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Garden Q&A: On how a good branch prune should look and orchids making orchids

The pruning cut on the right is good, but the one on the left will eventually rot and could introduce pathogens into the tree.
The pruning cut on the right is good, but the one on the left will eventually rot and could introduce pathogens into the tree. (Ellen Nibali/For The Baltimore Sun)

We hired a tree service company (cheap) to prune a tree overhanging a building. It was pouring down rain when they left, and we didn’t see this part of the job until later. They pruned off the two branches on this tree very differently. What do you think?

The pruning cut on the right is exactly right. It is an old cut. It retained the branch collar, which is the raised area (sort of puckered) where a branch enters the trunk. This area is rich in chemicals that help the cut “heal.” (Keep in mind, a tree doesn’t heal like skin. It compartmentalizes or seals off the vulnerable edges of a cut.) The center of the cut is flat and angled so it does not hold water. Rot-resisting chemicals protect this heartwood.

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Unfortunately, the new cut on the left resulted in a large stub that will eventually rot and can introduce pathogens into the trunk of the tree. Have the tree service return and cut the stub off at the branch collar.

I noticed a little sprout on the stem of one of my new phalaenopsis orchids. I thought flowers were going to bloom, but now it looks like a whole new orchid plant. Should I leave it on the stem? Also, roots are growing out of the top of the pots. Should I repot the plants into larger pots so all roots are covered with bark/growing medium?

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Your orchid is, indeed, producing a little new orchid, known as a keiki. You should remove it when it has several 2″-3″ leaves and the same number of roots. Cut right below the roots and repot in a 4″ pot. Keep it out of direct sunlight. It may take up to 3 years to bloom.

There are many videos online showing how to remove and save your new little orchid. As for the aerial roots emerging from the top of the pot, consider that most orchids don’t know what to do when they find themselves in a pot, since in nature they would be growing in a tree crotch or on a branch and sending out aerial roots in all directions. Aerial roots absorb moisture, nutrients and carbon dioxide from the air. Don’t remove them. Potted orchids are a convenience for humans to help keep roots moist.

University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at extension.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Ask Maryland’s Gardening Experts” to send questions and photos.

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