Tulip tree pruning

nick1427dAugust 19, 2012

I have a 6ft tall tulip tree that has great growth. It has what I would call two leaders at the moment that are both close to the same size branch and leaf growth. My questions are:

Which one should I prune to create a central leader?

Should I even worry about pruning either one when it's this young?

When is the best time to prune?

I will try and upload a pic

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nick1427d

Additional pic

    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 2:08PM
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wisconsitom

Excellent question, Nick. Although we generally advocate little to no pruning on stock so young, I think I'd still head back one or the other to an outward-facing branchlet, to aid in the other one's dominance. Do this late winter and the tree will not have lost any of the nutrients still being manufactured in those leaves-on the part that will get removed.

As to which one to shorten.....it's pure judgment call, but I always just try to select for centrality first, and present dominance, second. This is a tough call in your case. Whichever one is left to become the central leader, there will be a crook in that stem for a few years to come. But rest assured, subsequent growth and phototropism will take care of that eventually, and it won't take all that long. Remember, you don't have to remove the entire non-selected one, Just shortening it and removing its terminal growing point will make it behave more a s a branch, less as a codominant leader.

+oM

    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 4:19PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

The one to the right is the one you want to remove. Look at the connection point.

Personally I'd remove it completely late winter without any hesitation. I wouldn't want it to put on any more caliper than it already has.

After you remove it, slide a stake in there just above the ground and then pull the leader to the stake.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 4:59PM
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nick1427d

Awesome guys thanks a lot

    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 9:58PM
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famartin(z5 NE NV)

Yes, do what whaas suggests.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 10:13PM
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wisconsitom

I reject the sense of urgency in Whaas' post. Beyond contention, you have at least until the more favorable late-winter season to prune this baby tree. What gives Whaas?

And too, it appears much less certain that pruning of one over the other is evident. I'd like to know, for example, where the house sits in relation to this tree. Knowing this, one could argue that the leader which sweeps away from the house might be slightly more desirable to maintain as the "central leader". But in either case, that crook or sweep will be all but obscured by future growth and phototropism. This I can guarantee.

+oM

    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 10:56PM
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famartin(z5 NE NV)

Tom, you may have misread Whaas... he said he'd "remove it completely IN LATE WINTER".

Anyway, look at the crotch... it clearly favors the left shoot.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 11:07PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

how long has it been in place???

+om... what about subordination pruning???

it can be done any time in the next 5 years.. so let them argue about it all.. lol.. there is NEVER a 'hurry' when pruning.. for aesthetic ... if it were fixing an injury.. then that would be something else

ken

    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 10:56AM
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wisconsitom

Indeed, a quick mis-read. Sorry. Ken, I did mention subordination pruning-when don't I?-but I just didn't call it that!

OP, pick one to be the main leader, shorten up the other sometime. Late winter is best for all woody plant pruning, but most other times of year are ok too.

+oM

    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 5:47PM
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nick1427d

Thanks again to all. The tree is about 35' to 40' away from corner of house. I have no intentions on pruning it unless it's needed. I'm not one to prune trees to give me something to do. I was always told to prune a central leader when a tree is young. The tree has been in ground for 2 years. I have not fertilized aside from some granular in early spring and tree, to me, has done very well even with our drought.

I'm gonna leave it alone and see how it looks late winter and might top off the one to right a little.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 12:58AM
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nick1427d

Thanks again to all. The tree is about 35' to 40' away from corner of house. I have no intentions on pruning it unless it's needed. I'm not one to prune trees to give me something to do. I was always told to prune a central leader when a tree is young. The tree has been in ground for 2 years. I have not fertilized aside from some granular in early spring and tree, to me, has done very well even with our drought.

I'm gonna leave it alone and see how it looks late winter and might top off the one to right a little.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 1:01AM
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famartin(z5 NE NV)

One thing I'll add: "Topping it off" may not be enough to stop it. It may just slow it down. Tulip tree has a very strong leader tendency, such that once a shoot decides its a leader, it doesn't want to stop being the leader, even if you "top it". That's one reason I'd suggest total removal.

It won't hurt the tree in late winter. To be honest though, I'd probably just do it now to get it done with and not have to worry about it.

Not sure if you'll need to stake the other one; like I said, Tulip tree has a strong leader tendency so that may kick in and naturally straighten the one that you leave.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 1:33AM
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strobiculate

Take one off. Looking at the two branches...and how they grow past the initial point that is the point of so much attention, i'd take off the left one. I usually go for the stronger branch, but in this case, both are strong unions, one just slightly more so, and the size is small enough that in another couple of years following the prune, it won't make a lick of difference one way or the other. And at least to my wall eyed sense of vision, the right side seems to have a tendency to less branching (not that it makes a difference cuz all those low branches are coming off eventually).

Not that it really makes a difference anyway...but you are better off making the cut at the crotch, not just cutting one side back.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 8:47AM
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nick1427d

As a reference to growth you can see that it's always had identical "leaders", here is the tree at planting two years ago around spring. Brown spots are from roundup, one of my first lawn care oops.

I don't wanna beat a dead horse but I may be over thinking this a bit. I was simply worried taking one of these large caliper branches would hurt the tree's growth. However I do not feel after hearing opinions that it will hurt it at all. I will be pruning it late winter though as i am skeptical that this drought and heat will be ending anytime soon.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 12:00PM
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nick1427d

One more ?

Do any of you use any type of product to put on "wound" after pruning. I've heard of a few pruning sprays, but is it necessary?

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 12:03PM
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famartin(z5 NE NV)

No, don't do that. Wound treatment is never good.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 1:07PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

I'm extremely impatient so I'd probably do what farm mentioned and cut it off now. But logic tells me you want the energy from the entire canopy sent to the roots come fall. Then in spring you will get nice strong growth in the selected leader.

As for selecting which one, I don't know, the union definitely leans towards removing the right one but the canopy reveals that perhaps the right one should remain as it appers to have taken over as the leader.

Bottomline don't put anything on that cut. I suggest you use MS paint or similar and repost the photo as to where you will be making the cut. Again Tulip tree is very fast growing and can put on an eceptional amount of caliper in a short period of time, more so than any other young tree I've seen. I'd suggest you not wait pass late winter.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 1:48PM
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