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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - October 06, 2008

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Trees
Title: Pruning for native oak in Houston
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have an oak tree, and I was wondering if I prune from the top down, would it get fuller at the bottom? Or can you tell me how to prune it? I have been pruning from the bottom up and it is growing taller and out to the sides. With Hurricane Ike, I was hoping to keep it short and full.

ANSWER:

First, please don't prune until later in the Fall, or early Winter. Most of the nitidulid beetles that spread spores of the fungus causing oak wilt are probably inactive by now, but it's not a chance you want to take. It's always better to prune during cooler weather, when the trees are more dormant. Next, pruning from the top of an oak tree is going to mean some perilous climbs as the tree matures. Oaks generally get really tall, and there's not much of any way to stunt their growth. And, in fact, this wouldn't help them resist hurricane force winds. One of the reasons oaks are being chosen as replacement trees after Hurricane Ike is because they are sturdy, well-built trees. In fact, any pruning at all from an oak tree should ordinarily only involve removal of broken or damaged limbs. If that should ever happen, especially during the months when the nitidulid beetles are active, usually April, May and June, you should prune off the damaged branch quickly and treat the resulting wound to try and prevent entry by the beetles. In short, we feel you already have a fine, hurricane-resistant tree, don't mess with it.

 

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