Leggy Portulacaria

JGrasser

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How do I prevent my portulacaria from becoming too leggy. It’s had great shape so far but some branches are getting too long with growth just at the tips.
 

Forsoothe!

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Cut back to below where you see any leaves/buds on each branch/twig to force growth closer to the trunk. Do this at the beginning of the hot weather, placing the plant in full sun, and water every day it doesn't rain. Keep doing that every year to obtain this...
PL 2021_0326 before to 2 nodes (2).jpg
PL 2021_0326 back to 2 nodes (2).jpg
 

JGrasser

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I thought they prefer dry soil. I’ve had good luck so far with limited watering.
 

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MrWunderful

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I thought they prefer dry soil. I’ve had good luck so far with limited watering.
I water mine as much as a high water mobility deciduous tree. With 5x the ferts.

Also, like @Forsoothe! says, cut back hard to first set of leaves on each branch, then defoliate. Then prune every shoot that grows to increase ramification.
 

penumbra

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I thought they prefer dry soil. I’ve had good luck so far with limited watering.
True when they are dormant or semi dormant but not true when actively growing in summer. They will take a lot of water as long as they are not sitting in it. Of course the key word here is soil. In a houseplant soil they need very little water. In bonsai soil or cactus soil, you really can't over water them during the growing season.
And 6 hours of direct sunlight would simulate their native habitat in South Africa. If moving from shade to full sun take several days to acclimate them to brighter and lighter locations.
 
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I have some with long internodes that have just been moved into full sun, and probably will give them the treatment suggested by @Forsoothe! once they finish growing out trunks.

Yesterday, I was showing them to my 14 year-old and she said she doesn't like them. I have shown her photos online of highly refined examples, which she also does not like. When I pressed her, she commented, "They look like the balloon animals of the bonsai world." I laughed my butt off. :D Actually, she's not that far off base.
 

AlainK

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How do I prevent my portulacaria from becoming too leggy

Put it outside when the temperatures don't get below 5°C (40° F), then :

Cut back to below where you see any leaves/buds on each branch/twig to force growth closer to the trunk.

When in full sun (but gradually), the edges of the leaves are red.
Bring it back inside just before the first frosts, a colder period helps to have them flower. And the clusters of its star-shaped flowers are so nice...
 
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I find them to be one of the few that the trunk will thicken, even restricted to a small pot.

I have found this to be true, but only if growth is allowed to run. Of the five that I am prepping for a forest, there are two in bonsai pots that I have been pruning for ramification and three that have been growing freely in 4" nursery pots for the last year. The ones that were growing freely are now double the thickness of the ones that were pruned. Now I have started pruning the others back this spring, the trunk thickening has slowed down a lot.
 

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