Pruning honey locust

petehoukJuly 4, 2012

Hi everybody. I had two Skyline Honey Locust trees installed in fall 2010. In spring 2012, one of them has lost a lot of foliage. Or rather I should say it didn't get much foliage. (Picture here: )

Now I am planning to prune it back in the fall. I have a few questions first though.

1. Is there any hope for the branches with no leaves? We had warm weather early this spring, followed by a cold snap. If the foliage was damaged that way, is it possible that the branches could grow leaves in the spring?

2. How should I prune it? Specifically, there are these little branches coming from the trunk. On my more mature trees, I cut these things off (see picture here: ) . If I leave one or more of these little guys, will they grow into full size branches? Or are they always going to be little sucker things?



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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Here is your picture:

1. It is very doubtful that the probably-dead limbs will grow foliage. Do a scratch test to confirm if they are dead, but I'd bet they are.

2. I'd prune at ground level, apply glyphosate to the freshly exposed phloem, and plant a replacement.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 7:36PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)


Yes, the suckers/epicormic shoots will form branches, but are probably not the answer to the problem. Since large dead limbs will need to be removed right beside the ones in your other picture (see below), they will be difficult to keep and will have poor attachments.

Here's your other picture:

    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 7:47PM
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On the other hand, and given the usual high degree of vigor of this species, and IF you were able to remove the dead branches without destroying the young sprouts, which could be done BTW, I'm thinking that in an amount of time that would surprise you with it's brevity, you'd have a decent tree.

Around here, which ain't far from around there, honeylocust almost grow too fast. That is to say, at a certain point within the growing season, there has been so much branch extension that the whole crown can be tipped in an odd fashion, or just interfering with ground-based activities.


    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 10:31PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

the 'trick' to removing large branches.. like the pic above.. is to cut it about 3 feet from the trunk.. and remove all the hanging weight..

then come in and do a more precise final cut

even add a mid way 3rd cut.. if need be ...

too many peeps think.. hey.. one cut ... all set ...

i had the same early heat wave down here in adrian.. followed by severe hard frost and freezes ...

if it were a healthy.. ESTABLISHED tree [instead of a recent VERY large transplant] ... it probably could have rebudded ...

but if it hasnt.. by now.. most likely.. all bare wood is dead.. evidenced by the sprouting on the live trunk ...

time to prune .. and its too hot .. do it in sept ...


ps: personally.. i do not like this tree.. and i would recommend brandons first reply ... lol .. but all the power to ya...

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 10:52AM
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famartin(z5 NE NV)

Honey locust can grow back fresh from the roots if you cut it to near ground level (WITHOUT applying the glyphosate), if you want a shot at a nice looking tree without having to pay for another one.

Otherwise, yeah those branches aren't coming back. The suckers might do alright as side branches but the tree will look a bit weird for a while.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 3:21PM
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....a surprisingly short while, I'll wager. That was pretty much my point above-that these very fast-growing trees can potentially quickly overcome such problems.

I'm also not a huge fan of HL. Just because there's so many of them being planted. But they do have their good attributes.


    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 5:36PM
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Thanks for the replies everyone.

One of the things that I do like about these trees is how they tend to grow twisty, gnarly trunks and side branches. So if this one is a little bit odd looking, I won't mind too much--so long as it fills out. I do have a bit of experience with pruning and I think I can take off the dead and spare the living, so I am going to give it a try in the fall. The worst that could happen is that I would have to cut the sucker off after a year or two.

I was also considering a fertilizing treatment of some kind since I am eager to get a little more shade on my front yard and the front side of my house. My dad had that done to some of his trees recently and had good results.

I have never done it and have heard that it can be harmful to fertilize transplants. But I am thinking I'll give it another year or two to extend its roots and then try a fertilizing treatment.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 5:37PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

spend your money watering the brown lawn.. and the tree itself..


and a fertilizing an already stressed tree is counter-indicated ...

water it


    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 6:15PM
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Thanks for the advice need to yell about it though...

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 10:13AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

a lot of peeps do NOT listen .. if i dont YELL.. lol ...

BTW... if a tree ends up.. twice as big underground.. as above.. then all you need to do.. is give the lawn some 19-19-19 in fall or spring.. and the tree will ROB whatever it needs from the lawn .. no need to specifically feed a tree ... [besides the fact of who really knows where to put the tree fert]

but.. as a large transplant.. odds are.. deep.. VERY DEEP watering.. would be the best thing for it ...

good luck


    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 2:56PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

This genus is in my top 10 worst to plant in the midwest.

My vote, if you are taking one, is to get rid of it.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 4:14PM
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Top ten worst? That's a bold stance, Whaas. I can understand if this isn't your favorite tree, but top ten worst is kind of stretch in my opinion. Native species, drought resistant, good for transplanting (though maybe not in my case). Those are all good things about this tree. I think top 10 worst is maybe not so accurate...

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 6:18PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

If you can come up with 10 other trees that are worse that will grow in the upper midwest then I might change my stance. Tt would still be in the top 11, lol.

Although it has admirable drought tolerance and casts light shade it is widely over planted, leaves out late, drops leaves early, very susceptible to aphids, canker, leaf spot, borers, leaf spot, spider mites, gall, etc.

If light shade is required, 'Speczam' is one of the few worthwhile cultivars.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 9:08PM
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Posting a link to this picture for Whaas and the other honey locust haters out there.

This is a great part of Main Street in downtown Ann Arbor...

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 25, 2012 at 8:21PM
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I always tell myself that I'm sick of HL, but truly they are the preeminent tree for sidewalk cutouts.


    Bookmark   August 25, 2012 at 10:01PM
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