Follow up Question on Partial Defoliation

Hello Community:

What if you partially defoliate and the tree doesn’t respond? What’s the anticipated response time? Do I need to wait for next spring if it doesn’t do anything? Can I go through and further reduce each leaf and try to stimulate some action?

Based on my understanding from previous streams, I did the partial defoliation on a deciduous oak about 3 weeks ago. I just watched this weeks partial defoliation stream for reinforcement on the technique and concept and think that I did everything more or less correctly, with the possible exception of being a little timid on cutting off 70% of the each leaf.

So, the tree looks fine and happy but it does not appear to be preparing another flush. Ryan did caution that the defoliation scope needs to be done all at once, and also cautioned against the possibility that if you don’t cut off enough you won’t get the response.

So that’s where I am. Thanks in advance for any guidance!

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What kind of oak? What kind of fertilization were you doing? What percentage of defoliation did you achieve? Is the tree a fast grower or a slow grower? What was the growth like before the operation? Pics? Without that info it would be hard for me to suggest continuing the reduction, but it does sound like you should.

In terms of completing the operation, Ryan was saying that you can’t defoliate one half of the tree and come back to do the other half later. The energy distribution needs to be widespread. Of course leaving select areas untouched with developmental goals in mind as needed.

I will say that my crape myrtle started pushing new growth within 2 weeks. It’s a vigorous tree to say the least which is typical of species.

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I should also add that I did a 70% defoliation on one of my maples a little less than 4 weeks ago and today is the first sign I’ve seen of it reacting. Little buds appeared. :slightly_smiling_face:

Thanks for engaging with me on this BonsaiBentley.!
So I went out and visited today and took some horrible pictures. Fertilization was heavy and the first flush of growth very vigorous. I defoliated well over half the leaves cutting back to 2 or 3 leaves but was pretty timid when it came to then cutting down leaf size after that. I did trim the largest leaves but left most medium and small.

BUT, good news! I see little nubs pushing out of many bases of the petioles and even some buds activating on older wood. Looks like a success now. I feel the tree quietly laughing at me for my lack of patience, broadcasting this to the world! Now I note in my logs that this tree will take 3+ weeks - and your information on a maple taking around 4 weeks is very helpful too.

I guess the broader questions still lingers - if you do the partial defoliation and don’t get a second push do you cut leaf size down further a month later, or just wait until next spring? I won’t get to be the experiment for everyone this year.

Thanks again Bentley.


Heck yeah! I love seeing results. Such a rewarding feeling. I’d say that doing a second round of removal is going to be dictated by the time of year. Trees will go into summer dormancy, so if it’s late May to early June I’d probably wait. One thing to keep in mind is that you end up doing it twice a year when you defoliate the new shoots that were a result of the first defoliation.