Outdoor pruning rules apply to indoor tree

In winter we prune

because it's so easy to see what to cut.

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We missed our chance last week to clip a crabapple that's gotten too big and wild, but we didn't cancel, only postponed. We will have other opportunities this winter -- days above freezing, with cloud cover to prevent any big plummet in temperature at sunset.

Indoors, our eyes keep falling on one of our jade plants (Crassula ovata). It has crossing branches that clutter its form. The clutter also means poor air circulation in its interior. That can allow pests like mealybugs to gain a foothold on a tree already low on defensive energy in winter's dim light.

See a crossing branch? Our clippers are a clue!



There are three main trunks here (1, 2, 3). Each is growing out and up to fill its own 1/3 of the canopy. Except one piece (c) that stems from the forward trunk to cut back across the center. The clippers' jaws are on it. That's unproductive wood, called a crossing branch. 


Crossing wood is unproductive because it's zero or a drain in the whole plant's energy production equation. For most of its length it's in the shade of other parts of the tree. It grows no leaves there -- leaves, the fuel producers of a plant. Once out to the other side the sugars created in those leaves will probably all be used up meeting the living needs of the leafless section. The roots and the rest of the plant don't benefit.

As if adding injury to insult, crossing wood usually causes damage. In an outdoor environment that branch moves in wind, with the weight of rain and its own increasing foliage. It would rub or tear more important trunks.


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