De-Candling Black Pines

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Black Pines are one of the most prized bonsai trees. However, maintaining a black pine bonsai can be intimidating. The most important aspect of black pine maintenance is decandling. This is always done during the summer months when the tree is pushing sap.

In this article, we’ll review the basic steps in cutting a black pine candle. This article reviews the process of cutting a candle and cleaning up old needles.

Step 1: Identify the Candle / Location to Cut

First locate the candle. You can find this by looking for the gap in the growth of the needles. The gap occurs due to winter dormancy. The growth from Spring to Summer is the candle. Locate the base of the candle. This will be the point where you will cut the candle.

Note: A single candle can produce multiple shoots. You may find that the base has more than one growth. This is still considered one candle. However, you will want to cut all the shoots off at the base.

Step 2: Cut the Candle

With your shear, push back slightly on the bottom needles to cut as far into the base of the candle as possible. Make a clean horizontal cut across the branch. Avoid angular cuts.

Once the candle is cut, discard it. Unfortunately they cannot be used for cuttings.

Step 3: Pluck Old Needles

Using your fingers, remove old needles underneath the cut. Take care to save around 8 pairs of needles. The new buds will develop between the needles.

If all the needles are removed, you will not get new buds to grow. Take care to not disturb the needles closest to the cut.

Step 4: Remove Old Needles

With your fingers, pinch the base of the needle and pull away from the branch. Discard old needles.

Step 5: The Finished Cut Candle

The finished cut candle will have a fresh cut and about 6-8 pairs of needles surround the cut. Sap will immediately begin to push at the cut. In about 7-10 days, if your tree is healthy and the cut was made at the correct place, you will begin to see small buds emerge from between the needles.

Repeat the process for the entire tree. If you have an old tree, we recommend cutting candles in stages to balance the tree. Cut candles on the lower portion, wait 10 days, then the middle portion, wait another 10 days, and finish the top. This will ensure that all the energy is not directly to the apex only and risk losing the bottom branches.

Finished the Project?

We’d love to see how it turned out. Tag a photo of your tree on instagram or twitter with #easternleaf for us to see or feel free to direct message us at @easternleaf for some helpful feedback and tips.

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