Defoliation techniques

na76

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Hello all,

New to the forums, also in need of a bit of advice. Briefly, I first became involved in bonsai about 13+ years ago, killed a few junipers and managed to keep a fukien tea alive for a number of years. Last year I became more serious about it and am fortunate to have the space to care for a number of trees. I live in Central Florida, so we're fortunate to have a long growing season. Recently I took a class at Wigert's Bonsai in Ft. Myers, FL and for my project I chose a philippensis ficus. I was instructed to defoliate it by clipping off the leaves, leaving just a bit.

I have a ficus nerifolia which is a bit on the tall side, esp. when factoring in the thickness of the trunk. I'd love some styling advice but would like to first defoliate it so give an idea of the trunk/branch structure. After a number of Google searches I'm still coming up blank with how to defoliate a nerifolia. Would the leaves be plucked or should they be clipped?

Any advice appreciated. Really looking forward to interacting on this forum, best one I've found so far :):)
 
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I cut using normal house scissors, as not to spend so much time clean good shears... make sure your tree is in good health...
 

na76

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Thank you both. I spent a few hours last evening defoliating 3 trees. All are in good health, new growth should be springing up soon. I still have one nerifolia to defoliate - something I'm dreading - but it's going to be impossible to style otherwise.
 

na76

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After defoliating the three last evening I realized before pics would've been good (doh). Will take some of the last nerifolia and post before/after, I'm stumped on styling that tree. Will also take pics of the other trees :)
 

treebeard55

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Like others here, I simply cut the leaf stem with scissors. Healthy willow-leaf figs take that in stride; in your climate, they should recover with no problems.

Willow-leaf fig is my favorite tropical. :):)
 

Bill S

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Any pics:)?

Dave come on that stuff is for the bar.:(

Oh, oh you mean tree pix, Ok ya good idea, naked tree pix, hehe hehe :D

Once defoliated, it gives you a chance to see the branch structure and prune more effectively. don't stop at just leaves, prune the branches for the tree you are looking for. this work is for making secondary branching/ramification.
 

na76

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Here are the naked ficuses :) The larger one will soon be defoliated and styled.
 

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na76

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That bad? :eek:
 
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If you haven't defoliated the large ficus nerifolia, I would wait and further exam the posibilities, and what your plans are for the tree... There is no point in my opinion pulling off any leaves, I don't need to see it bare to tell you that "yes", the tree is to large for the trunk. So, either you whack it down now, using the cuttings to grow other trees, or personally what I think I would do... throw the tree in the grown and don't touch it. I think because of it's size it will take off pretty fast and thicken up quick. I would allow it to grow as tall as it wants, without any triming then in a couple of years or more, have at it. When you dig the tree up top it off at about a foot, then start working establishing branches and roots, etc.
 

jk_lewis

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na76 lives in Central Florida. He'd have to lift the tree out of the ground in the winter if he planted it, but I agree with Mr. Muse that there's no need to defoliate the tree until you have decided to design it, and it neds to get some girth in the trunk before you do that. So, the ground (temporarily) or a larger pot for a few years might be called for.
 

na76

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Thank you all.

I was actually a bit concerned about chopping the tree now for the same reason - thin trunk. I was also concerned about winter, would a 5 gallon or larger pot be the equivalent of growing in the ground? At least it could remain mostly undisturbed in the pot should we get frost this winter.

One accidental discovery I made was after putting some sphagnnum moss over the soil after repotting to retain moisture. I had a bunch of roots that sprung upward from the larger roots. This got me thinking about trying this on a few spots on the trunk to produce aerial roots. It may be a simpler way than just waiting?
 

Otisdog

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I have had luck just clipping them off with a shears and backing off of watering. I live in North Dakota and we have a relatively short growing season. The leaves come back smaller and you get more ramification.
 

jk_lewis

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It would be better, I think if it were in a larger, but shallow pot. You can spread the roots out when you repot, rather than having them grow down.
 

treebeard55

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The tree in the first pic is the one I like best: natural-looking movement and good taper. The next one, at the angle of the picture, looks unbalanced at present, but that may corrected when your plan is finished.

Putting a tree in the ground is better than overpotting it, as a general rule. In a too-large pot, too much of the soil stays wet longer, and you're asking for fungi, molds, and killer rabbits. (Oops, wrong thread! :D)

Stacy's advice on your last tree pictured sounds good to me. The question is how big do you want it when it's done? Once you answer that, you can decide whether to chop now or put it in the ground for 3-4 years.
 

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