Pruning at the top

pergola123September 7, 2008

I have a Fire Dragon Maple planted in the early spring. It is doing quite well and I am thankful.

The issue is the bowl shaped tall leggy branches which appear to be around 4 to 5 feet.

I would like to cut these equally to branch out at the proper height. (for shaping the tree)

I need to know the time to cut and the height to cut from the main stem.

Hope someone knows this. Pruning articles don't seem to address this. THANX !!

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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Maintenance pruning of Japanese maples to control size is discussed in Vertrees/Gregory, Japanese Maples (Timber Press). If you are interested in Japanese maples you should look at or buy this book anyway.

Otherwise I wouldn't necessarily try to give the tree a flat top or unnaturally symmetric appearance. In particular it may not be better to cut your tree back into older, hard wood trying to produce a stereotypic appearance. Flushes of long growths that will fill out later if left in place is typical for young Japanese maples. As with other kinds of trees and shrubs it is common for those seeing the uneven shape of the younger specimen to try and force it into the outline of the mature plant with many more numerous and farther advanced branches.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2008 at 2:11PM
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Hi, thanks for your answer.
I don't have a Japanese Maple, but instead have a Fire Dragon Maple. That is unless these newly discovered trees are a relation to the Japanese.
I believe they should be topped or cut at the top to make a form unlike the Japanese that may need to be artistically cut.
The long bowled branches are green and not brown wood. This is a newer tree that definately needs shaping. It doesn't appear to be branching naturally but instead needs to be formed. This tree is like a larger maple but only grows to 20 feet and is excellent in the heat. Thanks in advance for any help.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 6:18PM
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I don't know how "newly discovered" it is :-) It's just a named cultivar of Acer truncatum that is notable for its intense fall color. It originates from China so shares some geograpical relationship to Acer palmatum, but that's about it.

There is little evidence to document a need to 'shape' any young tree by topping or cutting back the more vertically aligned branches. Maples in general seldom develop defined leaders so no real need to encourage one, either. And the branching structure and canopy will fill out and spread give sufficient time without much human input and these now gangly looking branches will assume a much more regular shape. For a very young tree or one quite newly planted, other than removing damaged, diseased or dead wood (the 3 D's) or any conflicting branches, there is very little pruning needed or even necessary.

btw, your tree will eventually grow to about double your expectations. It is listed to 35' by the grower that introduced this cultivar.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 8:48PM
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Thanks for the information. I have also contacted Metro Maples outside of Dallas concerning this.

Your advice was very helpful. I guess I just won't touch or cut the tree to shape and will wait and see what happens. Guess it will branch by itself.
I can't wait to see the Fall color since Maples just don't grow in the south.
Thanks again. This website is the best and has the most professionals willing to share their information.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 11:45PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

People ask about Japanese maple cultivars so often I thought you had one of those.

>Maples in general seldom develop defined leaders so no real need to encourage one, eitherIn nursery practice young maples to be grown as trees with elevated crowns are trained to have central leaders until the desired height is reached. Lower-growing kinds may then become rounded and comparatively bushy. Others will continue on to produce tall pointed tops, narrower kinds of Freeman maple for instance are much grown and planted to be used in parking strips and other locations with limited horizontal space.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2008 at 12:08AM
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Thanks, I received an email from Metro Maples concerning pruning at the top.
He said
"You shouldn't need to do any pruning (unless you have it in shade). When you look at the long shoots and all the pairs of leaves up and down it, you will see branches come out next spring on all those pairs of leaves. When it is older the growth rate will slow down and the legginess will go away. The only pruning you might consider is shortening a branch that got much longer than the others. Pruning to even out the growth or to shorten some to allow more sun on the slower growing bracnhes that you want to keep."
I couldn't have explained it as well as he did so this is copied and pasted. I thought this was a great explanation of how my tree looks right now.
Thanks again to everyone !!!

    Bookmark   September 10, 2008 at 12:12AM
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One other thought when pruning a young tree...

Immature specimens rely on lower branches to shade the tender bark on the trunk of the tree. Pruning away this protective "sunscreen" can result in severe damage to the trunk later on. In addition, young trees which are newly planted need all the energy they can get to properly establish themselves. Removing branches is removing a food source for the tree.



    Bookmark   September 11, 2008 at 5:54PM
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Best and most comprehensive source I have seen on pruning (complete with actually how to do it) for all trees and shrubs is a book called Niwaki by Hobson. I highly recommend it!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2008 at 10:45PM
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