Dwarf Ginkgo - branching won't develop

plantfinder

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I've had this (Ginko biloba Mariken) for about 2 years (and I previously had another for about 2 years). Each spring, leaf stems shoot out well from the buds, as is about to happen here again. But each fall, when the the leaves drop off, all that is left appears to be the same buds that were there the spring before and the next spring the process begins and ends the same way.

Does anyone know if this just takes a while to establish or if this is typical? Or is there something I should be doing? I cannot seem to get any hardwood stem growth and it's plain to see that I want to develop some branches. Thanks

ginkgo (1).pngginkgo (2).png
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Yes, this is normal. Ginkgoes tend to produce spurs and shoots. Dwarf forms like yours tend to produce more spurs, and getting real branching is a challenge. I had a ‘Chase Manhattan‘ for 10 years and never got more than a couple secondary branches off the primaries. Your cultivar matures at 3’ high and 8’ wide according to this site, so you definitely have an uphill battle on your hands.

Trees can be “lazy” and only produce enough foliage to survive the year, and we intervene with events that cause them to grow again. Have you pruned the terminals at all to remove the auxin which builds up in the tips and inhibits growth further down? This can help, but I can’t tell what you’ve done from your photos.
 

River's Edge

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Yes, this is normal. Ginkgoes tend to produce spurs and shoots. Dwarf forms like yours tend to produce more spurs, and getting real branching is a challenge. I had a ‘Chase Manhattan‘ for 10 years and never got more than a couple secondary branches off the primaries. Your cultivar matures at 3’ high and 8’ wide according to this site, so you definitely have an uphill battle on your hands.

Trees can be “lazy” and only produce enough foliage to survive the year, and we intervene with events that cause them to grow again. Have you pruned the terminals at all to remove the auxin which builds up in the tips and inhibits growth further down? This can help, but I can’t tell what you’ve done from your photos.
Brian is spot on. The only additional tip I could provide is to "up" the fertilizer regime to see if it makes a difference. I know it made all the difference in developing my clump. They definitely can be slow to produce shoots for secondary branches. I used a granular organic type with low numbers. Started in May and added small amounts to build over time until the end of July! The numbers were 7-4-2 , I was using a 10 by 10 grow box with 3 1/2 inch depth. So started with two teaspoons and added one teaspoon every two weeks. Simply sprinkled and stirred into the surface. Because I use an inorganic mix that was the total nutrient available outside of water and its components.
In the fall I replace the top 1/2 inch of soil to preserve better drainage until a repot is required by root growth.
 

plantfinder

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Thanks guys. Seems like my options are limited so I might as well try all of them. No I haven't pruned the terminals. When is the best time to do that?
 

Forsoothe!

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It's the nature of the beast. All you can do is to keep removing the bud clusters at the ends of existing branches until it divides. I suspect the more that is removed, the better. (Eg: further back on the branch to include removing several clusters, not just the end buds.) It won't necessarily happen where you want, but by the time it does you'll be sufficiently softened up to accept whatever it's willing to give you.

Fertilizer accelerates growth, it doesn't change the kind of growth you get. I don't believe for a New York minute that you can fertilize it into changing its growth characteristics. Traditionally, excess N gets longer internodes in most species. Name one other instance of a species that alters its growth pattern by fertilization.
 

River's Edge

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Both plant growth factors interact in various ways. The genetic factor determines the character of a plant, but the extent to which this is expressed is influenced by the environment.

So my suggestion is based on improving the extent to which the character is expressed by improving the environmental factors.
Theoretically this could lead to a higher number of shoots if the ratio remains the same and the overall response is greater.:)
 

plantfinder

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Thanks again for all your responses. So should the bud clusters be removed in early spring (now for me) or in fall after leaves drop and new buds form?
 

Forsoothe!

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Ginkgo dwarf.JPG
Prune deeper than just the tip.
 

plantfinder

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"Prune deeper than just the tip. "

actually did exactly that yesterday. Will try and get a shot of it.
However, just for education purposes, assuming I was going to just nip the tips, would that be done now or in fall.
 

River's Edge

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Thanks again for all your responses. So should the bud clusters be removed in early spring (now for me) or in fall after leaves drop and new buds form?
Given the variety, I would use a cautious approach. Wait until bud swell indicates which buds have survived and are viable. Keep more than required on a particular branch to ensure additional branching. Gingko are notorious for dieback. For pruning leave larger stubs prior to buds you wish to keep! To stimulate further back budding I would wait until two or more leaves have formed on buds than trim back the desired locations. This is a good time to remove any unwanted or dead sections in the early spring, unless of course you have recently repotted.
 

plantfinder

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"Wait until bud swell"
Thanks. That answers my question about when. But too late about the cautious part. See post above. Will keep tabs on this and post.
 

River's Edge

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"Wait until bud swell"
Thanks. That answers my question about when. But too late about the cautious part. See post above. Will keep tabs on this and post.
Oh well, the waiting for two leaves is my preference as I am sure of the health of that location, photosynthesis is taking place and removing the tip at that point, results in more auxin removal and thus likely a better response than just at bud swell. Just clarifying, in case you wish to try a different approach some other time. :)
 

plantfinder

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Actually, I was talking about the major cut backs on branches. I still may try that on some tips after two leaves, assuming I get any.:)
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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'Mariken' is a dwarf, and noted for slow growth.

Most bonsai ginkgo's are the normal form of the species, rather than dwarf or miniature types, the reason is you need growth to develop a tree. The true miniatures and the extreme dwarfs simply don't grow enough to develop in a "mere mortal's lifetime". The popular 'Chi Chi' ginkgo is sometimes called a dwarf, but it will eventually become a 30+ foot tall tree. About half the size of a normal ginkgo, so it still has a reasonable growth rate. The problem comes with dwarfs that grow less than 2 inches per year.

What is funny is, with ginkgo, we want normal growth until the structure of the tree is set. Once fully developed, we hope for nothing but spur growth. Nobody has a good method for reliably forcing spur growth when we want it. And nobody has a reliable method for forcing normal branch growth when we don't want spur growth.

Just give 'Mariken' time, it will become nice bonsai, eventually. Instead of setting your basic framework in 5 years and refinement to show ready in another 5 to 10 years, 'Mariken' might take 10 to 15 years to set the framework and another 15 to 20 years to get it to be show ready. I'm 65, and have every intention of being around that long, but the reality is another thing.

Slow growing genetic dwarfs and miniature varieties of trees make fabulous bonsai if you are able to live long enough, and are usually avoided by those who don't have time for the extremely long process.
 

amatbrewer

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@plantfinder it was after cutting main branches/trunk that my Ginkgo (common nursery variety) started behaving like yours. Healthy foliage but no new growth. Also, even relatively small cuts on hardened wood have left scars I have had no luck healing. So I would suggest planning your cuts with the assumption they might never heal (if they don't can you live with or hide them?).

What are peoples thoughts on leaf trimming? E.G. cutting leafs in half to reduce the foliage? I read someplace a while back about doing this on Ginkgos to promote more ramification and smaller foliage, but know nothing about the validity or efficacy of it. ["It must be true, I read it on the internet"]
Last year was all about letting mine recover from re-potting into a grow box, this year I would like to promote more branching (I need to fix/hide past mistakes), so this thread is of great interest to me.
 

Bonsai Obsessed

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@plantfinder it was after cutting main branches/trunk that my Ginkgo (common nursery variety) started behaving like yours. Healthy foliage but no new growth. Also, even relatively small cuts on hardened wood have left scars I have had no luck healing. So I would suggest planning your cuts with the assumption they might never heal (if they don't can you live with or hide them?).

What are peoples thoughts on leaf trimming? E.G. cutting leafs in half to reduce the foliage? I read someplace a while back about doing this on Ginkgos to promote more ramification and smaller foliage, but know nothing about the validity or efficacy of it. ["It must be true, I read it on the internet"]
Last year was all about letting mine recover from re-potting into a grow box, this year I would like to promote more branching (I need to fix/hide past mistakes), so this thread is of great interest to me.
So I have found thru research and consulting some growers like Dennis Vojtilla that growing the ginkgo in a narrow PH range of 6.5-7 will promote branching. I have been experimenting with this and have had good success on getting branching on both older trees and new cuttings.
As for leaf cutting I have used it very successfully on ginkgo Bilbao to reduce Leaf size. You can completely remove leaves or simply cut in half.
Ginkgo are a completely unique species with characteristics unlike any other trees we work with, and have a life expectancies of thousands of years, so they are some tough trees. The trick seems to be learning their unique horticulture.
check out this highly informative site.
 

cbroad

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@plantfinder
How long has your ginkgo been in the same pot, the whole two years you have had it?

I have 3 dwarfs ('Green Pagoda'), and they never branched out except for a couple leaders, and only around 6-8" a year. One of mine had to have an emergency repot because someone knocked it off my porch railing. I ended repotting it into a bigger container and the next year it branched up and down the trunk, was about two feet tall at this point, maybe a little shorter.

Then last spring, the other two green pagodas finally got repotted, they had been in the same 1 gallon pot for 4 years. Both of these would never branch out, except again for the leader. This spring though, they have both heavily branched out up and down the trunk, and have 12" extensions. I'm actually surprised for the length of the growth considering these are supposed to be dwarfs.

What I'm getting at is maybe yours needs to be repotted and given more room for root growth. That seemed to do the trick for mine pretty well. I can show pictures from last year and this year if interested.

Good luck!
 

plantfinder

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I have repotted it recently. I've also so noticed long shoots of new growth and was unpleasantly surprised when they just dropped off by fall. I'm going to try some of the other suggestions above.
 

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