We are in full summer now. I have noticed that some of my plants are pushing a flush of new growth. Among the plants pushing the hardest are Guamuchil (Pithecellobium dulce), Coastal Live Oaks, and Chinese banyan.
Regarding branches and leaves when we make bonsai most of us desire that we develop good ramification and in turn, we get leaf reduction. The challenge here is that try as hard as we may, we can only guess as to where the tree will push new buds.
I have noticed that on my Chinese banyan a new branch will grow from the lateral bud closest to the place I pruned. In a lot of trees in front of where a leaf grows, there is a place where a bud can grow. When that bud grows it is called a lateral bud. Sometimes on a Chinese banyan, only the lateral bud closest to the cut will grow. When this happens everything is for not. Why? because what the tree is doing is creating a continuation of the branch. It is replacing the section it lost. What we need is for the branch to split into two smaller branches. This splitting is what creates ramification. What happens is that the mass of the one branch is split into two. The new branches are smaller. The more you continue to do this the finer the ramification. If you replace one branch for one branch then no ramification has happened. You are actually a little behind because you have lost a lateral bud.What are we to do? For ficus and azaleas at least the answer is simple. Hard prune. A hard prune is when you cut-off large portions of many branches.
|lateral bud growing near cut|
|Only one branch grew. No ramification here.|
|Hard pruned Azalea|
Have you ever pruned a tree and got it to the size and silhouette that you wanted? Then the secondary branches grew close to the edge of the cut. Your tree outgrew the silhouette without contributing ramification. You are going to have to get rid of those branches because they make the tree silhouette bigger than what you wanted. This is where a hard prune comes in handy.
Have you ever looked at your tree and wished that it would back bud from further down the branch closer to the trunk? For ficus and Azalea, a hard prune might be the ticket.
|back budding after a hard prune|
This is a good way to fix those leggy ficusses and azaleas. This is a good example of what we want. Where a cut was made there are now three branches. Choose the two branches that are most parallel to the ground.
Let those branches get leggy than prune them close to the trunk. That's how you'll get the desired ramification on azaleas and ficus. Cheers.