When is too late to leader-prune columnar arbs?

aquinodMay 9, 2012

I have several degroot's spire trees that are still somewhat small (2-3 feet). Unfortunately, i couldn't find any with only a single leader, but i managed to at least pick some with a fairly dominant leader and a good columnar form.

I would like to make an attempt to gradually prune off any competing leaders, and I was wondering when (age wise) is too late to begin this? I understand that starting small (e.g., prune only parts of one leader at a time for gradual changes) is the way to go, but I can't find any definitive information on when starting this time of pruning becomes futile. anyone have any experience with this?

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

I understand that starting small (e.g., prune only parts of one leader at a time for gradual changes) is the way to go,

==>> what???

just cut one off as close to the bottom as you can.. and be done with it ..

it will fill in the open space within a year or two ...

unless you now want to tell me you just planted them???? .. if recent transplants.. i will change my answer ...

ken

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 5:27PM
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aquinod

with respect to your "what?" i have read quite a few sites that recommend not cutting it right at the trunk/bottom, and instead suggest cutting off maybe half of the leader, then the other half the following year, and so on.

as far as when i planted them, i have 3 that i planted last spring. i have 5 more that i have not planted yet.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 5:36PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

all leaves .. are energy producers.. to allow the recent transplant to grow the roots to support the plant above ... i would not prune those for at least a year ... just to let it settle in and get ESTABLISHED ..

last years planting .. i would take the whole.. and be done with it ...

i would like to see the links to the thought that gradual canopy reduction is preferred ...

two years ago.. i took a 6 foot second leader out of this de groots.. its took about 18 months for it to fill back in ... they grow every minute the ground is NOT frozen in my zone ...

i have no idea how to debate an unknown website.. or a 'friend' .... you asked my opinion.. i gave it.. and you seem rather startled that i would disagree with un-named sources .. so be it ... they are right..

good luck whatever you decide ...

ken

its the tall one near the deck

and here it is in closeup

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 6:34PM
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aquinod

um..."debate?"

"startled?"

thanks for your suggestions, i'll leave you to enjoy your internet authority now!

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 6:41PM
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Cher(6 SW OH)

You know you come in here for an opinion and you got it. Sorry but these ARE the conifer authorities on here. I sometimes wonder why they offer free advice to anyone on here that they don't know.
Cher

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 6:55PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Aquinod- have you got any pix? There would be times at 2-3 feet that I wouldn't cut it off right to the base depending on what percent of folliage you would be removing (even on a plant in the ground for a year). As far as an age limit to pruning, Ken's example shows you have another decade or so (but sooner is better).

tj

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 8:05PM
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aquinod

tj,

I'll take some pics tomorrow. The problem is with a few of them removing the co-leaders completely would remove about 1/2 or more of the foliage.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 8:52PM
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aquinod

Interestingly here is a link to one of the places I read about the gradual pruning, from some guy named Ken. Should be a great debate!

Here is a link that might be useful: arb pruning expert

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 9:37PM
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abed

I don't know who you people think you are but nobody talks to my good friend aquinod like that.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 10:14PM
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wisconsitom

I believe Aquanod is referring to "subordination pruning", that method which is used to help retain or develop a single, central leader in a young tree. FWIW, it is more typically applied to deciduous, broadleaved trees. The idea is to slow down competing leaders by shortening them up and removing their apical buds, thus causing them to "behave" so to speak, as branches rather than competing leaders.

I'm a huge advocate and practitioner of this methodology and I can state with certainty that it is valid. Especially where two co-dominant stems diverge, leaving a "V crotch" where no branch collar is apparent at the point of divergence, this tech. can slow down the non-selected leader and boost the dominance of the selected one.

I'm less sure overall of its applicability to something like an arb. I guess the same factors should hold true. Also, 'nod has concern over taking away a too-great percentage of the tree all at once, and here too, subordination pruning could be of benefit.

There are times though, when full removal is valid and doable. It all, as usual, 'pends.

Any chance for a pic?

+oM

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 10:56PM
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aquinod

I don't have a PC right this second but you can get an ok look if you pause this video right at the 32 second mark

Here is a link that might be useful: video

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 11:33PM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

My opinion is that Thuja will rebound beautifully if you hack off the double leader, flush.

In due time, you'll have wished you had done it earlier should you have waited. You can't harm a Thuja, believe me.

Dax

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 7:55AM
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dcsteg(5 Shawnee, KS.)

Arbs are the most difficult to do. Depending upon the plant some adapt better then others in training for one central leader. Buying very young plants that are easily trainable is the best advice I can give. No guarantees on developing older and more mature plants to get a balanced look with one central leader.

In your case go for it and be patient. This is one of the better arbs to work with.

Good luck,

Dave

I purchased these 3 Thuga occidentalis 'Degroot's Spire' when they were 1 ft. tall. $3.95 on sale. They are grown on one strong central leader with anything else growing to imitate the dominant leader kept in check. No further care is needed and they will develop into perfect specimens like the one Ken has.

Train up a child in a way he ought to live and he'll remember it even when he is old. An application that works for plants also.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 8:28AM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

Aquinod, you've received some really good advice from people that know what they're talking about. I know it's not what you wanted to hear, or thought you knew, but the advice is solid.
The plant can handle 50% loss with the only problem being cosmetic for awhile. Timing? The sooner the better. Late winter to midsummer works for me. Actually, in my Zone 8 climate, I can do it any time of year. They're one tough plant.
Mike

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 10:18AM
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aquinod

that's great news! but you too seem to be confused as to what i wanted to hear or thought i knew!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 12:02PM
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aquinod

finally got some pics. i went ahead and made the cuts with the ones i planted last year. that was tough to do because they looked so good before hand. the result:

i planted the rest yesterday but probably will hold off on any extreme pruning:

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 2:01PM
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noki

Yeah, I'm not sure what the controvery is here. When is the best time of year? Not surprising that most will not want to cut radically so it takes a couple years to look decent again. It may be hard to kill a Thuja, but you sure can make it look bad.

The problem seems to be that many sellers in the nursery trade may trim them so they will have multiple leaders, because they sell better. Try to get them young if you want a narrow clean tree. I've seen some Iseli trees for sale that were narrow, but most I see at 3-4 foot height are already dense.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 4:54PM
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aquinod

do you know of any online nurseries that sell single-leader thuja varieties?

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 7:35PM
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coniferjoy(z7 The Netherlands)

I do, but unfortunately not to the U.S. :0)

Thuja occidentalis 'Degroot's Spire'

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 1:43AM
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alley_cat_gw

Coniferjoy...You have a first class operation! Thats the difference between being a money grubber and being someone that works from the heart with pride. Good pride!...AL

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 9:02AM
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aquinod

those look awesome.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 9:57AM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

Aquinod, I'm glad you made the cut.

Some nurseries routinely trim the tops off Emeralds to 'bush them out'. It's a stupid practice, but sadly, they do sell better to the unsuspecting customer.

I have a few that I've kept a single leader on for years, but after twenty feet or six meters that's hard to do. They splayed out this winter and now I have to saw them down. Not a big deal in my world.

To show you how tough they are, look at this picture of one I'm having fun with. It's tipped over and the rootball is on the right. The branches are now small trees.
Yours will fill in eventually. Sooner than you think, and in the meantime, it will have an 'interesting' shape. ;-)
Mike

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 12:12PM
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Jon

There is a Chinese Restuarant in Warwick RI that has 'Degroots Spires' that have been there for over 10 years and they are pruned to about 5 feet under the windows and they are absolutely gorgeous. Based on this, I would say you could prune them any way you want them.

After seeing Ken's on an early spring post, I bought 3 from Evergreen Nursery, TN (careful there is more than one Evergreen Nursery in different states). He picked out 3 with single leaders and they were very big for $6.95 plants. It is the only thing I have bought from them, but the attention and service was excellent and I would check them first for any future orders. I think if you want single leaders then all you would have to do is ask Darren for them.

Jon

Here is a link that might be useful: Good source for 'Degroots Spire'

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 12:41PM
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aquinod

yeah Mike, right now the three i cut look like bonsais.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 12:59PM
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aquinod

Thanks Jon, I will check them out.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 1:14PM
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Jon

One of the three Degroots that I bought in March. All 3 are 22 to 23 inches tall (supposed to be 12 inches or so when shipped) I am simply trying to help a company that has done very right by me.

Jon

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 2:56PM
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aquinod

well, i just ordered 10 from them!

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 3:09PM
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Jon

I hope you filled in a comment to ensure a single leader. If not try and call or email and talk to Darren. He will help you out.

Good luck. I don't think you will be disappointed.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 3:44PM
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aquinod

I did. Their order confirmation email indicates to reply with any special requests, so i did it that way.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 4:13PM
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aquinod

Jon,

I got an email reply today from Darren assuring me they would select as many single leaders as possible.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 8:56PM
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cearbhaill

I buy LOTS of stuff from Darren- he is very attentive!!
My Degroot's came from there four years ago... but I think they have multiple leaders.
I felt around and found them but have been too chicken to prune them out.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 9:14PM
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Jon

I'm sure Darren will pick out some nice ones.

Cearbhaill, your Degroots look great. If my three look like that in 4-5 years I will be thrilled.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 9:59PM
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SidewaysLS4(5)

Oh boy, those are some nice bushes. Ok, need some opinions here...

Last fall I put in 2 emerald greens in front of the house ($21.00 Costco sale, lol). They are about 5-6ft tall, and multiple leaders. I am planing on de-leadering them over time so they will look similar to the Degroots pictured in this thread. You guys think that pruning back the excess leaders is a good plan, or should I remove them and start over with the correct variety of arb? Or can an emerald green be ok with 1 or 2 leaders?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 1:02PM
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