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The myth of defoliation

 
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Vance Wood



Joined: 11 May 2006
Posts: 5
Location: Roseville Michigan

Posted: Thu May 11, 2006 6:19 pm    Post subject: The myth of defoliation

From my earliest days in bonsai I was taught, and the books confirmed the myth, that the reason for defoliation was to reduce the size of foliage. The truth of the matter is that defoliation is not primarily designed to reduce foliage size but to increase ramification. The increased ramification is the reason for the reduced size of foliage.

All that is necessary to understand this principle is to attach more than one hose to a spigot and turn on the water to one hose, then two, then three and as many as you have assigned. Considering that the amount of water coming out of the spigot remains constant you will notice as you increase the number of hoses to the one water source the volume and force will diminish that comes from any one hose as compared to the volume and force that will come from only one.

The same effect manifests itself in the process of defoliation with the creation of many more outlets for the tree to service than it had before it was defoliated. Therefore the increased ramification will produce smaller growth.

As a warning it must be pointed out that defoliation does not work well on all trees and in some case may prove to be fatal.

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Christiaan Scheele



Joined: 03 Aug 2006
Posts: 5

Posted: Sat Aug 05, 2006 7:00 am    Post subject:

The primary reason for defoliating a tree is to increase and speed up the ramification progress. The smaller leaves and (to some) more beautiful or intense autumn colors are side effects.

Secondly, defoliating a tree in certain areas alone can be used to balance a tree as well. Defoliating the area that has the most vigorous growth causes the less stronger areas to increase in vigour.

Also, I think it's best to not completely defoliate a tree as you put the growth to a total stop for a while. Maybe it's better to selectively defoliate the tree so that growth can continue.

Watch your watering just before and after defoliation, as the decrease of foliage causes the tree to need less water. Defoliation should further more only be done on strong trees as it takes a lot of strength for the tree to feed the new growth.

This is what I know of defoliation.
Correct me if I'm wrong.

Grts,

Chris
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Chris Johnston



Joined: 04 Aug 2006
Posts: 5
Location: Ottawa, KS

Posted: Tue Aug 08, 2006 11:30 am    Post subject: Re: The myth of defoliation

Vance Wood wrote:
The truth of the matter is that defoliation is not primarily designed to reduce foliage size but to increase ramification. The increased ramification is the reason for the reduced size of foliage.

As a warning it must be pointed out that defoliation does not work well on all trees and in some case may prove to be fatal.


Christiaan Scheele wrote:
Secondly, defoliating a tree in certain areas alone can be used to balance a tree as well. Defoliating the area that has the most vigorous growth causes the less stronger areas to increase in vigour.

Watch your watering just before and after defoliation, as the decrease of foliage causes the tree to need less water. Defoliation should further more only be done on strong trees as it takes a lot of strength for the tree to feed the new growth.


These are some excellent tips on defoliation. It can be fatal or very damaging to fruiting trees, especially. Balancing a tree is one of the best reasons to practice defoliation. And strong trees recover far better than weak ones.

To make it more specific, which species do you practice defoliation on, and what results do you get? Acer buergerianum is the most well known subject, and can be completely defoliated several times a season, depending on one's climate and the health of the tree. Acer palmatum, on the other hand, are less vigorous and usually are only defoliated by removing the largest leaves.

I have been warned against defoliating Carpinus coreana. They can tend to be slow rebudding, as I found out last year. However, I believe it was because I had not fed the tree strongly enough. I defoliated completely this year and was rewarded with an excellent budding.

Does anyone else have any helpful tips or principles they follow?
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Christiaan Scheele



Joined: 03 Aug 2006
Posts: 5

Posted: Tue Aug 08, 2006 2:17 pm    Post subject:

To my best knowledge a Carpinus can be defoliated best by removing leaves selectively around the tree instead of defoliating it completely. Only remove the largest leaves and the ones at the tips of the branches. You will be rewarded with better ramification closer to the trunk side of the branch.

Further, I have had fine results with defoliating Acers palmatum.

It is commonly accepted that fruiting trees cannot be defoliated as it will kill them, although that a very good bonsai friend of mine has several fruiting trees, among wich oranges, citrus and apple trees, and he has had succesfull results with defoliating them.
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Ron van Ravenhorst



Joined: 03 Aug 2006
Posts: 1
Location: The Netherlands

Posted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 2:40 am    Post subject:

I have different experiences with some of the species which are mentioned above.
Defoliation of fruiting trees works for me. I have several fruiting trees like: citrus-,apricot- and apple-trees. The apricot and apples are deciduous trees and these trees I defoliate to refine them. Particularly the apple-trees respond very well. When I defoliate these trees I never let them bear any fruits. And I never defoliate when a tree is not in excellent condition.

The citrus-trees I defoliate for another reason. These trees are evergreen and the leaves of the species I have are vey large. I keep this trees outside in the summer and inside my house for the winter. They start to grow in January but keep also their old leaves.
When the temperature starts to raise above 20 degrees Celsius I take them outside.
After a few weeks outside I defoliate these trees. They reward me with lots of small, shiny leaves. The size of these leaves are about 20% of their original size. These leaves I keep for another year. So I use the side effect of getting smaller leaves after defoliation. The weather is a defining aspect in the new growth. A warm sunny period results in smaller leaves. Because the weather is variable in Holland the effect is not the same each year.
Never do this when your tree is not in a excellent condition!
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Shaukat Islam



Joined: 23 Aug 2006
Posts: 8
Location: Dhaka, Bangladesh

Posted: Tue Aug 29, 2006 5:42 am    Post subject: Re: The myth of defoliation

Does anyone else have any helpful tips or principles they follow?[/quote]

While defoliation does help in the ramification process as explained by Van but reducing leaves' size is definitely one of the reasons for defoliation which is widely practiced in the tropics. I do agree with Van's views but when I attempt to reduce leaf size, I go for complete defoliation particulary with [i]Ficus rumphii, Ficus long island, Ficus bengalensis, Barringtonia and even Bougainvillea........the nice ramification I get in the process is a bonus!

Ficus religiosa on the other hand does not respond well to more than once defoliation, and at times results in die-back of stems.
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David Loughran



Joined: 18 Jun 2006
Posts: 106
Location: Wisconsin, USA

Posted: Thu Aug 31, 2006 2:08 pm    Post subject:

I have had great success with defoliating Ficus retusa. However, I left a large leaf or so on each branch in order to encourage continued energy movement to the branch tips. Better safe than sorry.

Great leaf reduction and budding results though.

-David

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Dorothy Schmitz



Joined: 31 Jul 2006
Posts: 462
Location: Naples,Florida,Zone 10a

Posted: Mon Sep 18, 2006 2:10 pm    Post subject:

Sometimes ficus retusa will show dieback
after total defoliation,especially if you
place it immediately back into the sun.

Regards,
Dorothy Schmitz
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David Loughran



Joined: 18 Jun 2006
Posts: 106
Location: Wisconsin, USA

Posted: Mon Sep 18, 2006 6:14 pm    Post subject:

Very good to know.

-David

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