Black Pine Needles Too Long

I fertilized (organic cubes) my two new large Japanese black pines what I thought was very early (Late March/Early April) so as to not cause long needles like you might get if you fertilize too late in the Spring. I candle pruned the first flush leaving about 1/8" of the candle. The needles that grew in on the shortened candles are about 5" long and much longer than the older needles. I might have used to much organic fertilizer as well - I’m not sure. It looks pretty bad. Should I just remove the short candles with the long needles and be more careful with fertilizing next year?

Can you post a couple of pictures of the tree to help us gauge where we are in terms of foliar mass, development/refinement, and such?


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thanks for asking chuck. I posted a photo of each tree. I think I’m in refinement for both.

Thanks. That helps. Give me about an hour to get clear of work meetings and i’ll try to walk through cause/effect and next steps.

Ok. It looks like both of those trees are transitioning into refinement. You also mentioned they were new, so i’m assuming this is year 1. It also looks like there may be two scenarios with tree A in the rectangle pot already being in a bonsai pot with proper soil. Tree B looks like it’s in a deep pot with maybe potting soil.

Taking a step back, refinement is a 3-5 year process to balance the tree’s system and get equal energy distribution among buds. The first year you decandle, you may still get vigorous areas with long needle growth.

Strength in pines comes from the roots. So tree B probably pushed more long needles than A due to more resources being available in the pot. Next steps are to come back in Fall and shoot select down to twos as well as needle pluck down to 10-12 pairs on each shoot. This will balance the energy accumulation for next years buds. I typically do this in late November in GA.

After you’ve cleaned out needles, you can wire the tree out. Just protect the tree from freezing. You can also wait to wire in late winter.

Next Spring, count back three months from you’re decandling window and if danger of frost is past then start fertilization. I have such a long growing season that I do three applications at the beginning of Mar, Apr, and May with decandling being in mid-June.

In class at Mirai, we learned to take each tree branch by branch when making development/refinement decisions. There may be cases where you don’t decandle a branch if you need thickening, elongation, or back bud development. Back buds require accumulation of foliage mass and develop on 2 yr old tissue during the Fall vascular tissue growth phase.

Both of those trees look healthy and vigorous. I wouldn’t do anything to them now. Just follow the process and you will see improvement in the next year or two.

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I second Chuck’s advice above. Also, those trees have some amazing potential!

Thank you Chuck. Your advice is consistent with Ryan’s videos and it is great to hear it again especially the 3-5 year refinement process.

Tree B: I bought tree B from a local store that sold nothing but large pots. It was being used primarily to display pots and had been sheared with a hedge trimmer. I figured it was not well taken care and probably root-bound so I probably over did the fert. I won’t make that mistake next spring. I did decandle to two in August but did not needle pluck. I will do this in Fall. I believe Ryan also says to fertilize in Fall after the new needles have hardened off. I will also wire to create more of the pads and to space out the branches which seem very crowded. Question: Do I have to live with the extra long needles?

Tree A:

Also very good to know about the the back buds appearing on 2-yr old tissue - I did not know that.

Take care and thanks for taking the time to impart your knowledge.

Concerning your long needles unless you want the unsightliness of brown needle ends from cutting them shorter you’ll need to live with until they shed. While not a thing to count on when pruning JBP can back bud where no needles are present. Excellent examples were field trees grown at Telperion. A note here I really hope not all their trees are gone with the house and that there’s something to come back to.

I may be wrong but looks like you’ve got many branches coming from main trunk in many
locations. Those you can prune now to prevent reverse taper

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But if they are branches just to thicken or increase vigor you wouldnt

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Curious, I’m plucking needles. Can I remove last year’s very long needles (year2 2020) and leave year 1 2019 needles which are a nice short length?

The danger in that would be if the tree decides to shed the 2019 needles leaving you with no old needles on the tree. Old needles still server the purpose of hormonal control and have some photosynthetic capacity.

Best to trust the process, be patient, and follow the steps that lead to refinement. We have to accept that there will be periods where our trees may not look ideal in order to achieve our goals.

Not what I wanted to hear :grinning: but it is very consistent with what Ryan’s video says. Dang! Thanks Chuck, much appreciated.

You can cut the over long needles shorter to allow better light penetration to the interior shoots and make it look a little better. However, the ends will brown and it is a quick fix to help better distribute the energy until there are enough branches to give good energy distribution. It is not a long term solution.

thanks Marty, that makes sense.

Plucked the needles and cut the long ones. See before photo above. Thanks again for. your advice, it will now have the proper sunlight reaching the interior.