Anyone ever hack back their Rubber tree like this?

thirdyearbonsai(Zone 4, VT, USA)May 24, 2011

Hey folks,

I've been hacking back my Ficus elastica every year now for the last three years. I'm talking complete defoliation!

It's started to branch, and I was wondering what the experts thought, and if anyone could provide some tips or experience.

Link is for the pictures. Thanks!

-3rd yr

Here is a link that might be useful: Ficus elastica pictures

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Cutting it back is fine if you do it at the right time, and from the sounds & looks of it, you've got it right. It's a good way to get it to back bud and start branching, as you've found out. It sure looks a lot nicer then the typical tall sticks with leaves. I don't think you need the experts on this one, I think YOU might be the expert.


    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 9:21PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Are you defoliating to intentionally arrest development and slow the plant down?


    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 10:47PM
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I've been reading your blog entry and wondered if you only remove the leafs or a bit of the stem too? Where do the new branches come from? In the leaf axles from the leafs you removed?
I currently have a plant that I whacked back a year ago (three stems) and I would like it more bushy.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 7:42AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Nicole - The way to maximize ramification (bushiness) on a branching dicot is to let the branches extend to 4 or 5 leaves, then cut the branches back to 2 leaves, and leave those leaves on the plant to provide food/energy to help push the new growth. Defoliating a plant deprives it of its food source, setting the plant back considerably; and while that is a useful technique for bonsai practitioners to help reduce leaf size and shorten the internodes on mature specimens, it's generally not something you'd do to a large-leafed houseplant.

Simply removing the apical meristem (growing tip) of each branch alters the balance between the growth regulators (cytokinin/auxin) that, through their antagonistic relationship, determine whether the branch will elongate or bifurcate (branch). Removing the main source of auxin (the apices) makes cytokinin prevalent and promotes back-budding, primarily from leaf axils, but also immediately distal to old leaf bundle scars and possibly from other adventitious buds as well. How profusely the plant back-buds depends largely on timing and the state of the plant's energy reserves, so there is good reason to make sure the plant is growing robustly when you reduce severely.


    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 10:01PM
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Thanks Al for this explanation! Very helpful to me!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 6:51AM
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