Trunk Chop - Afghan Pine needs back budding

Hi!! bought a 8/9 ft tall Afghan Pine (long story …) was impressed with the beautiful straight trunk, pad at the bottom of the trunk …etc. The tree obviously needs to grow more lower level branches.

Question: Its Dec now , it this a good time to do a trunk chop and repot (there is a logical bend about 40% above the pot line and close to a couple of branches) or should I do a re-pot now and wait for summer to do the trunk chop ?
Appreciate some insight.

Welcome! From my experience your question raises several other questions that should be addressed at the same time. Further information would be very helpful to provide specific help.
First, your location is important in order to understand what the climate is like in the month of december where you live.

Second, pictures of the tree would allow participants to gauge the overall risk involved on the basis of tree health, lower branches and foliage present.

Third, current condition of roots, recent work done.

Generally It is not normally reccomended to trunk chop and repot a conifer at the same time regardless of the climate.

Successfully reducing trunks and developing additional lower branches on conifers is normally a much slower process involving a longer period of time and application of techniques in preparation. Some of these steps include progressive repotting, improving the overall health of the tree, balancing growth on lower branches and staging the trunk removal to lessen the shock to the tree. The process could involve several years before the tree is cut down to the desired level.
Hope these comments help!

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Thank you Frank. Live in San Jose , CA and the tree has been growing in a pot for at least 3 years if not more (probably 5 years). No work done , seems root bound. 20191211_164725|243x500

Hi! Frank - have loaded some pics of the pine.

Wow, you are adventurous! From my perspective the following is the process i would take if the tree were my project. My approach would be to assume that the most important factor in success will be the condition of the tree and that depends on the roots.

Step one.
I would begin a repotting process to prepare the tree for significant work over the next decade. I suspect the roots will be typically root bound as in long term nursery stock type care and not at all the type of root ball preferred for Bonsai development. The exact approach would depend on what was found but the basic concept would be to over time remove dead roots, heavy roots, compacted soil and promote feeder roots with free draining soil. I would suggest dealling with the bottom and outside perimeter to begin with in the first repot. The second repot i would tackle the weakest side of approx imately half the remaining root ball. The thrid repot would deal with the remaining half completing the process to correct major root issues and replace with suitable Bonsai mix for your area. Each successive step of the repot process should only be undertaken after the tree shows a healthy response to the previous step. Best case scenario would be a spring repot, followed by a fall repot , completing in the following spring or fall.
Because of the long term development i would likely build a grow box of suitable dimensions to begin this process. The length and width to be a bit less than the diameter of the current pot the tree is in but shallower. Roughly 6 to 8 inches in depth should work.
Initially the watering will have to be monitored carefully due to the differrences in areas of the root ball and soil compaction. This will become easier once the process is completed! During this process i would fetilise regularily during growing periods except for a three week period just after the repotting steps. During periods of strong growth i would begin to balance the growth by slowly reducing some top growth to strengthen the lower branches that are still living.
Others on the forum may have very differrent approaches so feel free to select what works for you!


Thanks. I was thinking crazy but I will take adventurous :slight_smile: . Appreciate the advice and great suggestions.

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Another option that would speed things up, would be to follow the suggested repot schedule but plant the tree in the ground Hopefully you have a suitable place. I have no experience with Afghan Pines. I have been field growing Japanese black pines from seed for 25 years. I root prune as needed and often put trees in grow bags 16" - 30" diameter and 8" - 12" tall,sunk in the ground to nearly the top of the grow bag . The grow bags are filled with 1/3 garden soil, 1/3 potting soil and 1/3 permitil (expanded shale similar to lava rock very cheap when you buy it from the quarry) for excellent drainage as out aria has heavy clay soil. Hopefully you will get some lower bud back.

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Thank you David, do I do a trunk chop before repotting or putting it in the ground ?


No trunk chop until you get a lot of healthy bud back. Pines must have green to grow. If you remove all the existing buds on a branch it will die, and if there is not enough green left after a cut the whole tree will die. Get the whole tree growing its best (google Superfeed program for Bonsai). Follow all the needle removing and budding back techniques and then energy balance for growth of the lower branches. For now what you have is a nine foot sacrificial branch with no bonsai to cut back too. You have a 10+ year project started. Consider buying a seedling and wiring it in a pot or the ground, It may be faster. I start seeds, grow them in pots for 2-5 years then put them in the ground until I get the girth and root flare I want then training pots.

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