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Paging Al (Tapla) and Others, Crassula ovata

Rhamel Bynum
4 days ago

I am very proud of this Jade. I inherited it as a spindly mess from a person who has actually died recently, and they were very important to me. The first picture shows how severely I trimmed it (it had no leaves when I was done), and what it had turned into. My question is how do I maintain/improve the short tree shape it has taken on? I do enjoy the naturally tilted trunk and wish to keep it exposed

Comments (5)

  • Stefan

    Pinch the tips I guess? Thats how you bonsai these things or so ive heard.

    Rhamel Bynum thanked Stefan
  • Rhamel Bynum

    Well yes, al has a certain level of expertise on ways to train trees to be exactly what you want tho

  • bragu_DSM 5

    IME, what I want to do and what I should do are diametrically opposed. So, I don't go with my first inclination, which is confusing.

  • Stefan

    Thats more of a philosophical approach. Mind and body must be one to cater to plants.

    Intent and action must be premeditated and harmonious. Only a still hand may shape perfection.

    ....or just do whatever and hope it works like it usually is with cacti and succulents.....

  • PRO

    Hi, R - Plants react very predictably to pruning and other of our ministrations, so much so that once we determine how they respond, we can plan well ahead and see in the minds eye what doesn't yet exist. From the image, it looks like you or the former owner has attempted to eliminate most or all trifurcations, which is the natural habit of this plant. Think of a bifurcation as the 'Y' of a slingshot, and a trifurcation as a 3-tined pitchfork. Getting back to your tree - it grows a branch that, as it extends, forms pairs of nodes exactly opposite each other on the branch. Further, each subsequent pair of nodes will always be at roughly 90* to the previous pair. That means that within a span of 2 nodes, you'll be able to select a branch that grows upward, downward, left, or right to the axis of the branch, viewed straight on. Maple trees exhibit the same growth habit/node arrangement on branches.

    In the image above, the first pair of leaves/nodes are growing left and right. You can see the second pair that are just emerging are growing toward and away from me. If I want the new/green branch to grow toward me, I pinch the main branch out of the middle, just distal to the second pair of leaves. Then, as new branches occur (reliably) in the axils (crotches) of all 4 leaves, I rub off all 3 branches growing in the wrong direction. What's left is one branch growing toward me.

    In the image immediately above, I have pinched the main branch, which terminates extension of that branch. I will get i new branches in the axil of each remaining leaf. I can keep both, or rub one off so the other grows in a direction I favor. Notice that, even though the plant's natural habit is to produce trifurcations, I have pinched out the middle or removed one of the opposite branches/buds so the plant's branch structure is composed of bifurcations.
    The jade's growth habit is on the left. If you look at the lower left image, you know with certainty the next pair of nodes will produce branches that will grow toward you and away from you. So you can plan ahead based on that knowledge. Look to the right images to compare what happens when you consciously remove 1 of the 3 sides that form trifurcations. Jades have a tendency to become very heavy in the top of the plant where trees in nature would be light and airy, so anything you can do via pruning to slow or prevent that heaviness is a good thing. Also, you might consider going through your tree and removing all leaves that have a branch growing in it's axil (crotch). These 'extra' leaves contribute significantly to the mass of the plant's branching.
    If I allow the mature leaves to remain on branches, they produce soo much food that internodes grow very long and leaves very large. I don't want that, neither does your tree if we're considering only appearance, so once the branches have a start, and they do - in the image, I simply remove those leaves. Your tree will be visually airier and branches actually thinner.

    Your tree will look best if the top is tilted toward you - like it's bowing to you in greeting. It also should be pinched so it's growth at the top turns toward. This maintains the gentle undulation the trunk already has. The 2 branches growing to the right should be shortened, and branching from the underside of the stubs encouraged. The basic shape of the foliage mass, based on its current branch placement, would look best as a scalene triangle (ignore the angles).
    So your top needs to move left and you need to fill in the negative space beneath the 2 branches on the left. The tree is visually off balance now and looks like it will soon want to topple to the right. Changing the top so it flows left fixes that, and can probably be done with a single snip of the scissors. Some lower branches on the right will counter the leftward movement of the top.

    That's what I see. YMMV, even drastically. If you can see what you want, I can help you arrive there, but from what I can see, the easiest way to a really nice looking tree would be via the course I outlined.


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