Ponderosa - what happens if decandled?

Good evening, all,

Recently, Ryan described a technique he had learned for dramatically reducing needle size on Austrian pine (Pinus nigra). That consisted of:
Year 1, cut candles to stimulate buds further back on the branch;
Year 2, pinch buds stimulated the year before;
Year 3, select the new buds that will work with your design and remove the rest.

The question immediately popped into my head: might this technique work with ponderosas? On the one hand, both Austrians and ponderosas are long-needle single-flush pines, but the on the other, Austrian is significantly more vigorous.

Any thoughts? Does anyone know for sure if this technique will or will not work with ponderosas?

Thanks for your input!

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Hi @treebeard55,
Its my understanding that candle cutting is a technique reserved for pines which will flush out again in the same season. If your ponderosa is obnoxiously vigorous, you may have a small chance, otherwise, look at the single flush techniques.

I seem to recall that Austrian and Pondarosa are both special cases. Austrian because all 3 techniques will work at various stages of development and Pondarosa because shoot cutting is done very late in the year (Sept?) for optimal results.

Ponderosa pines are such slow growers. The needles do not harden off until late august-september. The “candles” on a ponderosa only grow at a max of roughly 2" - 2.5" if no technique is applied. This spring I think my “candles” were only 1/4 - 1/2 inches long after only fertilizing in the fall last year.

So by fertilizing all year long for a few years to get needle mass and then coming in and only fertilizing in the fall, there really is no need for pinching and cutting of the “candles”.

To go back to your question though. When I first started with Ponderosa pines, I would cut the fat center bud when I had three. I did this for a couple years. Ponderosa do not respond to this except to give you long needles. Up to 7". Reducing like this on a Ponderosa gives you almost the opposite of what you are looking for, because the needles continue to grow all year long. You cut a bud or a “candle” and that energy just gets put back into the growth that you leave on. Then when the needles harden off in the fall the tree will set up buds in the fall and next spring.


@treebeard55 , do you have a ponderosa or P nigra? Post a photo.
What @Jeramiah said . Marty , too… They are similar but different.
Things I know are true about Ponderosa… (and, I learned from Mirai…)
Decandle in the spring… the limb will die. Decandle everything… the branch will die, the tree might survive if it is healthy…
Fertilize heavy ALL summer… the needles will get real long…
HOWEVER, you WILL get back budding like crazy. THEN , in the (second and third ) FALL, cut back to a new buds. New buds will be short, and not elongate. Three year sequence…
In refinement, hold fertilizer untill fall. The new needles will be shorter. Mine started at 8+"; 4th year at 4-"…

There ARE 4 back buds, pretty much on every limb… back to scaled bark. Even one or two further back.
Follow the three year Mirai plan. Watch the Ponderosa Pine Management video… I have two crazy healthy Ponderosas.
Austrian pines have their own process. Watch THAT video. If you cut the buds off, the limb dies. Almost killed mine, untill I figured it out; it still needs a lot of work… Let them elongate… cut back in fall. In reality, treat P nigra more like P ponderosa, definaely NOT like P thunbergii.
Ryan is spot on. Thanx Mirai!
Bonsai On! (It used to be Haut Bonsai!, but no one caught the translation…)
Keep an eye open for bud borders. They will kill branches.
ORGANIC FERTILIZER, and microbiom!