Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

Saturday - April 05, 2014

From: Cleveland, OK
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Trees
Title: Pruning a Young Cercis canadensis (Redbud) Tree
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I have a redbud tree that was transplanted when very young (five years ago). It just started budding last year. It is growing very well but the branches are low. It's like it's growing out instead of up. Can I prune the bottom limbs or somehow train it to grow more upward? It has a special meaning to me and I don't want to ruin it.

ANSWER:

The best time to prune redbud (Cercis canadensis) is in the spring just after the flowers have finished. Alternatively, you can prune it in late winter while it is still dormant and before it starts to bloom but you will be removing some of the blooms.

Redbuds often have more than one trunk and will grow in a shrub-like manner that could end up being nearly as wide as it is tall. They can be pruned and trained to have one straight trunk and be grown like a small tree. It is important to start training a redbud in its early years. Stand back and take a look at the branching structure and select the ones that you want to keep. Look for branches that have U-shaped junctures instead of narrow V-shaped branch crotches that could break in gusty winds. Also consider removing branches that are crossing each other, growing into the center of the tree, or are damaged.

Redbuds frequently have low branches when they are young. Take off one or two of the lowest branches each year as it grows until you are satisfied with the shape and branching structure. Pruning the branches when they are still small is more desirable than taking off larger diameter ones.

 

From the Image Gallery


Eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis

Eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis

Eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis

Eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis

Eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis

Eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis

Eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis

Eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis

More Pruning Questions

Trimming dead blooms from turkscap in San Antonio
July 10, 2009 - Great answer to the Turk's Plant question. But, I can't seem to find an answer to mine. I've had Turk's plants for years and cut them back as you suggest, but have always been confused about wha...
view the full question and answer

Leaves dropping on native Texas Mountain Laurel in San Antonio
September 20, 2008 - Please help. We have a beautiful TX Mountain Laurel in our front yard. This year the leaves are dropping like snow in the north. What do you think is wrong with our tree?
view the full question and answer

Freeze damage to esperanza in pot from Brady TX
December 10, 2009 - My esperanza, currently in a container, has suffered some freeze damage. I have prepared a planting spot for it and am not sure whether to plant now, trim it back if I do plant it, etc. I would appr...
view the full question and answer

Will catalpa roots damage a nearby swimming pool?
July 13, 2013 - Will a catalpa tree cause problems to my swimming pool? It is 8 feet away and I cut all the branches off every fall. It then grows back to about 6 feet in diameter an makes a great garden feature but ...
view the full question and answer

Is December a good time to prune oaks in Central Texas?
December 29, 2010 - Given that we haven't had much cold weather here in central Texas (Wimberley) this season, is it a good time to trim live and Spanish oak trees (damaged limbs and low hanging branches and suckers)? ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.