When deciduous varieties get shaggy in Spring, it’s often a good indicator that it’s time for cutback. To keep these trees strong, I generally cutback to 3 or 4 buds and only remove growth in strong areas. A small number of cuts can make a big difference in appearance.
Plum – early May
Plum – after cutback
For more vigorous varieties like Korean hornbeam, I but back to 2-3 buds and partially defoliate by removing most of leaves but leaving weak and interior foliage alone.
Korean hornbeam – May
As the interior leaves are shaded by the exterior leaves, I tend to move partially defoliated trees under shade cloth to give the tender foliage a chance to adjust to the light. I also watch the watering after defoliating as reducing the number of leaves on a tree often reduces its water needs.
Depending on the weather, new buds can appear within days. Here’s the same tree about one month after cutback and partial defoliation.
Korean hornbeam – one month later
I typically leave these trees alone in Summer, and then add fertilizer in Fall to give them the food they’ll need to push new buds next year.
Subscribe to Bonsai Tonight
New Posts Delivered Every Tuesday and Friday
Thank you Jonas. I acquired a Korean Hornbeam last fall and have been trying to find any info specific to the tree. I thought I might get away with defoliation but hadn’t found anything saying it not object to that treatment. I have a good basic limb structure but need more ramification of fine limbs. Soooo……partial defoliation it is. It may be a week or two later than optimal to do it now but it is pushing some new buds here and there and I think it will respond well.
When is the book coming out?
Jonas Dupuich says
HI Mac – thanks for the note! If you haven’t seen it, you can see the results I had with complete defoliation here:
And for trees that aren’t as strong:
Good question about the book – nothing right around the corner at this point.