Redbud, potential: 25-30 feet. Desired: 15-20 feet. A pruning
First we cut each of the main
branches so that one of its lower side branches becomes its new
tip, and that tip ends within the outline we've set.
(Below, center image.)
We use a hand saw and 3-cut method to make cuts without
What's Coming Up 156 illustrates that 3-cut method.)
This takes 30 minutes.
Then we shorten the branches that remain, to bring all tips
within the outline we've set. (Below, right.)
That outline is a height-and-width limit chosen to match the
plant's naturally round habit. It's actually two lines, one that's
our upper acceptable limit and an inner line that's the within the
first by how far we see the plant can grow in three years. (Red
and yellow lines, below, right.)
(For more about gauging growth rate, see What's
Coming Up 50, pages 3-4. )
This takes another 30 minutes.
(Examine these three photos
Then we clean up by cutting and tying branches into 4'
The clean-up takes 60 minutes.
We've cut this redbud in this way twice before. (You can see
the heading cut on this trunk from the last pruning sessions.)
We know we can do it because we've seen trees kept small,
attractive and healthy for decades and longer, using this
We schedule most of our pruning in late summer when the aim is
to keep big plants small. We make exceptions like this late spring
cut to the redbud when the plant is of a species that blooms in
early spring, and we want the best flower show possible, and we can
accept the possibility of excessive suckering that can come from
hard cuts made during a plant's spring push.
About those main
We selected this main framework of five limbs (below)
we first decided to keep this tree small. There's more about that
decision in Prune to keep a tree
When we head back a main limb -- cut to make a side branch
into the new tip -- we look for one that is well placed and at
least 1/3 the diameter of the limb that produced it.
(Below.) If the new tip is much smaller than the limb we
cut, we will probably have to revisit to remove some of the suckers
that will arise there.