Palo Verde (Desert Museum) - Bends Over like Willow - Pruning?

elaineindyAugust 28, 2010

My son lives west of Phoenix and had a Palo Verde planted by a nursery in December. He was expecting a small tree with intersting branches that spread out in odd shapes and make a canopy. (Pretty much like every Palo Verde you see in every yard and landscaped area.) He got a tall, spindly, "willow looking" tree. The tree is about 12 ft tall, skinny and all the limbs are growing straight up. There are only one or two main limbs and just a few smaller limbs. The tree actually bent completely over after a storm earlier this week. He was able to strighten it back up but the question is.......should/can the tree be pruned to produce less likelihood of wind damage and a shape more like he was expecting or should he start with a new tree? (Obviously he should have called the nursery right away but that's a moot point now.)

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grant_in_arizona(USDA Z9 Scottsdale AZ)

Sorry about the damage to your son's tree. Not fun. I have to say, I am not a big fan of 'Desert Museum' palo verde trees. I know they are the "in" and trendy tree right now and are being planted everywhere, in commercial settings especially, but I think they are awfully lanky and gangly and subject to a lot of wind damage. They're popular because they grow very quickly, and low litter and generally thornless, but that quick growth makes their branches shoot up and look boring and weak (to me). I know, I know, a ton of people have them and love them, and I think the best ones are ones that get regular pruning and not too much water. I'm not saying I'd never try one if I ever moved to a new garden, but I would expect to have to prune it a lot to keep it looking nice and to keep it from getting storm damage and honestly, I just don't think a lot of plant sellers are telling people that part.

Your son can prune his to try to create a shape he likes and that's a decent approach. I've seen some very nice ones around town, but again, they're getting regular pruning to thin them out and to make interesting branches. If he replaces it, I'd suggest getting a non-hybrid native Palo Verde if possible.

In any case, he can defitely give it a good haircut and see how it progresses. Thinning out and removing a lot of the thin branches will help its appearance for sure.

Good luck to him. Let's see what our other members say too.

Take care,
Grant

1 Like    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 8:03PM
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Joyce Shaw

What makes a tree look nice,they are all diferrent. Planted in my back yard they are excellent sand and wind filters. I prune minimally, water minimally and have no wind damage. My spindly starts are pruned slightly more to keep branches closer to the trunk until the trunk reaches a good thickness. One I did stake for a few months. It is cooler under the intermixed canopy in July and August. It does not look like a city tree but that is not what I was after. In town, the ones pruned and watered fall over and need years of stageing.

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