Raffia: Complete Protection For Bonsai Training & Shaping

  • By: Josh Koop
  • Date: February 8, 2023
  • Time to read: 4 min.
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Bonsai growth is an enjoyable art. It feels beautiful when your bonsai turns into just what you had in mind. But the growth of bonsai is not an exercise for novice, impatient or careless people; neither should you leave it in the hands of beginners because even some experts might still get it wrong because they did not choose the right tool for their job. 

This is because, during bonsai growth, one major aspect differentiates experts from beginners; bonsai training and shaping. Every bonsai lover would like to master the art of training (using wires to bend the trunks and branches into new shapes to give a desirable outcome.

A common mistake, which can be severe, is to train your bonsai tree without protecting it against damage. The best way of doing this is to have the tree wrapped with an underlying material before wiring.

Many materials can serve this purpose, but the raffia is the most common material for this craft. You might be wondering what raffia is, but soon you will be finding out in this article.

Here, we have provided major information about bonsai training and shaping.

What is bonsai raffia? 

Raffia is a material from a reed-like plant commonly used to protect bonsai trees from damage during wiring.

What does training a bonsai mean?

Your small tree’s appearance is determined by bonsai training and shape. It’s a difficult task because you’ll be creating the bonsai simultaneously. Miniature trees are ordinary trees that have been reduced in size using unique processes.

Because there are no “special bonsai seeds,” they develop from natural seeds. Therefore, bonsai training is the art of creating small miniature trees from natural seeds.

How does raffia work? 

The process is very simple. You begin by soaking the material in water for about 30 minutes. Then, carefully and tightly wind three to four layers around the length of the intended branch.

As the raffia dries out, it shrinks and tightens the branch more and provides the branch with additional support.

Note. Since dry raffia is difficult to manipulate, wetting the material eases its use.

How does raffia protect the bonsai tree?

Raffia offers the tree a variety of benefits. To begin with, it keeps the wire from cutting into the bark or the softwood beneath it.

It also distributes the stresses generated by training, decreasing branch strain and preventing cracks. Finally, it keeps the branch moist, lowering the likelihood of cracks in the wood or tears in the bark.

The raffia may then be unwrapped fast and simply without causing damage to the branch once the training is complete and the wire has been removed.

Raffia is made up of dried strips collected from the raffia palm tree’s leaves, native to South America and Africa. It has been a traditional source of binding and weaving material for millennia in certain parts of the world, as it is robust and easy to deal with.

Raffia for bonsai comes in long, thin strands that are a few feet long.

It’s simple to use on a Bonsai. After soaking it in water for about half an hour, you wrap it tightly around the branch or trunk that will be wired, much like a bandage, to make it soft and pliable.

It’s best to use three or four layers in most cases.

What are some alternatives to raffia?

Although raffia is the most commonly used material for this particular purpose, some alternatives exist. Unlike raffia, some users prefer these alternatives because they do not stick to the branch.

Some alternatives include vet wrap, plastic tape, electrical tape, and inner-tubing. Plastic or electrical tapes are used backward ( the backside wraps around the tree). 

Is raffia better than modern alternatives?

The answer to this question is a loud yes; raffia is better than modern alternatives. If you check other Bonsai blogs, you’ll see people suggesting things like “simply use masking tape” to get the same appearance as raffia.

While it is possible to do so – and it certainly works in a pinch – we believe the traditional technique is preferable for several reasons:

Raffia does not require the use of glue

Removing tape from branches can cause damage depending on the sort of tape you’re using and the bark of your tree.

Raffia is a superior binding material to tape

When raffia is wrapped wet, it constricts when it dries, an important feature. This improves its protective properties while dispersing the strains across a branch or trunk. The tape will not suffice.

Raffia is a completely natural material

Pure plant material is one of the few natural and biodegradable things. When one of Bonsai’s’messages is in harmony with nature employing a plastic chemical substance to train it doesn’t feel very ethical.

Raffia is inexpensive

Raffia is only somewhat more expensive than most tapes, especially high-quality tape. By avoiding raffia, there are no genuine savings to be had.

Where can you get bonsai raffia?

Getting bonsai is usually not the problem, but something that you will feel happy with is where lies the problem. Some come very thin and short, while you get lay hands on some very long and wide ones.

There are several places where you can pick up packets of bonsai raffia. You can purchase bonsai raffia from local stores or an online shop such as amazon, Kiku premium bonsai, and many others. The product comes in various sizes and colors.

Check out their online purchase form and feel the details to ensure what you will be receiving.


If it was not clear above, bonsai raffia seems to be a major material you will need for your bonsai training and shaping.

We can safely say that the success of the process depends not only on your expertise but also on the use of bonsai.

Arguably, though bonsai raffia has some limitations, such as sticking to the back of the tree, its advantages still make it the best option among other alternatives.