Single-trunk, leggy tree. How to prune?

cynshaJuly 3, 2014

I have a 24 month old plumeria I grew from a slip I received when visiting my daughter in Hawaii. It originally formed two branches early on, but when it was about a year old, our cat accidentally knocked it over, breaking off one of the branches. It now has a long single trunk that leans. It is just starting to flower for the first time. When they finish, I don't know if I should prune it, and if so, how? I keep it outside during the summer and keep it in a bright window during winter. The lower leaves have fallen off during the winter, with two lower ones hanging on after a hail-storm which shredded them some. Growth at the top seems fine. Any suggestions on pruning or not pruning? )I've thought of re-potting it so it stands more upright.)

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Hi cynsha,

A lot of it depends on what you want. The flowering will cause it to branch (usually 3 branches, in my experience, but sometimes more or less). So, you should have more branches after the bloom. If you really want flowers, it is best to leave it alone for a while and not prune. This is my preference. For me, it seems to take longer for them to bloom if I take a cutting and root it. So, for quicker flowers, it is probably best to leave it alone. However, if you want more trees/bushier trees, you can take a cutting once the branches get several inches long. Just cut the original trunk below the branches, so that you have several inches of the original trunk in order to root it. Leave the cutting somewhere that it doesn't get full sun for a few days to let it callous, and then try to root it. The original plant will grow more branches, but it will take them longer to bloom again. It would probably be best to take the cutting and try to root it in spring or summer once the weather has warmed up (if that is what you choose to do). Rooting inside is more difficult. If you are concerned about the way it is growing, it should be fine. These trees do crazy things.

Hope all my ramblings help.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 9:16AM
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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)


Well you have a couple options. First as you probably know it will form new branches at the inflo. If its still too leggy for you your other options are
1.cut the trunk and allow new branches to form. Upside to this is you can re-root the top and have 2 plants. Downside is sometimes it may are may not look very pretty when the trunk forms new branches. And you risk the cutting rotting.
2. down graft. You would cut out a section of the trunk and graft the top back onto the bottom making it shorter. You can root middle cuttings also allowing for another plant. Grafting is not terrible difficult but not exactly easy either.
If it was my choice to make I would cut the top off about halfway down and root the top and let the trunk put out new branches. However I would wait for a month or so and let the inflo form and new branches form also. Then cut it and re -root.


    Bookmark   July 3, 2014 at 9:24AM
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agree with spiroan..wait for the blooms then cut. You live in a cold temp area so the sooner you cut the better..after you enjoy some blooms ;)

    Bookmark   July 4, 2014 at 4:42PM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

I like all of the advise!

Definitely repot and stake for stability.. Put it outside when Temps allow and acclimate to the sun.

It looks great!!


    Bookmark   July 4, 2014 at 11:20PM
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Thank you, everyone!! Your advice has been wonderful, and I feel confident in taking care of it now with your helpful ideas. I love this site!!

Have a great summer!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 2:16AM
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