Can I cut candles on a repotted black pine ?

davetree

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I have a mature Japanese black pine which I repotted this spring about 5-6 weeks ago. It was root bound. The tree is pushing candles hard now, with many 2 and 3 inches long. Can I trim these candles in a repotting year, or should I just leave them alone ? Thanks for your help.
 
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Most of the time there is the "golden rule of pines" which talks about only doing one major process a year... but standard pruning on a tree with such obvious vigor is not a problem. Root extension is occuring at the same time as your candle extension... so just giving it some time to enjoy that vigor is a good thing, but pruning it before it blows the image of a mature tree is a also a requirement. It doesn't take long to undo years of training.

I'd thin them out at the very least. :)

V
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Not to disagree with Victrina; she's right, but when you state "trim candles", are you referring to breaking candles that are still extending, where the needles aren't exposed yet, or removing this year's candles whose needles are fully open and away from the candle?

Several outcomes are possible from "trimming" candles, depending on where they are in their development:

A. If needles are still concealed in the sheath, breaking part of the candle now to equalize lengths would be ok...although that may suggest your pine is very slow in growing...don't know where you are.

B. If needles are open and away from the candle, breaking part of the candle now may result in advantageous growth at the base of this year's candle, and will set buds for next year between the individual needles on this year's growth. It will prevent buds from forming on the tips, and cause unpredictable growth. Probably not the best course of action.

C. If the needles are open and away from the candle, removing all of this year's candle is called "Candle Pruning", and it will cause new growth at the base of each of the cuts. If this is the case, this is the operation that is described as done in phases; current year's weak (lower, interior, generally) candles are removed to their base, wait a week and remove the stronger candles, wait a week and remove the strongest candles. Depending on where you live, this may be the right time. It takes about 100 days to regenerate after this process is begun; so count backwards from your average first frost and you'll know when to begin. Here, it's around the 4th of July.

Here is a pictoral of this process over several years on one of my pines, it illustrates the process well.
 
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gibmeister

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Brian,

I really found your pictorial of the Black Pine pruning very helpful. Thanks for sharing.

Gib
 

davetree

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I meant breaking candles to equalize length. The needles aren't open yet, it is slow because of repotting, and an unusually cool and cloudy spring here. I don't think I will have time to decandle this pine this year. I am in zone 4 in Minnesota.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Thanks Gib!

Dave: you're probably right. Probably best to equalize the length of candles, then let it go this year and do some selective pruning this winter to keep the growth closer to the trunk.

Some friends in IA with shorter seasons do Candle Pruning in 1 phase around mid-June; removing all of this year's candles, leaving no stub on weak candles, a stub equal to it's width on stronger candles, and equal to 1.5x it's width on stronger candles.
 

davetree

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Thanks Brian. That's what I do with my pines as well. Not much of a season here some years.
 

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