The Before picture-way too tangled and droopyThis tangled, twisted but still beautiful jade plant is not the result of a bonsai experiment gone wrong but the product of years of neglect. It was often underwatered, never fertilized and positioned in a corner with almost no turning. The plant was gifted to me about ten years ago, long before my recently developed interest in container gardening.

You can see that it has been reaching for light for years. It's quite leggy, grows only toward one direction and has developed an unusual trailing habit- really just droopy, top heavy branches. To my newbie amazement, most of the many leaves and branches that fell into the pot developed scraggly roots and survived.

After some drastic pruning and pinching, repositioning near a south facing window and application of liquid organic fertilizer (I used Dr. Earth 3-2-2, doubly diluted, which is what I keep on hand for my herbs) I hope it is almost ready to thrive again. There's also a grow light in the window to supplement the sunlight as needed. I think the plant is odd but beautiful after the haircut, but needs some more balance.

My question is: Is there any way to encourage new branches to grow out from the trunk in a direction that would add balance to the plant? I'm thinking in terms of what very little I know of bonsai techniques.

For now I've removed and repotted several of the new plants from the base, but left a few with the idea that or one or two of the best will grow to balance the aesthetic of the pot. (I've also potted many of the cuttings that resulted from pruning, 16 potential plants in all. Guess what my friends are getting for Christmas next year)? After the haircutAfter the haircut-side view

Thanks in advance for your advice. Hope I didn't ramble too much.

1 Answer 1


Generally the way to make a plant sprout new shoots is to remove the growing tip of the main stem/s, as this will encourage the initiation of other meristems (buds). I'm not sure how you would specify to the plant which bud or buds to initiate, though, unless you were to somehow render all the undesirable buds non-viable (probably a bad idea for the plant's future health).

Looking at the shape of that plant, and given their tendency to root well, you could just take the large branches off and grow entire new plants with a ready-made tree shape.

Or you could remove some of the superfluous stems and attempt to graft them into the desired locations. The risk with this is that the grafts don't work and you damage the plant, but if successful you would get branches in exactly the right places.

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