Thread: Suggestions for 4 Trees: Catalpa, Sweetgum, Purple Robe Locust, Ginkgo

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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Columbus, OH

    Suggestions for 4 Trees: Catalpa, Sweetgum, Purple Robe Locust, Ginkgo


    I planted several new trees last fall/winter and this spring and have questions about their progress and if there's anything I can do to help them. I have a composite picture for each one to show what they look like from several angles. I live in a smaller residential area in a suburb. All trees were planted with some (<20% by volume) Sta-Green tree soil mixed with the back fill.

    I have two trees (Catalpa and Sweetgum) that I ordered from Arbor Day nursery that came at the end of last November (2010) that I planted (as instructed) after I received them. Over the winter they died back quite a bit, but continued to live at the root and sprout again. The two other trees (Purple Robe Locust and Ginkgo) were ordered from a different nursery and were planted in early June.

    The Catalpa died back all the way to about 1/2 inch above the ground. Then in late spring it sprouted two side shoots, one from the top of the live trunk and one at the base. Now they are about 6-9 inches tall and I was wondering if I should eliminate one of them or leave them both. Does having only one trunk make the tree more sound or is it just an aesthetic thing?

    The Sweetgum died back to about 6-8 inches above the ground. It then sprouted 4 side shoots (2 of them have died) and one shoot from at or below the soil line. I only want one trunk with the Sweetgum, so I need to eliminate something. Should I keep on;y the older growth trunk and prune back to just above the living side shoot? Or should I keep the new trunk? Or should I leave both for now and see what happens?

    The Purple Robe Locust has two strong shoots that have grown well, but are at an angle. They both go the same direction too. Is there something I should do to help straighten them out? Remove one? Stake them? Or will they eventually straighten out on their own? They just look weird from the right angles.

    The Ginkgo just doesn't look like it's doing great. It is located in the street strip and after planting it sprouted more leaves and new growth fairly quickly, but it has slowly started looking sickly. It's been a fairly hot summer, but it has also rained frequently. I've given it a couple doses of Miracle Grow plant food. Is there anything I can do to help it?


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2006

    RE: Suggestions for 4 Trees: Catalpa, Sweetgum, Purple Robe Locust, Ginkgo

    Please don't put miricle grow on outside naturalizing trees. It will kill them dead, dead ,dead. Use organic natural compost or manure. I speak from the school of hard knocks.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Central Indiana

    RE: Suggestions for 4 Trees: Catalpa, Sweetgum, Purple Robe Locust, Ginkgo

    Leave them alone for a while! They are too small for you to do more than harm them. They need a few years before you start feeding and pruning them or anything like. At this point, just make sure that they get enough water and let nature take its course.

    I agree with Tree Herder: do not use Miracle Grow!

    Also, don't over-water them.

    Top die-back is not unusual. I've planted literally thousands of trees on my place and I've seen top die-back many times. Leave the sweetgum alone. You can cut off the dead "trunk" right above where the new growth has begun. Otherwise, just let it go. In a few years, once it has grown tall enough, you can start worrying about pruning. The tree will need all of those branches and leaves to feed itself. Don't worry! You have plenty of time to prune it easily before it becomes a "bush" rather than a tree. After it gets established, you can decide which will be your trunk and prune the others.

    If you don't want a multi-stemmed trunk on that locust, you will eventually need to cut one of those off. I'd wait a bit before I did that though. The seedling is small enough at this point that you don't have to worry about the direction of growth and so on. You don't want to wait too long, but it won't hurt to give it another year or so. If it bothers you, you can go ahead and eliminate one of the "trunks" so that it grows the way you want it to. But you still have time before it becomes a problem, based on the size of the seedling. It looks like you need to cut off the shoot aiming toward the sidewalk. You should choose to keep the healthier, straighter trunk.

    That said, if you WANT a multi-stemmed, trunk, then no pruning is necessary!

    If you DO decide to prune it, wait until it is dormant--the best time for your area would be late winter (think end of February/first of March).

    Best advice: don't do anything beyond watering them at this point.

  4. #4
    Super Moderator Oak Quirky Quercus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004

    RE: Suggestions for 4 Trees: Catalpa, Sweetgum, Purple Robe Locust, Ginkgo

    As stated, no Miracle Die.

    Fertilizer most likely isn't needed, especially on the nitrogen-fixing black locust.

    Hold off on any pruning to see how they take shape.

    And welcome to the forum.

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