· Brent Wilson's Answer
· Hi Gracie,
I've been growing Tea Olives in my landscape for many years and have quite a bit of experience pruning them. Tea Olives respond very well to pruning, and pruning them is not too difficult. Since you're asking about how to prune a Tea Olive "tree" I'll provide instructions for doing that.
The best time to prune on a Tea Olive is right after it finishes its spring bloom. This spring pruning is all I ever do each year on a Tea Olive. That being said, you can lightly prune the canopy (top of the tree) any time during the growing season to keep a more formal shape, though I would cease pruning about two months or so before the first frost date in your area. Pruning too close to winter can cause the tree to produce new tender growth that might be damaged by freezing temperatures.
Not sure if you've already "limbed up" your Tea Olive to start forming it into a tree? If not, start by backing away from the shrub and visualize where you want the base of the canopy to start. Then, using a pair of sharp hand pruners or lopping pruners, you can start at the base of the plant removing lower branches until you've reached the desired height. Make your cuts as close to a trunk or branch as possible so you don't end up with unsightly stubs sticking out from the trunks. Make sure that when you're removing these lower branches that you don't cut one off that would spoil the shape of the canopy.
Also, regarding how many trunks your tree will have, if possible, I would suggest keeping at least three trunks, and up to five trunks. If your plant has only one trunk this is okay as well...you can have what is called a "standard' or "single-trunk" Tea Olive.
Sometimes a picture is better than a thousand words. If you want to see a tree form Tea Olive that's growing in my own landscape, and that I've pruned into a tree over the past several years, visit this Plant File and look at the picture of the tree-form one that's growing on the corner of the old brick house with the white front porch. This one has three or four trunks. I've stopped pruning it from the base now and just shape the canopy once a year in spring.http://www.gardenality.com/Plants/172/Trees/Tea-Olive.html
Hope this info helped.)