Cottonwood- Annual Care?

simonbloomfield5aApril 16, 2009

I just purchased a home that has 9 mature Eastern Cottonwoods. 4 ofthe trees are about 75 to 85 ft. I would like to know what, if any fertilizer and pesticide should be given? I found a site that actually sells somethimg they call "Annual Care Kit for Cottonwood". See link for website. This kit is $27.95 per kit for 1 large tree or 2 to 3 small trees. I would need about 7 kits $210 ? I was just wondering what the best/most economical route would be? Thanks. I'm in Michigan and have clay soil and some of the trees are growing just outside the edge of a wetland.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cottonwood fertilizer kit

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shortleaf2002(5b 6a KCMO, USA)

I don't think Cottonwoods need help growing. In Michigan?
Your economy must be doing okay! Thats good that you care for the trees (I like Cottonwoods myself), but unless their sick, I don't think they need help. Maybe you could save the money for Mother's Day.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2009 at 1:58AM
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Is 8 feet a year of growth still not enough for you??!

Selling a cottonwood fertilizer care kit is like selling ice to Eskimos.

Unless there is some deficiency and you can visibly see a problem, save your money.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2009 at 9:04AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

no tree nor conifer .. EVER NEEDS ANYTHING .... period .. unless a soil test indicates something is lacking in the soil .... which surely isnt going to be so with a tree that is 85 feet tall ...

mother nature is very adept at having them take care of themselves ...

just send me the money.. and it will have the same beneficial effect on the trees ...

consider two things ...

first.. the tree is 85 feet tall .. suggest to me what is lacking from it ... do you think its small for its size???? obviously this thing has been thriving for decades with little or no help from any human ...

second .. if we presume the tree is at least twice as big below ground as above .... and if we presume it gets most of it nutrients from the small feeder roots ... we could estimate that those feeder roots are 170 from the tree .... exactly where are you going to 'feed' this tree .... and how will you know there will be any roots where you put the stuff ...

with any tree.. NEVER amend the planting hole [maybe a little with clay] .. and NEVER FERTILIZE them ... if you fert your lawn.. any decent sized tree will advantageously take whatever it needs from the lawn ... and the neighbors lawn.. and half way down the block ....

its a total and complete snake oil con job.. IMHO .... save your money .... and if you ask nice.. i will tell you what i really think .. lol ...

we have some monsters in the area.. two weeks of total hell.. when it snows in summer .... good luck with all that ... it might take your love of them a notch or two down ... but they are glorious monsters ...

good luck with the new house and garden


    Bookmark   April 16, 2009 at 9:07AM
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I'd leave the Cottonwoods alone and they'll do just fine. Everywhere I see them they grow fast and well. I'd also avoid using pesticides since you're so close to a wetland area and the chemicals could get into the waters and severely harm the frogs, turtles and other important wildlife there.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2009 at 10:06AM
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Great replies guys. I feel kind of stupid.. These are all old huge cottonwoods. However a few of them do appear to have some dead areas pretty high up which I assume is just lack of trimming? Ill try to take some pictures if my camera can zoom that far. I also have a couple of smaller Cottonwoods that are essentially dead. I will take a few picts and you tell me if they are salvageable. It's pretty scary having these monsters so close to the house and cars. I guess thats what insurance is for?

    Bookmark   April 16, 2009 at 11:54PM
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Insurance might pay for repairs, but it won't save a life if a tree does fall on the house. As these trees are fairly old, I'd advise getting an ISA-registered arboricultural consultant to inspect the trees and produce a safety and hazard report on them.


    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 6:47AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

extremely fast growing.. giant limb shedding .. monsters.. capable of taking human life when they behemoths fall from 80 feet above.. crushing cars.. and houses.. and humans ...


IMHO ... these are golf course trees.. not trees to be overhanging homes..

your insurance company is more likely to cancel your coverage.. than pay for removal ...

when you show us pix.. i will tell you what i really think .. lol .. might want to start a new post.. with a searchable title for future peeps who use the search function


    Bookmark   April 18, 2009 at 8:04AM
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Hhhmmm ... I have a "volunteer" black cottonwood, native, sprouted in raised bed about 1' from house, in 2 years now 2 stories high (house is 1-story). Know I'll have to do something with it but right now it's providing much-needed shade.

Can a black cottonwood be pruned a lot and kept in check? Anyone ever tried?

If not, I'll have to take it down next winter, which is a shame because it's such a healthy vigorous tree. Planted several to suck up water in this swamp. This one is now too big to transplant.

They must have long taproots. About 2' down there's a creeklet its roots could hit and be happy. Also have a downspout emptying near it, think the roots have already found that. Plus it gets watered frequently because the raised bed is full of rhodies.

Don't want the eventual "monster" to decapitate the house. What if I prune off the leader each winter? And prune back the branches?

The 1st black cottonwood we planted, in sw corner of yard, is now over 30' tall and REALLY growing. 3 years 3 months in ground, zoooooming this spring.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2009 at 9:07AM
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Ah, Ken, the tree hater, is at it again (smile). I must set the record straight about cottonwoods--which I have tried to do once or twice before in this forum. But I MUST try to correct misconceptions.

My experience with cottonwoods: I grew up in a house that had two very large cottonwoods right next to it. They were about 30" in diameter and close to 100 feet tall--you could see these tree tops from more than half a mile away. We never had any problem with any large limbs falling out of these trees. In 1948--New Years Eve and New Years Day--we had the worst ice storm I have ever seen. We had trees stripped of branches and pulled down everywhere. I was a 10 year old kid at the time, loved trees, and cried my eyes out over the damage. Our power was out for a long, long time. We heated our house by burning large chunks of Cannel coal in our fireplaces. Out cottonwoods? NO DAMAGE TO SPEAK OF. Yes, they have weak soft wood, but that doesn't translate into wind and/or ice damage more than other trees.

Next case: Here in Winchester we have one of the largest cottonwoods I have ever seen. 100 feet tall, wide spreading, and 7 feet in diameter. I look up into the gorgeous crown of this tree and can't see any broken limbs!

Next case: Here where I live, on Apple Pie Ridge, north of Winchester, VA, we have some of the strongest winds in the USA. At Two points along the ridge there are large cottonwoods growing right next to the road, fully exposed to the worst winds that come over this ridge. This winter I think some gusts were 80 mph. Broken limbs on these cottonwoods--NONE.

Now any tree, if the storm is bad enough, can be broken apart, so I give that warning. BUT, cottonwoods are at least as resistant to damage as the average tree, and I think more so.

The cause of the confusion I think is that cottonwoods have weak and soft wood. But that doesn't translate into a weak tree. Why? I don't know.

On the other hand, black locust trees have some of the strongest wood known to mankind, but black locust trees are among the very weakenst trees I know, both for windthrow and for branch breakage in storms. Go figure!

OK, again, I rest my case. And in addition to their relative strength, I think cottonwoods are among the most beautiful trees in the world. The sound of a gentle breeze in their leaves in summer, the shimmer of their fluttering leaves on a sun-drenched August afternoon, etc., etc.


    Bookmark   April 18, 2009 at 9:53AM
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Hi Spruce

Some clones are more prone to breakage than others; I've seen plenty of broken branches on poplars.

More to the point though is that pruned poplars are much more prone to breakage than unpruned ones; the cut ends are open to decay and re-growth from them isn't securely attached as a result. So don't prune poplars.

"giant limb shedding .. monsters.. capable of taking human life ..... IMHO ... these are golf course trees"

Corollary: Ken doesn't like golfers ;-)


    Bookmark   April 18, 2009 at 1:34PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

ken loves trees ... oh.. i am talking in the third person ...

ken has planted hundreds of trees and conifers ...

ken cant sleep with trees hanging over his head while he sleeps.. or the thought of them crashing onto the biggest investment of his life ...


    Bookmark   April 19, 2009 at 8:29AM
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beng(z6 western MD)

Spruce says:
The cause of the confusion I think is that cottonwoods have weak and soft wood. But that doesn't translate into a weak tree. Why? I don't know.

On the other hand, black locust trees have some of the strongest wood known to mankind, but black locust trees are among the very weakenst trees I know, both for windthrow and for branch breakage in storms. Go figure!

Some trees that have weak wood "overbuild" to compensate for it. N catalpa is an example & also Cottonwood. Black locust seems to "underbuild" & add to that wood-borers turning it into swiss-cheese, easily break in winds.

The 5' dia, 100'+ spread Cottonwood in Hagerstown City park has an enormous crown of arching branches w/no damage seen. However, a nearby, more slender one that was 140' (45m) tall had 20' of the top broke off by Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2009 at 9:26AM
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Ken can be "hostal" to trees sometimes, especially maples!

Anyway, I appreciate the fact that trees can be a hazard next to "life" and property. Compared to Ken, I am relatively comfortable with tall trees near my house, although right now I don't have any. But if a really bad storm comes up, then there is some risk with almost any tree.

The approach I would take would be to have any very large tree next to and over my house inspected periodically, and have any suspect, weak limbs removed. The plusses of having a large tree next to a house are the shade, the sound of rain in the leaves, etc. A minus is leaves in the gutters/downspouts.

As for cottonwoods: I didn't mean to suggest that their limbs can't break in storms, but based on my own observations, they don't have any special tendency to break in storms compared to most trees. And an issue is how and where they might break. Some of the trees that have a reputation for being fairly strong can break in catastrophic ways, such as the splitting of large branches away from the trunk, as with sugar maple and red oak, etc. I can't remember seeing that kind of breakage on a cottonwood, although I can't say it doesn't happen sometimes.

My neighbor has a large cottonwood that he loves. This last year several large limbs were broken in a storm, but they did not split away from the trunk--they broke in the middle. BUT, and here is an illustration of my main point--these branches broke when a large black locust was uprooted and crashed through a portion of the crown of the cottonwood tree. If that had not happened, the cottonwood would have been unscathed by the storm.

I got 8 beautiful 8' long locust posts out of this tree!


    Bookmark   April 19, 2009 at 9:37AM
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Branches are one thing, roots are another. You don't even want a p. deltoides 'globosum' dwarf (if there is such a thing), within a feet of your foundation unless your foundation is mounted on a chassis. Common sense ppl. You see what happens to sidewalks, yeah?

    Bookmark   April 19, 2009 at 10:45AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

hey spruceman.. will you put it in your will to have someone report back to GW when you are crushed to death ... lol ... otherwise we may never find out how mush risk you took in life ... lol

listen ... i know i am a drama queen .. actually king.. when it comes to poorly sited.. improperly maintained trees ... its intentional to make a point ...

too many newbies... eco-warriors ... IMHO .. get to wrapped up in saving the tree .. in potential detriment to themselves.. and their investments ...

you take whatever risk you care too ... and i will play the devils advocate.. and tell you you are nuts ...

when i bought my first home.. i wanted to save everything on the property ... for the history of it all .. the happiest day of my life in that garden.. was the day i got rid of all the prior owners problems ...

old dying trees ... are problems.. and this post began with the premise that if he fed it.. would it recover.. no it wont ...

and if its out in the 2 acres.. let it be a viewing adventure.. in watching its decline over the years.. as it crushes itself back into mother earth ... oh.. the drama again ... that might take 100 more years, in reality ...

but .. if its near the house.. just get rid of it ...


ps: you take care of yourself spruceman.. i will have nightmares about you.. rotflmbo ....

    Bookmark   April 19, 2009 at 12:22PM
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Actually we are not that far apart on this "dangerous tree" issue. Maybe you noticed how many times I have advised people in this forum to remove any suspect tree anywhare near where it could do harm. When I lived in DC I often called the city tree dept to warn them about weak trees--I was always ignored and these trees almost always came crashing down within a year or two.

When I lived in Arlington, VA--in that neighborhood I have described several times in this forum where there are giant trees right next to houses--we had two tuliptrees in our back yard I was concerned about--120 feet tall, really! I had an arborist come out, and he told me that he thought one of the two was OK. I was not convinced because he didn't climb up and really have a look. So I had them both taken down. It turns out he was right about the one--for the time being--but I was not sorry to have these monsters removed. If they were perfect, I would have left them, but they weren't, and if one fell on our or the neighbor's house, it would have literally cut the house in half.

No Ken, I am no fool! But I do know that a really healthy tree is a minimal risk, and for me one worth taking. It is more dangerous to drive two miles to get some milk at the 7-11!


    Bookmark   April 19, 2009 at 3:04PM
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Not a whisper of the cotton balls either.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2009 at 6:51PM
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Look, I am a lover of plants and trees, but we have 3 large (100' +) cottonwoods around our property that I wish would get hit by blight or lightning or something. I don't have the heart to cut them down, but they are among the dirtiest trees I have ever seen.

The leaves do not composts well not matter how many times I suck then through the mower, then my leaf blower/sucker, and when spring rolls around there are days when it looks like a major snow storm hit from all the cotton thingies that look like a giant mature dandelion fallout.

The limbs constantly break and fall in the yard and most of their trunks are covered with moss. They still just won't die - so to answer your question, I doubt that there is anything you need to do to care for this weed! :-)

    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 10:03AM
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Dan Staley

Cottonwoods are almost never on recommended plant lists, as they drop big limbs, are messy, and short-lived. Hazard trees. Buying a fertilizer kit for mature trees is a waste of money.


    Bookmark   April 20, 2009 at 11:07AM
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