HG: Homegrown Column September 13, 2008

I would like to take some branches off the bottom of our pine trees and wanted to know if this time of the year would be all right.
— Jennifer

You can prune these branches off just about any time you would like.

People are often afraid to prune a plant for fear that they’ll do it at the wrong time and hurt the tree.

I subscribe to the old adage that “you prune when the saw is sharp,” meaning you can prune whenever you’re
ready. However, the one time of the year I don’t like to do any pruning is early to mid-fall.

A plant’s natural response to pruning is to shoot out new growth to compensate for the part that has been cut off, and I don’t want to encourage any new growth in the fall. That’s the time I want the plant to be slowing down and entering into dormancy. Soft new growth in the fall can be prone to frost damage as things cool down.

Most folks will prune during the dormant season, and that’s a good time of the year to prune. In fact, it’s probably my favorite time, not because of any benefit to the tree but because it’s easier to make pruning decisions when the leaves are off and not blocking my view of the branching of the tree.

For what you’re doing, that’s really not an issue, so go for it. Just be sure to prune those branches off just outside of the swollen area at the base of the branch, not leaving a big stub.

At the time my 25-foot-tall ##### willow tree/bush bloomed, I cut off 3 branches, brought them in and put them in water. 
One of them has rooted in the water and the branch is about 18 inches tall with side limbs. All of the branches show leaves and tip growth. The roots are about 1/2 inch up from bottom of the cutting and all around the main branch are 2- to 4-inch long stringy white roots. It has been in water about 6 weeks.
My questions are: Can I plant the sprig in potting soil? How would I go about doing that? Should it be in the ground or in a pot?
I’d appreciate any suggestions you may have.
— Betty

What you want to do is pot the plant up in a fairly good-sized pot (10-14 inches diameter) using a good potting soil such as Black Gold or Miracle Gro.

Be careful with the roots, they’re very delicate and easily broken. Preserve as many as you possibly can. Water it well after you get it planted.

The trick will be to acclimate the plant to the environment outdoors. It really needs to go outside because it’s there that the plant will really get the light it needs.

The problem is that it’s not used to the great outdoors. It’s been inside where the temperatures are more moderate (not as hot during the day or as cold at night), the humidity is higher and there’s no wind.

##### willow can certainly tolerate those conditions, but your plant on the window sill isn’t used to them.
What you need to do is gradually get the plant used to living outside. This process should take about a week or two.

Once it’s potted, put the plant in a shady, cool spot in the yard. You might drag it into the garage at night, especially if the forecast is calling for cooler weather. The important thing is the cool, shady part.

Be careful about your watering of the plant. Most people have a tendency to over water at first. They’re trying so hard to baby that new plant that they kill it with kindness.

Don’t keep it soggy all the time, allow the soil to dry slightly before watering it well again.

Once it’s acclimated, you can plant it out in the garden where you’d like or keep it in the pot a while to let it better establish before transplanting.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, online at http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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