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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, September 12, 2003

Prune plumeria branches near the collar

By Heidi Bornhorst

Q. We want to prune the plumeria trees here, which are quite leggy. I'm thinking that I just need to cut down to the main trunk or major branches. A friend kept her plumeria no taller than six or seven feet so that the foliage and flowers created a green barrier. I also think this would screen out some of the noise and pollution from the road. What do you think?

— Doris Taitano, Guam

A. Late fall is a good time to trim plumeria. Always trim down to the branch or trunk; don't whack the branch off in the middle — called topping.

There is a perfect place to prune branches of any tree. First, look for the branch collar. This "belongs" to the tree and should never be cut off.

Imagine a line, about one inch from the collar; that's the place to make the proper cut. If the branch is big and heavy, make an undercut, then the final cut, out from the collar.

It's also good to keep plumeria low if you want to pick the flowers. As you carefully prune, shape the tree and select the best branches for good looks, and traffic- and noise-screening. You can also re-propagate the plumeria branches that you cut off. Use a clean, sharp saw and make precise cuts.

Q. What do you do with the banana plant after you've harvested the fruit? Does recycling the old banana provide nutrients for the other growing bananas, or does it invite disease and interfere with the development of keiki?

— Take care, Doris

A. Chop off the fruit with a sharp machete or bolo knife. (Watch out for the sap, it stains). Chop down the trunk because it will bear fruit only once. Cut the trunk into two- to three-foot sections and place it around the banana clump.

This 'opala is excellent for improving the soil and holding on to precious water (one of our xeriscaping techniques). Leave some space (about 1-2 feet) around the clump for new keiki to come up without being squashed.

You can also use the old mai'a (banana) trunks around other plants, particularly gingers, to do the same soil and garden enhancements.

Heidi Bornhorst is director of Honolulu's botanical gardens.

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