Major Foliage Reduction Timing on Picea Pungens

Hello all. About 1 year ago I acquired this Picea Pungens as nursery stock on sale. Here it is after i did a little cleanup of the soil to try and expose the root flare after purchase:

I waited until April 2022 to repot it. I followed the verbal advice of Ryan and many others and used the full foliar mass to aid in the repot recovery. As such, i have done virtually NO pruning at all. Here it is in its new pot, looking large to be sure:

Here it is at the end of summer, looking quite happy and hasn’t skipped a beat:

My question is when the best time would be to conduct the major truck chop/foliar mass reduction that I have planned?

I plan on trunk chopping (well probably not a flat cut, but rather starting the deadwood here) where indicated in yellow. So it will be a good 70% reduction.

The conventional wisdom is to let it have all its foliage on through this year, to give it winter hardiness. I live in Zone 5 Denver area. But i also have an over-wintering area in my unheated, but attached garage. I have a window in there and i also have some real hydro lights. I use this area to provide protection to plants that can’t handle the Super cold and Super dry winters here, but still need a bit of winter dormancy. If i were to do any work now, it would go in there (and with the sized of the pot, will probably go in there regardless).

On the other hand, the reason I’d like to chop now (or this fall, rather) is to give the tree time to setup and activate new buds on the lower limbs. Right now all the new buds are setting up on the top part, which of course will be removed.

So, what are the opinions on timing? This fall, to let the buds setup earlier for more robust growth in the spring. Or in spring of '24 to let the plant have its foliage all winter long? (or any other options).

If I don’t hear back I’m leaning towards waiting till the spring, and would otherwise consider that the default, but its young and looking healthy so I know you can push it a bit.

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First of all. That nebari is really impressive, especially for a spruce!

I’m a beginner, keep that in mind. However, spruce yamadori is what I mostly have access to. So maybe I can help a bit…

It might be a good idea to hold back on heavy work until you’ve encouraged enough budding to happen in the desired areas (assuming you haven’t already done that). You could pinch next spring to divert energy to the lower/interior parts of the tree. Once buds have set in late summer/early fall, you might be able to do the heavy design work. When you cut back on a spruce, make sure to always cut back to an existing bud otherwise you risk dieback. Start by cleaning out the weak growth and dead branches you don’t plan to use. As the tree opens up you will be able to see a clearer path to potential designs.

This tree has real potential, so don’t be too eager to chop the top off completely. It could look really ancient if you got creative with carving up the top instead. Just my two cents.

Yeah i am far from settled on where the chop would occur, but wherever it did i would certainly jin the old trunk. Im more than a little worried about having that much foliage in such a small pot (is the pot too small?) but i got to say it seems unphased this year at least.

I think if the tree shows good vigor and growth than you don’t have to worry about the size of the pot (unless you feel the need to change it for aesthetic reasons). I see you repotted it this April? I would definitely wait until fall 2024 before doing anything major. If you do heavy work now, you will likely see the tree weaken or even die during the following summer.

I’d say get it tucked away for winter. In spring, pinch new strong/apical shoots to transfer energy to desired areas. Then after buds set in the fall, do your major first styling. Again just my two cents.


I think that’s a solid plan above, might as well cash in on at least this falls growth to fully allow it to get as many roots under as possible at this point

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