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How to Prune an Orchid Tree

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How to Prune an Orchid Tree

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Overview

Orchid trees (Bauhinia spp.) are fast-growing tropical native to southeastern Asia. They display large five-petalled flowers that look like orchid blossoms. Species include the white orchid, Hong Kong orchid, fall orchid and the mariposa. Pruning helps develop a well-structured tree and prevent seed pods that may become litter and germinate later in your garden. Orchid trees are grown outdoors only in USDA hardiness zones 9 and warmer.

Step 1

Monitor the growth of your orchid tree across the growing season. Inspect for problematic branches, such as those that are dead, diseased, rubbing against each other or are growing low on the trunk, causing a safety hazard or access issues.

Step 2

Prune off dead and diseased branches and twigs as soon as they are encountered, regardless of the season. Make a pruning cut with a hand pruners 1/4 inch above a lower living branch junction or next to the main branch or trunk. Make the cut with loppers, if the branch's diameter is greater than 1/2 to 3/4 inch. Sometimes using a hand-held pruning saw makes cutting off branches flush with the trunk easiest.

Step 3

Trim off any fast-growing, leggy growth stems from the trunk.

Step 4

Remove any branches that are rubbing against each other so that only one remains. Take off entire branches that grow inward across the center of the tree's canopy. Make the cut 1/4 inch flush against the larger branch or trunk from where it grows, using the appropriately sized pruning tool.

Step 5

Reduce the length of branches across the entire orchid tree canopy by one-third to one-quarter after the annual flowering display ends.

Step 6

Repeatedly remove any suckers and low-reaching branches that block access to the orchid tree's trunk across the calendar year. Expect new suckers to grow back from pruning wounds year round.

Tips and Warnings

  • Know what time of year your orchid tree species blooms. Do not prune within four months before the expected flowering display, otherwise you cut off wood that will yield flowers. In regions with mild but occasionally frosty winters, hold off pruning until late winter to early spring, if it does not interfere with the expected flowering season.

Things You'll Need

  • Hand pruners (secateurs)
  • Loppers
  • Pruning saw

References

  • Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden: The Art of Pruning
  • University of Florida IFAS Extension: Bauhinia purpurea
  • National Tropical Plants: Purple Orchid Tree (Bauhinia variegata)
Keywords: Bauhinia, pruning orchid trees, trimming tropical trees, watersprouts, wound suckers

About this Author

James Burghardt has written for "The Public Garden," "Docent Educator," nonprofit newsletters and for horticultural databases, becoming a full-time writer in 2008. He's gardened and worked professionally at public and private gardens in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. He has written articles for eHow and GardenGuides.

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