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Wednesday - May 18, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Trees
Title: Pruning technique for Anacacho Orchid from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have an Anacacho Orchid tree that is about 8 ft tall and still young. It is doing quite well. I have never pruned it, but lately I have been considering it as some of the top branches are starting to cross each other. I read your advice on when to prune, but my question relates to why I should prune. My questions are these: 1. Is it in the best interest of this kind of tree to let it grow in its natural form, or will it be just as healthy if its pruned a little for shape and crossing branches? 2. My tree has 3 trunks. I read that if one trunk is desired, you can simply cut the others away as long as the tree is still young. Is this advisable? If done, will the remaining single trunk thicken to support the tree? I don't want to compromise the health of the tree for a simply aesthetic purpose. Thank you in advance for your time!

ANSWER:

Since we have no personal experience with this tree, about the best we can do is refer you to several places that might help. You will have to choose based on your own expectations of how the tree should look and whether the crossed branches are causing any damage. We can tell you the tree can take pruning and even hard pruning. We will go looking for information on when to prune it, and whether to try to convert to a single trunk tree.

From our webpage on Bauhinia lunarioides (Anacacho orchid tree) (all of which we recommend you read) here is a recommendation on single trunk pruning:

"Maintenance: If want to keep only a single trunk, prune judiciously early on. Do not fertilize much if at all, because it can cause weakness and lankiness and reduce flowering."

From this USDA Plant Profile map, you will find that this tree grows natively only in areas to the south and west of Austin. You should heed the advice on our webpage on this plant to shelter it from winter winds to hopefully protect it from our sudden sharp freezes. It also is useful to mulch the area around the trunk in cold times of the year. This article from Arid Zone Trees has good cultural and pruning methods.

We never could find what we considered reliable information on what time of year to prune the Anacacho; however, the very fact that it isn't mentioned probably means it won't die if you prune at the wrong time. We also couldn't find out if it bloomed on new wood or old wood, which would also affect when it was pruned. In light of the fact that it blooms in Spring and Summer, we would recommend it be pruned in cooler weather in the Fall, when the blooming was over and it was not yet cold enough to shock the newly pruned tree.

Like many desert plants, this tree does not react well to sprinkler systems, preferring deep infrequent watering at the base of the tree,

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