Last year I tried a variation on my normal spring cutback for ume. Instead of reducing mid-sized branches to 2-3 leaves, I left them long but defoliated them (see “Cutback” for details).
I found that the defoliated branches leafed out but they didn’t regain their vigor. As you can see from the photo below, the branches (minus the foliage) looked the same in November as they did in June.
The main benefit of the approach is that the defoliated branches slowed down while allowing the weaker interior shoots to stay healthy over summer.
As far as I can tell, the technique has no effect on flowering. In recent years, the tree has produced ample flowers on the lower branches but very little color on the upper branches.
Pink flowers – February, 2021
The tree left out well this spring and has grown vigorously since then.
This year I’m going back to my previous approach of pruning all but the weakest branches back to 2-3 leaves. I left a single branch long to help thicken the upper part of the trunk.
After cutback – 16″ tall, 21″ wide (excluding sacrifice branch)
I’ll let the tree grow freely through summer and will look to prune again when the leaves turn color in fall.
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