pruning Eastern Redbud

debndulcySeptember 7, 2009

Have an Eastern redbud put in by a landscaper at about 6 1/2 feet tall (? age) in early spring 08. I pruned some long shoots in standard 1/3 way part-way thru the season, expecting more branching.. but this year (now at near-end of summer) it's developed very long (5-6 feet) single shoots poking out all-around it, showing very little branching, if any. I just trimmed them, trying the same approach with the same goal. I haven't been able to find anything in books or online which tells me how this should best be handled to reach that goal... am I on the right track?

Thank you for any info/advice!

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Carrie B(6B/7A)

It's hard to tell without photos. Can you post some photos? It might also be helpful for us to get a clearer understanding of your goals; why you pruned the tree at all/as much as you did.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2009 at 11:38PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

you have a lot of expectations for a tree that will live for decades ... and that was only planting last spring ...

for the first year or two.. every leaf is a food making machine.. to grow the roots.. necessary to a thriving tree ...

but you keep cutting the darn branches off.. thwarting said process ...

please.. put the shears down.. and step away ...

it will branch.. WHEN ITS DARN WELL READY TO BRANCH.. and not a moment sooner...

if we are to presume.. that a tree is at least as big below ground.. if not twice .... how big was the rootball of the tree when you planted this 6.5 foot tree .. and do you think the roots have achieved being as big.. or twice as big as what you see above ...

keep it properly watered for another year.. mulch it properly .. and do NOT fertilize it...

patience !!!!!


    Bookmark   September 8, 2009 at 9:22AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

"I pruned some long shoots in standard 1/3 way"

What does this mean? I hope you don't mean you just chopped one third of the limb off!


With a young Eastern Redbud like you have, the only pruning I would be doing is removing dead, diseased, or rubbing branches and maybe branches whose crotch angles were so poor they couldn't be retrained. One important thing you should do is keep a close eye out on the branching angle of each limb and correct any that are too narrow as early as possible. This will reduce the chance of your tree falling apart in the wind in a few years.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2009 at 12:02PM
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Thank you, all.. I'm sorry I don't have a photo at this time. The tree is planted mostly under large old pines, but in a bed about 5-6 feet from a garage, in a smaller suburban yard. Ken, it would seem great to 'live and let live' as I do with most other plantings... but...

The "shoots" literally poked out (think of the Statue of Liberty's crown - it's the best I can do to describe it) of the entire perimeter (about 10 of them) of the crown at least 5-6 feet all-around. I couldn't imagine those branches surviving winter here (if we had a bad one), and was also interested in branching for flowering purposes in the longer term.

Re "1/3 cutting'... Brandon... I generally took the larger of 3 stems of a branch back to the node.. trying to use that as my method for the 'shoots.' Otherwise, they seemed to be extensions of branches that were rubbing. What is meant by 'the correct branching angle of limbs, correcting those too narrow as early as possible'..?

Again, any advice, info and guidance is much appreciated. It can be such a beautiful (and healthy) tree..

    Bookmark   September 8, 2009 at 9:49PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

It sounds like maybe? you are using drop-crotch pruning methods, although I'm unsure without a picture of more detail. If so, that is a valid way to prune in some circumstances. In your original post, I pictured you just chopping off the outer third of larger branches.

Correcting branching angles can be very important on this species. Many of these trees tend to grow branches with very narrow crotch angles. These limbs tend to develop included bark and be very weakly attached. It's pretty common to see middle-aged and older trees with limbs torn off and split trunks.

Branching angles are easy to correct if done when the branches are small. Various methods like using limb spreaders, tying limbs down, and other methods, common to orchard-tree training, can be employed.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2009 at 8:38AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

you should not cut back on transplant..

and IMHO .. you should not prune for 2 to 3 years.. but for limbs that may be causing injury ... to each other

brandon.. i dont care if the method is approved... the transplant needs the leaves at this time ..

i an guessing a 6 foot tree in a 5 gallon pot .... with little or no root mass ... IT NEEDS TO GROW ROOTS ... and it needs leaves to do that ..

whatever.. its your tree.. presumable you are having fun.. knock yourself out ...


    Bookmark   September 9, 2009 at 8:51AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Ken, the tree's been in the ground now for a year and a half. It's mostly established (the thing is putting on lots of top growth). Pruning shouldn't hurt a thing now.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2009 at 9:31AM
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Thank you!! I am a little relieved. The 'leaf growth' on this has been the most I've ever seen on any tree/shrub I've ever planted.. and I comparatively touched only about 1/20 of it.. and indeed, some of it was hitting the garage and its roof, etc.

Brandon, I'm going to look up the terms you use, though, yes, I believe there were 'narrow crotch angles' and I didn't know what to do with them, thus left them alone. I'm going to study it some more today!

Again, thanks all!

    Bookmark   September 9, 2009 at 11:17AM
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My beautiful 10 year old redbud was just pruned to look like a maple tree by a well meaning 83 year old. Is there any thing I can do to ensure it survives the coming Ontario winter or survives at all? Also, will it grow new branches or ever look like a redbud again? Thanks.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 3:29PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

lizard .. start your own post.. and add pix if you want an opinion ..

otherwise.. pruning is not going to affect winter hardiness ...

and take dad's saw away from him.. lol ...


    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 4:14PM
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