Trees refusing to branch...

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Trees refusing to branch...

Post by coatesg »

I have a small orchard of 9 trees that I planted in late 2010 - amongst the trees is a Blenheim Orange on MM106 that I cut back to about 3.5 foot on planting. Oddly, and unlike all the other trees, this tree has stubbornly refused to branch after it is pruned taking new growth back by a third each year. I have only two main stems separating into a V about 5ft up, with only a few other short branches of about 9 inches max. It has never produced blossom either.

Other than that the tree appears fairly healthy and it is about 7ft tall growing about 18" a year - I just can't get it to take on any sort of shape... Any ideas? I'd read it's a vigorous variety, but no real idea on the growth habits - anything I can do in terms of pruning or other care to encourage it to stop its impersonation of a cordon...?
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Re: Trees refusing to branch...

Post by Greyt.Chase »

If I understand correctly, if you cut/score the bark at different points, it encourages growth at that location.

I'm sort of new at all of this, so please research it more before you start scoring the bark.
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Re: Trees refusing to branch...

Post by womblesd »

Next late winter/early spring, pierce the bark just above a bud with a pocket knife. This will cause bud to branch.
Dan Wombles
Western Illinois, U.S.
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Re: Trees refusing to branch...

Post by dmtaylor »

I agree with the scoring idea. It doesn't always work, maybe only 30-50% of the time, but it can help.

The other option is to prune back a heck of a lot harder into old thick wood. This should spawn a lot of branching, if it doesn't kill the branch. Be sure to maintain a nearby nursing branch to be safe.
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Re: Trees refusing to branch...

Post by coatesg »

Thanks for the replies all. I'll be a little more vigorous with pruning this year (though I'm a little wary that it has little I can really prune off while leaving a decent amount of tree to bear leaf - I can at least try it with one branch this year of the two main branches).

Will try scoring further down the longer branch to try and promote some side-branching as well.

Stubborn tree...
Chuck Rhode
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Re: Trees refusing to branch...

Post by Chuck Rhode »

Here're some notes from a series of lectures on "Fruit Tree Growing for the Backyard Gardener" by Tony Dembski at Brown County Extension Service (Green Bay, WI) in early spring 2011.

Notching above a bud on the trunk in early May before bloom will stimulate vegetative growth.
Notching was accomplished using an ordinary hacksaw blade. Buds were notched by placing the blade immediately above a bud and drawing the blade horizontally across the branch. In this way a strip of bark about 1/6-inch wide above the bud was removed on about 1/3 of the circumference of the branch. It is important to remove all bark down to the wood in this strip.

Rarely would one choose to have a bud on the top of a scaffold develop a shoot, because it would be vigorous and unproductive. Even if desired, very few buds on the lower side of a branch will grow after being notched. Therefore, if later branching is desired on scaffolds, notching should be confined to buds on the sides. (Green, Notching).
I've tried this and it seems to work in many cases.

Notching below a branch between pink and petal fall will stimulate the set of fruiting buds for next year.
Limb or trunk scoring will induce flowering in trees that are old enough to produce flowers. Using a sharp knife, make a single cut to a depth of about 1/4-inch all the way around the trunk or branch. Scoring accomplishes two things: It induces ethylene production, and ethylene (a plant growth hormone) will encourage trees to induce buds. It also interferes with movement of carbohydrates out of the upper portion of the tree to the roots, making more sugars available in the upper portion of the tree. Timing for scoring is critical. The proper timing is from full bloom to about three weeks after full bloom. Later scoring will not be effective. Scoring will encourage flowering the following year (Roper, Why).
I have never tried this and counsel you not to do it at home until you've observed someone working on his own trees.

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Works Cited

Greene, Duane W., and Wesley R. Autio. "Notching Stimulates Shoot Development." Fruit Grower. Apr. 1992. 42.

Roper, Teryl. "Why Some Apple Trees Don't Flower." Dane County Madison Area Master Gardeners Newsletter [2004.]
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Re: Trees refusing to branch...

Post by Skipley »

Blenheim Orange. I'll look out for this one. I like the idea I just came across of Bark Inversion. Practiced at the Arnold Arboretum in 1957 making dwarf a tree via ringing the tree and inverting the ringed piece 3/4-2" wide.
Slowing it down should help it branch. I also know that whenever a branch gets bent over so far-usually about 45 degrees+ the tree will break out a branch, or two depending on the vigor. Just tie it down, cinder blocks, bags of sand. commercially in E washington orchards we would whack em with the loppers up and down the trunk-3-4 year olds. Brutal. Summer pruning, mid-june-- the deer taught me this. excellent results.
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