The Q&A Archives: Pruning Compact Tanyosho Pine

Question: How do I maintain the size of a compact tanyosho pine? Where the candles are in clusters of five or six, should I pinch them to one or two? They are about four inches long. I've read they should also be trimmed to maintain size. Finally, if the plant has reached the desired size and shape, do I start pinching off all the candles every spring?

Answer: The candles will expand gradually to form the current year's new growth. You would not remove entire candles. Instead, the goal is to shorten the candles. Pinching off just the mere tip of a candle will cause it to branch there and increase the density of the growth, pinching off most of a candle will cause the same branching but also substantially reduce the length of the new growth this year. To keep the plant compact, pinch off proportionately more of each candle but do not remove them entirely.

When the plant has become very dense, a careful shearing will clip off the candles more quickly. However, do not remove too much because the plant will not grow from old wood, meaning wood older than the candles. If you cut back into the wood, you will see woody stubs sticking out.

The best time to do the candle work is when the candles are still very tight, before they have really begun to expand too much. Eventually, I suppose, even if you keep the new growth very tight and limited to maybe an inch a year, the plant might outgrow its location. This would probably take decades, assuming the plant is well sited.

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