Which Leader Should I Remove?

Dutchman99(9a)May 13, 2014

I planted this 5' Afghan Pine in December and it has been doing pretty good. It had two leaders when I brought it home and I was hoping one would become dominant, but it doesn't look like it. I read somewhere it is possible to cut into a branch and pack it in a bag on the tree with Peat Moss and it might eventually grow roots inside the bag. Would one of these leaders be a candidate? If I could post a second picture it would explain it more in detail.

Does anyone know the name of this procedure? I found some Sphagnum Peat Moss in the shed and would like to give this a try sometime. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

This post was edited by Dutchman99 on Tue, May 13, 14 at 19:23

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treeguy123(AL 7b)

If I had to choose, I might remove the right side one.

It's called air layering. Pines are very hard to root from cuttings though. And you would need strong rooting hormone and very controlled conditions with high humidity.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 6:36PM
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Dutchman99(9a)

Thanks for the quick reply. I was kind of leaning toward the right side one. It's just a touch shorter than the other one. That's what I was looking for "Air Layering".

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 7:39PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

on a recent transplant.. needles are food making machines.. to get the disturbed root mass back to being established ...

this does not appear to be a large plant .;..

i would not remove 1/3 of its needles right now ... [guessing on this pic]

maybe next year.. or the year after..

there is really never any hurry with this stuff... in tree years ... as compared to an owner with pruning shears and an itch ...

i am not aware of any pine that will root ... but there is that one in a million chance ...

but.. if you can figure out understock .. and find it of sufficient size.. you might be able to graft it.. in the next appropriate season ...

ken

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 6:52AM
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treeguy_ny USDA z6a WNY

I had a similar situation with a P. sylvestris var. scotica this spring. Rather than removing the entire double leader, I pinched the buds/candles as they started expanding to prevent one of the leaders from competing with the other. As far as which to cut and which to select as the new leader, I tend to look for the one that is more "in line" with the main trunk below the split and select that one as the new main leader. By pinching buds and not removing the double leader, you conserve all the needles on that double leader to help give energy to the plant. Just my two cents!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 1:04PM
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Dutchman99(9a)

Thanks again for the comeback. So if I understood you right, if I just pinch the buds off one of the leaders the other one will eventually become dominant?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 5:52PM
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treeguy_ny USDA z6a WNY

That's what has worked for me. I will try taking and uploading a picture of my Scots pine over the weekend to show you what I mean.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 5:58PM
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Dutchman99(9a)

I'd appreciate that.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 7:26PM
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treeguy_ny USDA z6a WNY

Here is the after picture. The double leader on the left had a long central candle like the one on the right - I just snapped it off. If any of the smaller candles on the left side leader start competing with the right, I will snap them in half. If you snap the candles in half while they're still expanding, they will usually form a new bud at the break.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 8:58PM
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Dutchman99(9a)

Your tree has nice clean leaders. Mine doesn't have any candles (anywhere) just side branches which go all the way to the end of the leader. I would have to snap the leader along with several side branches.

What if I partially tied the slightly shorter leader so it would be horizontal to the ground? I would think after a while it would conform to that position. I've already bent it over several times but it goes right back to challenge the longer leader.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 5:37PM
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treeguy_ny USDA z6a WNY

Can you post a picture of the tip of both leaders that are shown above? You may be able to cut the middle out of the less dominant leader down to the first side branch and leave the more dominant leader alone. This should remove minimal photosynthetic material while still accomplishing what you want. Quite the conversation on just selecting one of two leaders!

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 9:38PM
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Dutchman99(9a)

Good luck with this one TreeGuy. As you can see there are no buds, just plenty of branches. How would you try to get a dominant lead out of this?

How often and how much do you water your pine tree? I used to deep soak it with a soaker hose for two hours every 4 days. But when I asked one of those Master Gardeners he said once every two to three weeks. Now this is the Great Sonoran Desert. 100* F is just on the way up and if the humidity ever reaches 10% (except during the Monsoon) we start sweating. But supposedly the Afghan likes it.

True about the extended conversation about selecting one of two leaders. I noticed your zone is WNY. I grew up in Jamaica, L.I, N.Y.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 5:13PM
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Dutchman99(9a)

Another view.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 5:20PM
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treeguy_ny USDA z6a WNY

That is a tough one. The leader on the right looks more "in line" with the main trunk. However, the leader on the left looks stronger with a better structure of evenly spaced side branches. I would prune out the central portion of the smaller right side leader just above the whorl of branches indicated by the red ellipse. Then just let it do its thing and the left leader should out-compete the shortened right one.

Small world with your ties to NY! I'm in the outer suburbs of Buffalo at the other end of the state. The first year I planted this Scots pine, I watered it once to twice a week deeply. After that, it's been fending for itself with the normal rainfall. A little different from your AZ climate!

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 9:22PM
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Dutchman99(9a)

I assume I should prune it just below where the two top branches come together? (See yellow horizontal line.) That would leave me one long stem going down to what seems to be the main trunk.

What do you think about pruning the long stem at the bottom where it meets the main trunk? This might straighten the existing leader a little faster?

If I do that I wish there was some way of regenerating that top branch. I haven't watered this pine in 2.5 weeks and I think I'll wait a little longer since it doesn't seem to mind. You can go with your natural rain fall....but it hasn't rained here since the second week in February, and then just a whisper! LOL!

I used to drive doubles up the NY Thruway from Suffern, N.Y. to Buffalo. 420 miles of nothing. It snows pretty good between Buffalo and Cleveland in the winter.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 10:12PM
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treeguy_ny USDA z6a WNY

I would prune just above where the little side branches meet the right sided leader, not below as you have indicated. This will conserve those little side branches to continue growing and turn that leader into a side branch over time.

Alternatively, you could prune right at the base of the leader as you indicate with the arrow, but you would lose all the needles on that leader = less photosynthesis and therefore energy production for the tree. If the tree is well established, it might not matter. If it is still establishing, then the more needles left on, the more energy it will have to establish and grow for you.

If you're hesitant to prune at all, you could try experimenting and tie a small weight right at the red circled area with a twist tie. Just enough weight to pull it down slightly and keep it from competing with the L side leader. Too much weight risks breaking the branch or splitting at the base where the two leaders arise.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2014 at 2:24PM
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Dutchman99(9a)

I really appreciate your suggestions and advice. It gives me various ways to go. It'll probably be a little while before I make up my mind. In the mean time I'm going to see if not watering it out here will make a difference. So far it hasn't.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 7:01PM
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Dutchman99(9a)

Possible solution. I braced the top leader to the trunk and put an adjustable weight (washers) on the leader I'd like to make a side branch. The extra tie down is needed til the wind calms down. We've had 50 mph gusts for over a week!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2014 at 7:01PM
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treeguy_ny USDA z6a WNY

Looking good so far!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 12:38PM
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