Whipping The Tree Trunk

Gardening Question from Andrea:

Tell me more about whipping the tree trunk!  My Italian neighbor has mentioned something like that.  So far, I’ve only threatened to cut it down.  Again thanks for helping.

Answer from Pat:

Here is the story: A man who lived in a coastal town near me had a magnolia which never bloomed. Granted it sometimes take years before a magnolia will bloom but this one was almost 20 years old. One day the man, an avid gardener, became so disgruntled he picked up a garden hose ad beat the trunk of the tree with all his strength. The next year that tree bloomed it’s head off and it has continued to bloom every year since then.
Another story: My daughter Wendy and son-in-law Larry bought a house on a cul-de-sac in which every house had a ficus (Ficus rubiginosa) tree in their front yard. None of those trees grew much because each of them were planted in the middle of a vigorously growing lawn which grabbed all the fertilizer and water. Then one day Wendy and Larry came home to find the little boy next door hitting the trunk of their puny ficus tree with a toy sword and, with all his strength, scratching and piercing the bark of the tree with the tip of the sword. They told him to stop, but he had evidently been at it for some time and the bark was severely damaged.
Within a month or two their tree began to expand in size. Soon it had outpaced all the other ficus trees in the neighborhood. It also began dropping huge amounts of fruit which are sticky and get on sidewalks and get tracked into the house. They bring birds and lots of them and that part is nice but not the mess. So in this case damaging the trunk had a less than happy result. Nonetheless it proves the point: in order to get  a tree to bear fruit it is sometimes necessary to bruise the cambian layer under the bark of the trunk. Scientific explanation: The tree get’s the idea it is going to die and so leaves many progeny to carry on after it dies.

Photo by Hilmil1


  1. Pat,

    this works on most fruit trees. a friend had an avocado tree grown from seed that was over 20 years old, it never flowered. I cut the bark in a spiro around the tree. Six months later it produced a water short, we cut it off. the next year it produced lots of fruit and has been producing large amounts of fruit ever since.

    Steve Lohn

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