China Doll (Radermachera sinica) Size Reduction)

tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)April 26, 2009

On the turntable is a dish planting I potted up in a saikei workshop about 4 years ago. I knew the material available wouldn't be suitable for that type of planting (airy habit & compound leaves), but there wasn't much selection of material, so I planted it anyway. There are 2 Radermachera sinicas and 2 Asparagus plumosus ferns.

This is what it looked like before I started. You can see that it's overgrown & unattractive in the picture and needs a reduction:

After a bit of a reduction, it looks like this. Note the pile of prunings on the work table next to the planting.

Here is a closer view after the chop:

In this view, you can see where I already performed the same type of reduction 2 years ago.

Moving upward from the soil line, the trunk is straight and then takes a little offset to the right. At that offset, immediately above the lowest branch is the spot where I cut it back previously. The scar has completely healed in the 2 years since. Later in the summer. I'll take some more photos so you can follow the progress - if there is any interest.

The reduction might be a little more radical than most of you are comfortable with, but I do it all the time, on a wide variety of woody material. I primarily posted the pictures so I could refer to them at some later date - in order to give others confidence in the idea that their trees can be similarly reduced when they've grown out of bounds. Perhaps I'll add pictures of a Ficus or two this summer if I have any radical reductions.


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Nice job. You took it from an overgrown jungle to a sweet, miniature forest. :-)

I'd be happy to see follow-up pics later this fall. Thanks for the info/pics.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2009 at 11:33AM
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I love the Asparagus plumosus ferns after the trim! They look like you could set up a mini safari scene for Hollywood.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2009 at 6:22PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Mmhmm - the ferns look pretty ok, but the trees look kinda beat-up. ;o) Sok - they'll back-bud almost immediately (in tree time) and get going again. Those raggedy leaves will be pruned off as soon as new branching occurs.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2009 at 8:51PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

After 3 months, the plants have grown back to this:

So I cut them back again to this:

and removed the old stub so it looks like this:


    Bookmark   July 24, 2009 at 8:00PM
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kashu(z6 NJ)

Wow, I can't believe how tall it got in 3 months. I know you said it grows indoors, what kind of light does it get? Also, do you ever have to worry about pests like spider mites?

    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 4:35PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

It sits on an unused kitchen table in front of 2 corner windows that are shaded from about 2PM til sunset, so they are getting too little light, as evidenced by their leggy appearance. It's not a plant I'm proud of, and I'd happily give the planting away to a garden visitor or friend, but I always forget because it's the only plant that stays indoors during the summer. If I thought more of the planting, I'd put it out on the deck, or under lights during the winter, but I don't think it attractive enough to dedicate the valuable room.

It was just a convenient specimen to use to illustrate that you can cut almost all healthy woody material back extremely hard & it will hardly notice the indignity, so I took advantage of it.

It's 4-5 years old, and no, it's never had any kind of insect issues.


    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 7:46PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Would love an update on this one!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 4:05PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I used the planting in a talk/demonstration about repotting & root pruning I gave to a garden club & gave the plants away after the demo.


    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 9:13PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Oh how nice of you! I always love looking at pics of your work & look forward to more! Thanks for the response.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 9:11AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

It's not much of a secret that my primary focus is bonsai .... and I tend to gravitate toward plants that are unusual and that I can manipulate into something unusual or more attractive than they would end up being if left to their own growth habit. I really didn't BUY those plants. We had a guest artist do a workshop for our bonsai club, and the selection of plants she had for the plantings was very limited. Those were the most attractive of what was available, so I just grabbed those, but I was really never pleased with the appearance of the plants, which, as you can see from the pictures above, quickly became unruly & to my eye not so attractive ....... so I was just looking for an opportunity to give them away. Using them in a demonstration allowed me to keep the tray they were planted in, so it all worked out.

Some of you might be surprised at how much root pruning you can do without concern for the plant's survival. Here's a little boxwood I've been working with before root pruning:

and here's what it looked like before it went into it's new pot:

Plants are plants, whether they are houseplants or trees normally found in the landscape. They grow the same way and use the same nutrients in the same proportions as other plants, so 95% of what applies to trees applies to houseplants. If your houseplant has a branching root system, don't be afraid to bare-root it and root prune. You'll find it has a significant rejuvenating effect for the whole plant. There is a physiological reason for this that I've explained before, but I won't go into it now because I've already strayed a long way from my original intent, which was to thank you for your kind words.

- Al

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 9:45AM
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