Need advice on an Eastern Redbud Tree

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Old 11-11-14, 09:17 AM
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Need advice on an Eastern Redbud Tree

HI all,

I planted a 3" caliper x 12' tall Eastern Redbud tree in the fall of 2013. It didn't leaf out in the following spring. It was a hard winter so I kept an eye on it for the next few months, hoping it would leaf out, but it didn't. Next, I did bark scrapings to see if it was still alive and cut it way back to where the scrapings showed life. The entire top half of the tree was dead, so I literally cut the tree in half at the main trunk. After that, the tree took off and started growing new branches all along what was left of the trunk, which is now about 4' tall. The tree seems healthy now, but it looks terrible, So I'm wondering what I can do to make it look better and to resemble a natural growing tree. I've thought about removing the lower branches and tying one or two of the highest branches in a straight upward direction to resemble a main trunk in the hope that it will eventually have a normal shape. But, I'm not sure if this is a good idea. I've attached a couple photos. Any advice would be appreciated. thank you
 
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Old 11-11-14, 10:36 AM
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At this point you can either dig it out and plant a new tree or try to prune and train the old one to a shape you want. A new tree might give you the shape you want sooner but with added expense and labor. If you want to try and save your tree Redbud are very damage tolerant so you can get pretty rough with training and pruning.
 
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Old 11-11-14, 11:12 AM
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"If you want to try and save your tree Redbud are very damage tolerant so you can get pretty rough with training and pruning"


pilot dane,

Thanks for your reply. That's the whole crux of the matter at this point. How does one go about pruning and shaping a tree that's been cut in half?
 
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Old 11-11-14, 12:46 PM
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It's hard to regain the beauty of a damaged tree but basically you trim off the growth where you don't want it and try to encourage the other areas to grow better. It may take multiple trimming over a few yrs to get it looking nice again.
 
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Old 11-11-14, 01:06 PM
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Redbud Tree

Come back with photos fairly closeup after the leaves have dropped.

Basically, you start pruning at the bottom, which will encourage new growth at the top. Prune after the leaves drop.
 
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Old 11-11-14, 01:10 PM
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hi marksr,

thanks for your reply.

the tree currently has several branches on the 4' section that is remaining. My goal is to get it back to it's normal shape or as close as I can. The typical redbud and no branches on the lower trunk and the higher branches form a crown, that's how I'd like to shape my tree. Would it make sense than, to prune off all the lower branches and keep just the strongest highest most upright branch. Then stake it to the remaining trunk to keep it in a straight upright position with the hopes it will take over the job of the main trunk that was cut off. What do you think?
 
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Old 11-11-14, 06:08 PM
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It looks pretty good right now, being leafed out... but I'm sure when it loses its leaves it may look a bit weird.

In my experience, redbuds are almost always pretty gnarley looking. They get damaged by hard winters, branches break from storms, and just generally have a mind of their own when it comes to new growth. I have always imagined that they would fare better in climates where the winters aren't so hard. Fortunately they seem to be quite branchy and will generally find a way to grow back, so you just have to be patient. Many very old redbuds will have a "stump" that's not more than a few feet tall, and you can tell the tree had a hard life, branching out in a similar way to how yours did.

Personally, I would not cut back more than 50% of those branches at one time, although fall/early winter is the best time to do major pruning. You are right about cutting off anything that's "too" low (the lower 50% of the remaining trunk) but I wouldn't try and "train it" just yet. Cut maybe half of those shoots off, then in the spring make sure the remaining branches that you left are still healthy and pick the healthy and symmetrical ones that you think should remain once you're sure they have survived the winter. (I would probably wait until after it blooms... if it even will. Sometimes the small struggling trees won't bloom much) It would be the pits to only leave 1 or 2 branches and then have them die back from winter kill... and be in the same boat next year. Just saying.
 
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