Bonsai Tonight

Decandling projects

Posted in Bonsai Development by Jonas Dupuich on July 13, 2012

In my ongoing effort to develop interior buds on two of my black pines, I tried decandling them in fall almost two years ago. I decandled them again last year, and to really push these trees, I cut them back heavily after decandling. The result has been very vigorous growth and a number of new buds. Most of the new buds, however, appeared at the ends of the branches, close to where I cut last summer. To keep pushing for more interior buds, I decandled the trees  again this year.

Black pine before decandling

Black pine before decandling

After decandling half of the tree

Right side decandled

Decandling complete

Decandling complete

If the tree looks a little bare, that’s because it has almost no needles from last year. I cut more than a single season’s growth last year, so I ended up with nothing but fall shoots on the tree. I decandled this year’s spring growth near the base of these shoots, leaving little more than a few needles and protective bracts at the base of each branch.

I followed a similar approach with a second pine. Last winter I repotted the tree into a larger pot because I want it to become more vigorous. I plan to let some branches run for a few years to help thicken the top part of the trunk. I considered not decandling this year, but I wanted to preserve the basic structure that is already in place. As a compromise, I decandled all but a few branches so they can grow freely until the trunk reaches the desired size.

Black pine before decandling

Before decandling

After decandling

After decandling all but a few branches

If all goes well, the tree will look fairly strange in another year or two – about par for the course in my backyard.

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8 Responses

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  1. Connie Hi said, on July 13, 2012 at 7:46 am

    I am jealous that you can decandle now. What part of the country are you in? I’m in Chicago and being told it is way to hot. Thanks for the information. I am just starting with pines and find it all rather confusing.

  2. Jonas Dupuich said, on July 13, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Hi Connie – I’m in Northern California. This is the first I’ve heard of decandling not being an option due to heat – It’s even warmer in Central Japan where it’s common to decandle in July. The reason I decandle trees as early as I do is because it doesn’t get very warm where I live.

  3. John said, on July 13, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    Connie, I agree with Jonas, you have to decandle by early July or you won’t have adequate candle and needle growth before winter. Beware of whom you accept advice from, you know, like from people on the internet.

    John Kirby

  4. nickrubin said, on July 13, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    Really interesting!

  5. Josh Plorde said, on July 15, 2012 at 8:44 am

    Jonas, I very much enjoy your blog. Very usable information which is well captured in pictures. Question regarding the last pine in this thread, candling while letting a couple sacrifice branches and/or leader run. Do you know how effective this is in terms of getting the bulking up you want plus the ramification? I am trying it myself, and I don’t know the answer. Do the leaders sap strength that would make the candle cutting more productive? I guess we will both learn in time.

    Thanks, Josh

  6. Jonas Dupuich said, on July 16, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Hi Josh – I don’t know the answer either. I’ve selectively decandled trees for years, but not always with the aim of thickening a branch or section of the trunk (see, for example, Thanks for the note!

  7. EL TIM said, on July 16, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    A great blog with very clear explanations and very useful information in addition to high quality images.
    Congratulations on your work.
    Greetings from Spain

  8. Jonas Dupuich said, on July 16, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    Thanks El Tim!

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