De-candling and Stuff!

Updated: Oct 8, 2020

De-candling and Stuff!

Now that Summer is in full swing, we’re moving away from the deciduous into the Black/Red Pine work.  During the Summer is the time we start to de-candle the many Black/Red Pines we have here at Aichien.  For new and seasoned Bonsai enthusiast, the concept of de-candling can be or still be confusing and misunderstood.  Black/Red Pines in general are more difficult to work on because of balancing issues and one of the most difficult trees to balance.  In this post, I’m going to talk about the concept of de-candling, when it’s applied, the results and the other details surrounding the concept.  I will also talk a bit about cutting back and thinning of the tree as well.  Of course, I’ll be sharing some pictures of the process.  This is by no means the definitive guide to de-candling which is normally best taught by a trained and skilled instructor besides you, but this will give you an idea of what it’s all about.

What is De-candling, Some Terms and How it Works?

De-candling is the removal of new growth on Black/Red Pines during the Summer.  De-candling is a very stressful process for the tree so be sure to only de-candle trees that healthy and growing well.  Think about it for a second, we’re going to be removing all new growths from the tree.  Most trees don’t like that! :op  It just turns out that Black/Red pines are able to respond to that process and survive.

De-candling can be done on a Black/Red pine for 1 or all 3 of the following reasons:

1. Branch Division – new buds will appear and grow at the base of the cut creating a division in the branch structure.

2. Short internodes and Shorter needles – since the candle is cut in the middle of Summer, the new candles that grow will only have the rest of the Summer and Fall to grow.  The growing season is essitenally cut in half, the new candles will have a shorter season for growing, resulting in shorter internodes and needles.

3. Back-budding – by removing the candles and putting stress on the tree, the tree will produce buds at the cut point and along the branches as well to recover and survive.  On Black/Red pines, branches that are older than 4-5 years old tend not back bud as easily.  If there is bark on the branch, it will almost never bud in that area.

I would add, “balance,” to the list but everything we do in Bonsai revolves around balance so it’s pretty much a give in.  ;o)

Some Terms:

Spring candles – New growth at the start of the Spring season.

Spring needles – Needles that extend from the Spring candle

Summer candles – New candles that grow during the Summer and Fall because of the De-candling process.

Summer needles – Needles that extend from the Summer candle

Internode – section of the candle that has no needles

The Process