Here are TWO stories of long-term customers who have no problems keeping their plants happy but a bit afraid to prune.

          I.       Last year Aines Wood of Los Angeles visited us, purchased an 8LS8 and told Edison about her Dwarf Schefflera lava planting that had grown tall.  Edison recommended that she purchase a #8 Conversion Kit which she did and upon arriving home, sent the above photo.   I asked her to get it established and to send photos when the tree has some new leaves and she sent the photos below.


              It took a while for her tree to start growing strongly and the photos were received in January. Somehow I got this set of photos, marked where to cut and sent it back as a PDF. But from that point, things got weird and while she sent a lot of photos, my computer couldn't open them and so I got reports but couldn't see what was happening!  Normally I don't recommend pruning in January, but Aines lives in Los Angeles and growth was good in January. 

             At the end of March, Aines emailed that there were new leaves --- but again I couldn't open the photos and she couldn't figure it out either.  In April the report was a lot of new leaves but again the photos wouldn't open.  Then in July, new photos opened up and I was delighted to see them!


              The above photos showed about six months of regrowth on the tree she had cut back in January. I gave her general guidelines for pruning and a few days later received additional photos.


              The above photos are of the 8LS8 that she selected at Fuku-Bonsai in July of 2013


              After pruning by Aines!


             Aines pruned her oldest tree again and is now comfortable in pruning!  She does a great job of taking care of her trees and with her new pruning abilities, I'm proud that she'll be enjoying her trees for many more years!  CONGRATULATIONS AINES!


            II.   "RC-Connecticut"  first contacted me in November of 2013 with the left photo.  About ten years ago he used a #8 Conversion Kit to get stronger growth of his HS8 Small Size Dwarf Schefflera Lava Planting.  I sent him the right photo with recommendations, and advised him to wait until weather warmed up about May. 


              In May 2014,the cuts were made and the above before and after photos were received. In addition to making the cuts,  he used a screwdriver to loosen the media between the rock and the left side of the pot, poured it out on a newspaper, pushed the rock to the left, and filled the media on the right to get a better balanced position. 


              The left photo was taken on July 1, 2014 and the right photo taken on July 27, 2014 (about two months after the cuts were made).  Growth seems to be strong and coming out nicely.  If growth is uneven, trim off just the largest new leaves in mid-stem (but not the new growth tip).  This will allow the weaker growth to continue to emerge and to catch up.  Continue to give as much bright light but not overly strong direct sun which may burn the new growth.

             Note that there are two types of cuts:    1) The central apical vertical "dive-bomber cut" encourages new growth to emerge at different levels.  Do not cut straight across as new growth will appear all at the same level and you'll have an ugly "Texas Longhorn" appearance. Especially watch the apical growth as you want one to be the new apical growth leader on top with any other growth off that vertical section to form branches.  If there are more that three new growths, carefully select the top and two widely spaced branches facing in different directions and rub off excess growth.

           2)  Flat horizontal branch cuts tend to produce an end growth coming out of the bottom which will grow out to be a horizontal branch.  Generally it's good to have two or three growth points to replace the single growth on a branch.  I like to leave the end growth,  especially if it is coming out from under the branch as it will form a nice long low branch.  For new growth emerging from the branches, those coming out of the sides are good, but those growing straight up off the top of branches should be nipped.  If you have good end and side new growth, remove the growth on the tops of branches. The selection of new growth will determine your future shape.

             The general principle is that if one section is growing much stronger than the other sections of the tree, once all leaves are open and full size, after 4 or 5 leaves have developed on each growth point, pinch out the newest leaf and the growth point.  This will slow down that section to allow the other parts to catch up.


            CONCLUSION.    Both Aines and RC-Connecticut were successful because they have plants that are growing well and they waited until the year's strongest growth season.  In warmer climates as in Hawaii,  we prune all year around, but only trees that are growing strongly.  Try to improve the health of weak trees first before pruning.  You may need to give more light or correct an overwatering or underwatering situation.  If you haven't fertilized and growth is poor, start fertlizing lightly and as you see growth improve, increase fertilizing.  If the trees are growing strongly you'll get more growth points and will have a better selection and more options to shape your tree.

            If you have over-grown Dwarf Schefflera and live in the cooler parts of the country,  you should consider cutting back while the weather is warm --- even if your indoor temperatures stay about the same.  It is likely that your indoor plants grow better in warm seasons because of the stronger light intensity.

           If you need advice (or a second opinion) on how to prune our Dwarf Schefflera,  please send me clear photos. For larger older trees that are heavily overgrown,  please defoliate and send a top view and side views from four sides.  I hope all readers enjoy this article and thank and congratulate both Aines and RC-Connecticut. 

           ~~~David (david.f@fukubonsai.com)              

*** Return to the August 2014 issue of Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai
*** Go to the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation website
*** Go to the Fuku-Bonsai website
Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai, 2014