanese Black Pines before but never really covered this subject of Japanese Black Pine de-candle. The times to not de-candle, is on very sick or diseased tree. No need to decandle very young trees that are still in training where your goal is to grow larger branches or a larger trunk. I have seen people just de-candle, just because… without any thought as to why they are de-candling. When you de-candle UN-necessarily, that action may cause a knot at the end of a branch. That action may also slow down an area that actually needs to continue to grow. It also does not allow for tapper which is very important since we are trying to mimic nature. Are there other time to not de-candle? Yes! If you want to fatten your tree up you can leave if or let it grow and cut back around November. Why would you do this? Remember I said this process weakens the tree. Sometimes your trees need a break and this will add a little new life to your bonsai. This technique would work on all trees but best for trees in training. A super strong vigorous growing finished tree is usually de-candled yearly. Though maybe some areas are left alone until fall to strengthen a certain area. We should remember, de-candling should only be done on a strong, healthy vigorous growing Bonsai trees. OH no! I forgot to tell you about thinning to two buds and why and how to use super sharp scissors. Dammit …that will have to be another blog.


De-candling a portion of a younger tree.

A last thought.....we should ask ourselves before we de-candle. What do I want from this De-candling process? Because your tree will respond a certain way depending on when, how and what you de-candle ....God this is fun! I always ask myself….what am I doing to this tree? What is doing to this tree and how will it respond.

Happy De-candling! If you don't know how to de-candle. Look for any blog from students of Boon...or students that have returned from Japan after their in depth training. They will have the most updated information Please don't read old books or listen to bonsai Buck at your local club who just joined a week prior to you. You will do more damage than good listen to or reading outdated material....that's just my opinion…..

Written by Ron Anderson — June 19, 2014