heptacodium pruning question

katob Z6ish, NE PaJanuary 26, 2012

Ok so there are a half dozen of the same question already posted, but I didn't want to rob anyone's thread....so:

What do you think my next step should be?

I'm aiming for a multistem tree form (2-4 stems) and I want them relatively straight. Last spring I cut out the main trunk because it was (1)crooked and lopsided and (2)just not growing as fast as I wanted. Now it's grown back and I want to know if you think I should leave it for another year or two and then thin out to the stems I don't want, or do some thining now.

I'm worried that if I prune this year the remaining branches will put out more leaves than they can hold up and all my nice upright stems will bend over from the weight.

Is there another option?

sorry the pictures are bad (its not the camera)

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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I can't tell what's going on down at the base of the tree, but it almost looks as if the original trunk is still poking up in the middle of the new sprouts (at least in the second picture). If I had already cut the tree down (as you have done) and had what you currently have, I guess I would go ahead and remove any rubbing or damaged branches and maybe the one or two growing sideways. I don't think I'd do much more at this point.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 12:02PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

take out the last one with multiple branches ...

and then put the saw away ... and be done with it ... for a couple years ...

there is no reason to prune proactively.. because you THINK IT MIGHT do something ...

if... ONLY if ... in august .. some of the branches are flopping.. start cutting off 6 inch pieces from the top.. until the stuff below.. can hold up that above ...

regardless ... relax... i doubt much of anything is necessary ...

you are on the verge of loving it to death ... let it do its own thing.. and see what it has to offer.. before you inflict your preconceived notions on it ...


    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 1:00PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Top pic, cutout the two left side branches to the ground and the one coming out at a 45 degrees. Then like Brandon said the crossing and rubbing branches.

This one took a bit of work. This plant can't be left to do its thing otherwise it will be like any other shrub (from a habit perspective).

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 1:12PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Above result looks like a bad deer or rabbit problem, hardly an enhancement to the appearance of the specimen. Species is a big bush, probably related to abelia and likewise not really very suited to much monkeying around trying to make it into a true tree - which it very definitely is not. Dense, crossing and busy branching comes with the territory.

Both larger ones I have grown developed elevated crowns on their own, without any pruning at all. No attempt was made to make them what they were not.

With specimens grown for floral impact you don't want to open them up much or you are merely reducing the amount of this impact. Flowering crabapples are another example of what amounts to basically a big bouquet, all the topping and thinning etc. these are commonly subjected to does nothing to increase their value as ornamental specimens - quite the opposite, in fact.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 2:29PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

We're talking about pruning it up for tree form. My plant wasn't established and therefore wasn't keeping up with leaf production. Little bit of twig dieback as well. I set the framework for the multi-stem tree. The top will fill in with time.

I've seen glorious specimens of this plant trimmed up at the Chicago botanical gardens. I've seen the natural bushy forms as well. Not my flavor. The whole point is to SHOW OFF THE BARK!

But thanks for cutting on it either way. Do yourself a favor and don't insult other people's plants or designs unless you have something to show for it or know more about the situation.

You've pissed me off numerous times as well as several other members. You'll the only member that I know of that people complain about offline. Check yourself Ron.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2012 at 2:44PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

Thanks for all the responses and thoughts. I think I will go with removing the crossing branches and the one or two way off shoots, then sit back and wait another year or two before any more shaping. At least there's a framework to work with now. This is a photo from two years ago from the "good" side.

You wouldn't guess it but the shrub is already 5 years old.... but it was a late season $4 clearance buy, it sat in the pot for another year, it's been transplanted 3 times and it's only just recently had a chance to put down some good roots, so I'm expecting great things in the next couple years. In any case at least now I have vigorous new stems and the windswept bonsai look is gone.

I'm going to see if I can find a couple examples of a bad rabbit problem and post those too.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 9:43PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

I think these oak seedlings (rabbit pruned to the ground 3 years straight) are finally too big for the bunnies. I guess I'll need to find homes for them if that's the case.... but there's still plenty of rabbit chewing season to go until I can call them safe.

this Harry Lauder's walking stick is taking contorted to a new level

the obvious solution is to fence these blueberries.... but maybe that one heavier branch will survive and bring the buds above bunny level.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2012 at 4:05PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

I guess I'm a little winter bored, and going through old pictures..... here's an update on the hept.

Looked great until mid July when a strong windstorm came through and snapped two of the three stems that were supposed to be the new framework.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 9:06PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

So there went over half the new "tree"..... but then further inspection showed why the branches snapped. Looked like either borer damage or some kind of canker infection weakened the stems right about where they broke. Better yet the final remaining "keeper" stem that didn't break looked to have the same problem. Based on the looks I wanted to take it out because (1) it looked to be girdled and would die anyway and (2) I didn't want to keep a stem with a potentially fatal weak spot. By the time I got around to snapping the third one off a few weeks later, the leaves were already starting to yellow due to the girdling so it was a loss too.
So now back to square one.... There is one other branch coming up that I'm going cross my fingers and do a little dance for but otherwise the little bush looks just as bad as it did two or three years ago.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 9:16PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

This plant is unfortunately susceptible to canker, especially in the midwest from what I hear.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 11:39PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

Do you think the plant will outgrow this problem or does It have the potential to come back every year? Also are younger shoots more suceptible or older branches at risk too?
I felt like I finally had the perfect spot for this one, now I'm wondering if it's got to go....

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 7:28AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

kato ...

listen to me ... lol ...

i have had one for ten years ...

i swear to God.. its one of the ugliest.. most non-descript things in my yard .. repeated die backs.. growing a limb to 8 feet to die.. but it just keeps plugging away ... [too bad its right out the kitchen window.. where it haunts me every day.. lol]

mine is in full sun.. on sand .. with little or no watering ...

if i did NOT have 5 acres.. and could ignore this thing 99% of the time ..... i would not bother with wasting space on a small lot.. on this thing.. its payoff of fragrant late summer/early fall flowers.. simply isnt worth the stress it gives me ...

i speculate its an understory tree.. and it is not happy being grown in MI.. in full sun ...

either enjoy the process of watching it repeatedly cripple itself.. and 'play' with it .. or get rid of it .... if the spot is precious ....

but dont wast time 'worrying about it' ...

with no insult to the root system.. you can cut it to the ground every year ... losing a branch or two.. is not going to kill it ...


    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 8:44AM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

Believe it or not this bush is probably close to 9 years old too.... Maybe I really do need to take the hint and let it go. I like the peeling bark but was never able to pick up on the scent, and I never really get many of the red seed heads like in the pictures. Maybe if global warming takes me up a tiny bit more in zones I'll replace it with a crape myrtle, for now I'll give it another year or two. I did pay at least 4$ for it after all.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 12:39PM
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I love Heptacodium but only when pruned hard when young to make a tree form or at least a multi-stem tree form. Commercial growers (who produce tree forms) cut young trees back to the ground then select the strongest emerging stem as the trunk, pruning all other stems out. The final result (with much more pruning) is as seen in the pics below.

I was pruning all day yesterday and pruned a few young multi stem plants similar to yours Kato. i'll post some pics in a day or two

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 12:41PM
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I have one too. Mine is young though. I think a year, almost, maybe two. I will try the tree form, if it gets too unruly or ugly it will have to go though.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 9:57PM
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After looking at this butt ugly tree for the last two weeks, I tried googling "who hates heptacodium?" Where do I find the answer (with a different search for "pruning" same) I find it is one of my favorite forum members....ken.who states my impressions succinctly....as usual.
In my garden the wood has proven brittle: it has lost two trunks. Numerous branches break off in winter, even more in storms with high winds.
It is a gangly, awkward shape and I think the bark is ugly. Just because bark is described as "exfoliating" doesn't mean it is attractive. Exfoliating birch bark is nice; gray strings aren't.
It has been in the garden for 8 years, and if there are flowers and nice colors, either I can't see them or they are not there (same thing to me).
It is time for it to go, and I thank people for helping me get up the nerve to make it happen.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 11:24PM
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PS I'm only insulting my own tree. If it looked remotely like the couple posted above, I'd keep it.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 11:28PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

When you prune a cane-stemmed bush like this to one trunk then you are banking on that one trunk being able to hold up throughout the life of the specimen.

Growers are developing all kinds of shrubs into "patio trees" in order to respond to the prevalence of small lots on new developments. It remains to be seen how many of these are actually able to work out over long periods. In those cases where an actual true tree is used for the trunk there may be some potential - as long as gross differences in stem diameter or delayed graft incompatibilities do not present themselves.

I once encountered an older Cotoneaster franchetii grafted onto a Sorbus trunk in a coastal town in my state. The cotoneaster was bigger than usual, with an average crown spread of 18' if I remember correctly. Its arching habit was interesting lifted off of the ground but the mountain ash trunk had become a bit massive beneath it. When there is too much difference between the stems and branches of a scion and the trunk produces by the stock a freakish appearance results.

When shrubs are instead made into trees through pruning and training, rather than top-grafting there is the problem of the trunk throwing branches that have to be cut off probably every year - as it tries to return to a shrubby habit. Of course, stocks used to support top grafts may also sprout branches of their own.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 7:15PM
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jujujojo_gw(6b 7a)

Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on Thu, May 2, 13 at 19:15

Let it be. Lovely either ways ... and we can always buy a second one if the first one fails.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 7:26PM
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