Species Specific > Japanese Black Pine Bonsai Discussion

When to cut back JBP for backbudding

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After first styling last fall, and slip potting into a slightly larger container this spring, my JBP was slow.
Now this year's needles are about half the length of last year's.  They look very healthy though.  Even the shoots on the lowest branches have lots of buds.
I think it is save to prune away more branches and to cut back into old needles for backbudding now or next month.
The theory being that the tree will spend the rest of the growing season making buds on old wood.
My teacher  wants to cut back (into old, thus this years needles!) next spring, after needles begin to come out. The theory being that the tree is active and tries to replace the lost growth as soon as possible?

I typically work roots first before styling, a year or more apart. The fact that you say it was styled last fall and then slip potted this year it doesn't surprise me that it was slow this year.

Why slip potted? What kind of soil? What are the condition of the roots?

I have found that a healthy black pine will back-bud easily on wood up to 10 years old. If a bud doesn't pop where you want it, grafting is extremely easy.

Though you are in zone 8 and can get away with candle pruning later than me, the end of August is likely to late. If you prune now you'll experience another slow year next year. It will put you two years behind.

Better to feed aggressively this fall and adhere to proper techniques next year.

Can we see a full shot of the tree?

Thanks John,

I did repot because the container was cut down. And the original soil stayed wet to long.
I always understood that cutting back in the fall was to prompt backbudding, and candle pruning in spring for ramification?

Is that not correct in general? Of course I will wait till spring before pruning it. Should that be candle pruning or pruning further back into old needles?

dirk hoorelbeke:
I'm not a pine expert. The growth is slow but healthy. You slip potted because it didn't dry out fast enough. Original soil is still in place? Cutting back now will take power away and the soil will stay wet longer in winter, leading to the same problems again. You might half bare root next spring to start a new and better root ball IF the tree is healthy enough. More growth will produce more buds. Thin out some needles in fall to let light to the interior buts you might remove branches you don't need, but remember you are cutting away strength to.

John Kirby:
Roots first. Get the tree strong, then worry about design. Weak trees shed branches. Fertilize until the end of the growing season. You live in zone 8? Do you have growth starting the end of February or later? Repot around the time of growth starting, bare root 1/2 and place in a rapidly draing, yet moisture retentive mix that does not include organics. Secure the tree well in the pot. Protect the soil from freezing, start fertilizing 4 weeks after transplanting. If you get a strong flush of growth, you can prune back in to prior years (old) needles to release latent buds from inhibition. Do not do to weaker branches. Let weaker brnches strengthen, then return following spring and prune back. Have fun.


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