Hi - We planted a small Hawthorn tree 2.5 years ago. It's central leader...

Asked June 5, 2015, 10:25 AM EDT

Hi - We planted a small Hawthorn tree 2.5 years ago. It's central leader branch was curved at the top. A landscape person told us, at the time, that we could just leave it that way which we did. However, it is now curving over even further so that it's growing adjacent to the ground and no new lateral branches are being formed. Should we try to stake it to a vertical stake, to see if we can train it to grow straight up? OR what happens if we cut the central leader? If we do prune it, where should we make the cut? If we staked it straight up, it would be about 9 feet, tip to ground. Attached are 2 photos. Thank you!

Ramsey County Minnesota

7 Responses

It will be pretty hard to attach a support to this leader without injuring the tree bark or other limbs. You would have to use a stake that is at least a tall as the whole tree, and drive it into the ground.

If you decide to prune this leader you must make sure to train a "new" one from one of the hardier lateral branches right underneath the cut. Pruning the leader will encourage the tree to produce more lateral growth.

Here is a publication from one of our universities that will help you make the proper pruning cuts. Please note that the best time to prune this tree is when it is dormant.

Thank you so much -- what a great service! Should we wait until winter to prune the leader or can we do it now? Do we train the new leader by attaching a vertical stake to the upper part of the tree trunk and tie the new branch to it, in as vertical a position as possible?

The link I'd sent shows you how to train a replacement leader (It's about mid-way into the article). It's best to do this work in late winter (February - March) because the chances of bacteria or other disease is at the lowest point.

Great, thank you so much.

Hi - We did not get this pruning and training of a new leader done last fall, as intended. Is the tree still dormant so that we could do it this week-end? Thank you--

Even though this is unusually warm for late winter you still have time to prune this tree... But don't wait too much longer!

Thank you!