bushier loquat

nachtkindJanuary 3, 2007

I was rather excited to recieve a small loquat tree for christmas this year. A week and a half later, I am still trying to figure out what to do with it. The tree is about 6' tall right now and consists of one central stalk (trunk?) with a single lateral branch about a foot from the top. This branch is actually taller than the central stalk by a good 6 inches. I am happy with the tree's height, but I would like to see it a little bushier (more room for tasty loquat fruit!). I'm thinking I need to prune it, but I'm not sure where to cut. Also, it must be repotted. The container holding it seems to have more root than dirt. So - should I repot and then wait a little while before pruning? Where/how should I prune? Do I cut off one of the two branches or just cut off the tips of each branch? Finally - since I am looking for more growth should I move up to a significantly larger pot or will this just make my plant taller?

Thanks for any and all advice anyone can give me on this.

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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

No chance that you may plant this outside?

You aren't going to like this answer, but the method of inducing lots of nice lateral branching is to prune your shrub/tree back deeply. Cutting the tips from the branches is likely to trigger some new growth just behind the cuts....rather than along the main stem, which is what you want, if I understand you correctly. It sounds like your plant needs some more 'scaffolding'.

If this were my plant, I'd root prune AND top prune the heck out of it, and then watch with amazement as it responds vigorously with lots of new growth.

Loquats have a rather finely branched (and shallow) root system, by nature. They respond very well to root pruning, which should be considered an important practice in keeping your plant healthy and happy if you intend to grow it in a container for a long period of time. Attend to that bit of business now and top prune in the early spring.

By the way, select a fast draining potting medium and don't use a container all that much larger than the root ball itself. Overly large containers create problems for the plants, though if you've done a good job picking the right mix, you'll have fewer problems.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2007 at 10:19AM
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Thanks for the advice! No chance to move it out of a container - it will be many years before I'm blessed with a yard of my own.

I'm not afraid to prune this tree, but I'm not sure how far back to make the cut. Should I just lop off both branches right above their junction? If all goes well a picture of the tree should show below. As you can see, there is not much to work with. If I cut off all of the leaves, will it be able to recover? It seems a little big to cut it too drastically. I feel confident in my ablility to make a proper pruning cut - but second guess where to do it, if you know what I mean...

I've spent quite a bit of time reviewing this forum so I am well versed in the benefits of a fast-draining well-aerated soil! Finding this treasure trove of a website will really help my poor floundering container garden.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2007 at 12:26PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I refuse to tell you how I would prune your plant for fear that you might have a stroke. Instead, I'll let Tapla tell you how HE handle it. ;-)

    Bookmark   January 4, 2007 at 1:00PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Lolol. Dorie must know that in early spring, I would chop the entire trunk immediately above the small spindly branch emerging low on the tree. The one you probably discounted. ;o)

Since I figure you ain't buyin' what I'm pitchin', I'd have to assume the plant was bud-grafted lower than the point, high on the stem, where the tree's attitude transitions from perpendicular (or leans away from the stake). If it is budded lower, I would make a pruning cut just below the bifurcation in early spring, as Rhizo suggested. If the small branch, low on the tree, is above any grafts, I would be careful not to damage it. If it was my tree, THAT portion would become a/the new trunk in a year or two when I removed what you now consider the trunk (the part tied to the stake).

Personally, I would care much more about the appearance and vitality of the tree than getting fruit as quickly as possible. I would want a squat tree with a thick trunk that is unlikely to topple in the wind. That is best achieved by severely reducing the height of the tree in successive "chops" and training a low branch that is already near vertical, upward as the new leader after each chop.


    Bookmark   January 4, 2007 at 5:26PM
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jbclem(z9b Topanga, Ca)

I've had Loquats outside in the ground and without any pruning, or care for that matter, they have grown in a full shape, the oldest 18-20 feet tall, maybe 8-10 feet wide. You wouldn't call them a spreading tree, nor a thin tree, something in between. If I had to grow one in a container, I think I'd use a 15 gallon at least, on a base with wheels if it had to be moved around. I haven't ever heard of this being a container tree so you may be blazing a new path. I hope you keep us posted as it grows...


    Bookmark   January 14, 2007 at 7:22PM
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jbclem(z9b Topanga, Ca)

oops, I said in my message that I'd probably use a 15 gal or larger container, but after reading Rhizo's message I have to point out that it's pure speculation on my part to suggest that. I have used 15 gal for bananas and vegetables but don't have any experience with a Loquat in a container.


    Bookmark   January 14, 2007 at 8:29PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Actually, loquats are a very popular container plant....and can do quite well on a permanent basis, as long as the potting medium is a good one!

    Bookmark   January 15, 2007 at 7:13AM
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For a second there I was getting nervous. I don't feel qualified to blaze new paths! Well, if this freeze doesn't kill the tree, I will keep everyone posted. I don't plan on putting it into a 15 gallon. If I can keep it small, I will. We'll just have to see if it will put out fruit in a smaller pot. BTW, I tried my first attempt at root pruning on the tree and it isn't dead!

    Bookmark   January 15, 2007 at 11:16AM
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jbclem(z9b Topanga, Ca)

I'm curious to know what size a loquat could reach in a container, and how much fruit it would produce.

I have a loquat bought from Home Deport recently, very strong and healthy looking, and curiously the 5 or 7 gallon black container it came in has a medium with lots of small (1/2-1 inch) pebbles. Can someone guess what function these pebbles have other than ballast? I'd call the nursery and ask but there was no official tag other than a small one with Big Jim loquat written on it.


    Bookmark   January 17, 2007 at 5:32AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I'm not sure why pebbles that size would be part of the soil mix, either. Smaller size grit or Turface would be a good amendment, but I'd leave out the big stuff.

The size of a containerized loquat would depend upon several variables, I would think. Certainly the quality of your potting mixture, sunlight, watering and fertilizer regime, size of the container, etc. The same variables would answer your other question, plus the additional aspect of pollination. Even the self-fruitful cultivars produce more fruit when there are other varieties near by. Big Jim is considered self-fruitful, I think....let me look....(AHEM!): All loquats are considered mostly self-fruitful but all show improved production when other varieties are nearby. And lots of busy bees, of course.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2007 at 12:04PM
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