How to develop a young Japanese black pine


Hello Jonas,
I posted a few photos of a black pine back in June and asked about how to treat a growing pine. How and when to candle cut when developing the pine. It seems that post was lost in your recent reboot. I wanted to report on what had happened since June.

This was the full tree on June 8, 2016.

These are the small, lower branches I want to keep alive for future growth.

This is another closeup of the small branches.

And this is what vigor there was on the top of the tree at the same time.

What I did was to cut the top growth to about half of what it was. I cut off one of two strong leaders and left the one leader long. The small branches were candle cut at this time hoping to get bud back and keep these shorter. Cutting back the upper vigor was an attempt to give more strength to the lower branches.

This was the tree the end of November at the end of the growing season.

The upper growth has filled out but is smaller than it would have been if it hadn’t been cut back.

This is more of the strong growth on top. My fingers are at the beginning of last springs growth, a fully developed candle and a strong second candle from mid summer growth.

The lower candle growth.

And again the lower branches.

There was very little secondary growth on the lower branches, but they are still alive. It seems the upper vigor reduction was not enough to push much growth down this low, but at least they are still alive and active.

I plan to continue with this study next year and plan to make a major “trunk chop” to bring the tree to about 5 inches or less. The thought is to direct all of next years growth into these small lower branches and redirect the top of the tree to be one of the short active buds that is on the trunk now.

The question I would like to know is when is the best time to make a large cut on a tree like this? My guess is it should it be done shortly before the first growth in the spring. I don’t plan on a repotting this year, just to keep the vigor in the tree for stronger growth next year.

Anything else to be aware of in the next year of growing?
Thanks for letting me share with you. Michael

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(Jonas Dupuich) #2

Thanks for the update Michael. The lower branches look like they have good buds so you’re in good shape. To really redirect energy to the lower branches, something like decandling the top and not the bottom of the tree could be in order.

Before making a major reduction, I’d think about developing the lower branches on a slower schedule. If you remove all of the top branches, the lower branches will get very strong - too strong, likely, to use in the final design of a small tree.

(Frank Corrigan) #3

This is an important question in development. One thing that may be worth considering is removing only one of the very strong top branches this spring. This would allow the vigor in the remaining sacrifice branch to help heal the scar for the one removed. This more gradual approach has some advantages. First the initial wound is smaller and has the assistance of the remaining top branch to heal. Second the tree retains more vigor and strength to recover faster from the work performed.
As you are considering a small tree it may be worthwhile to assess which of the smaller branches should be kept and what size scars would be created by the ones removed. Retaining more of the top for a longer period of time will also aid in healing scars lower down for the final design. I like the suggestion Jonas has made of a slower schedule . Thanks for sharing, the project looks very interesting.


This will be a followup 2 years after my last post. This is the same tree in June of 2018. The large growth on the top has been removed last year and the small branches allowed to grow.

Another close up of the lower portion.

These are the lower branches that were weak but hanging on in 2016 and had been de-candled. They are stronger and match the vigor of the remaining branches on the upper parts. After cutting off all of the big vigor on the top of the tree there was not a big push of growth on the top of the tree.
It is if the tree continued to grow from the bits that were left on it - not relying on stronger growth where there had been strong growth. I think that is the lesson here.
Where to go to continue this shohin tree?
I welcome suggestions and I will report back soon on what I have done to move forward.

(Jonas Dupuich) #5

Thanks for the update. The main thing I notice is that there is a lot of growth very low on the trunk and then a gap before the trunk splits into 4 directions (the previous trunkline and 3 branches).

I’d want to determine which line will form the future trunk and identify primary branches. I’d also want to reduce branches are areas where there are more than two or three to avoid swelling.

Do you have an idea about the structure (trunk and primary branches) of the future tree?


Thanks for the input. I have removed one of the upper leaders again and a low long branch which had no inner growth.

The upper part of the tree is now 3 tufts of growth. One to be top, the others possible branches. None of the uppers were candle-cut.

I have kept the 4 lower branches for now and they were candle-cut. They were wired and spread evenly around the trunk. I have left older needles on these looking for needle buds if possible. I can reduce these 4 down to 3 or 2 later without too much swelling.

I don’t see a trunk line coming into focus just yet, but it is coming together.

(Jonas Dupuich) #7

Looks good Michael. I expect the tree will fill in quite a bit between now and fall at which point the next step might become clear.