Hong Kong Orchid re-pugged by wind!

sun_worshiper(FL 9b)July 7, 2011

As some of you may remember I pugged my Hong Kong Orchid tree this spring. It responded vigorously. Here is what it looked like last week:

It was growing very rapidly and was about 15' tall.

Well, today, nature decided to pug it for me again. Here is what it looked like when I came home from work today (that tall bare stick is the support pole):

Judging from the flattened look of the rest of the foliage in my yard, must have had some big wind bursts. The trunk of this tree was snapped off at about 6'.

So here's my question - what to do now? I want this to grow into a large avenue tree, so I need to induce it to send up a new sprout to be trained into the central leader. Obviously I need to make a clean cut. But should I prune off the remaining branches so all energy will be channeled into growing new shoots? Or should I leave the branches to give the tree some energy and see what it does? If I don't take off the branches, I'm worried they will do all the growing and I won't get a good bud candidate for a central leader. But if I do take off the branches, will I deprive the tree of too much energy? I'm leaning toward taking off the branches since the tree responded ok to that earlier in the year...but I can't decide tonight.

Puglvr, any advice? You are the pugging genius after all=)

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I'd probably leave the side branches and just snip off the top inch or two of the central leader to remove the broken wood. I'm not too familiar with hong kong orchid tree growth patterns, but the tree should pretty quickly send up a sprout at the top since now it will be receiving lots of sun.

Normally the side branches are what helps to thicken the trunk when the tree is young, so it could be a bad idea to chop those (see Gilman's Illustrated Guide to Pruning). If it became an issue, I might just bend the side branches down with rocks or something. As far as depriving the tree of energy goes, you could snip the darn thing down to the ground and it would resprout like nothing happened... :-)


    Bookmark   July 7, 2011 at 9:51PM
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sun_worshiper(FL 9b)

Thanks Jeff for the book recommendation, I have not read this one. I hadn't heard before that side branches help thicken the trunk. How do they do that?

The Hong Kong Orchid send out shoots only at leaf axils, and all the axils near the top of the remaining trunk already have branches growing. So if I don't remove any branches I don't think any new shoots will develop at the top. It will be more like when you top a peach tree to form an open center tree - the growth will be directed entirely to the existing top branches. So I wonder if the right thing to do is to remove the top two branches on the left side and the bottom branch on the right side. That will leave two nicely placed branches and then the places where the branches are removed should be stimulated to send out secondary buds. What do you think?

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 10:21AM
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That's what Gilman states in his book - that the branches thicken the trunk and that it's a bad idea to remove them until the tree is older.

Another option is to take the top most branch and bend it skywards to make it vertical and train it to be the new central leader.


    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 11:58AM
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sun_worshiper(FL 9b)

I suspect the branches have hardened off too much already to be bent into the leader. But there's nothing to lose from testing that. I'll see how willingly they bend when I get home tonight.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 1:13PM
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OK. Also, if you cut the top most branch back to the central leader, it should resprout from that point.


    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 3:59PM
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sun_worshiper(FL 9b)

I pruned it today. The way the tear was where it broke, made it so I had to cut the main trunk back to below the top two branches in the picture above to get a good clean cut. I then trimmed off the branch that is third from the top, hoping that its node will send out a new central leader candidate. And then I left the bottom two branches on. I figure I'll give a couple weeks, and if it hasn't sent out any new sprouts, I'll take off the remaining branches to make sure I get a good central leader sprout. Thanks for the advice Jeff!

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 4:20PM
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