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Monday - June 08, 2015

From: Katy, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Trees
Title: Pruning Live Oak trees to limit height.
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I notice many of my neighbors here in Katy (Fort Bend county) would have landscapers cut the lower limbs/branches of the live oak trees in their front yards, and the trees naturally keep getting taller. I have two live oak trees that are currently about 20 feet tall, in my front yard, at least 20 ft away from the house. My house faces southeast. The trees are a few feet shorter than the 2-story house. The house was built in 2006 and I guess that was when the trees were planted there. I want to keep the heights of the trees about as they are now, not any taller. How will the trees react in the long run, if I cut off some small branches at the top and sides to thin their canopies in July every year? Will they likely die off? Will they grow lots of sprouts from their roots? Will the roots still grow spreading out? Thank you in advance!

ANSWER:

The ultimate height of individual Southern Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) trees is determined by the genetics of each specific plant and its growing condtions.  Removal of lower branches will not cause a tree to be appreciably taller when it reaches its ultimate height.  However, removing top-growth from your trees will encourge lateral growth.  If you prune to maintain your trees at 20 feet in height, they will very likely expand beyond a desired width over time and will assume an unnatural,  "flattened" appearance.

Root sprouts are a natural phenomenon of Live Oaks and some other treees, but only certain individuals are prone to producing them.  Pruning of limbs has no effect on the production of root sprouts.  However, top-pruning may result in unwanted, weak new growth called water sprouts which may appear near the site of pruning cuts

The better solution is to remove your Live Oak trees and plant trees that will naturally reach and maintain a height and width more in keeping with your desires.

 

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