(February) I want to share some peonies with a friend. Is this the right time to divide them and what is the best way to divide the plant without digging it up? Also, my son-in-law wants to prune our Bradford Pear trees, especially on the top. Is this advisable & should it be done now?
The best time to dig and divide peonies is in the fall--the season opposite of bloom. Disturbing them now would interfere with their spring bloom. Division is best done by digging up the whole plant, and separating. As for pruning Bradford Pear, topping is never recommended. These trees tend to grow larger than most people realize, and they do have a very top-heavy shape as it is. Thinning cuts to lighten the load are best, but should be done following bloom in the spring. The two main reasons for planting Bradford Pears are the spring blooms and the fall foliage, so you may as well enjoy the flower display and then prune.
(April) What should I do about Bermuda grass in my flower beds? I have done just about everything but cut them with scissors and it is still gaining on me. And last is it too late to prune Bradford pear trees?
Bermuda grass can be a troublesome weed. There are numerous grass specific herbicides on the market, such as Grass-b-gone, Over the top, Ornamec or Poast. Use them after the Bermuda has totally greened up and begun to run. Applied too early, you won't get great coverage, but applied late season, gives you dead grass, but lots of it, which is also unsightly. I would say it is too early to prune Bradford Pears. Most people plant them for their flowers in the spring, and their fall foliage. If you prune before flowering is over, you have lost the blooms. Unlike edible pears, which are pruned before flowering, ornamental fruit trees are pruned following flowering in the spring. Let them finish blooming, and then prune. The best pruning of a Bradford pear is thinning cuts within the structure of the tree---NOT topping! Thinning lightens the load and opens them up a bit. Many people do not realize how large a Bradford pear tree can grow-40 feet by 40 feet! We are seeing a lot of topping of these trees statewide, and that will simply increase the number of problems we will have with them.
(May) I have two large Bradford pear trees that are approximately ten years old. They have developed dead branches and shriveled leaves which I have been told is fireblight. It would be almost impossible to trim the tops of these trees but I need some guidance. Any help will be appreciated.
If it truly is fireblight, which we have seen on the ornamental pears in recent years, pruning is needed. Fireblight looks like something burned the tips of the branches, and there is usually a shepherd's crook appearance where the tips flag down. If you leave the diseased branches on the tree the bacteria will spread through the limb, causing even more loss. Once the temperatures warm up the disease will stop for this season, but the disease will still be present in the wood. It will also begin to ooze bacteria from the damaged limbs next spring, which can also spread the disease. Removing the limbs 8-10 inches beneath where you see visible damage and sterilizing between cuts is your only recourse. You might invest in a pole pruner to make the job manageable, or hire a tree service. Sprays now are totally ineffective.
(May) I have a four year old Bradford Pear tree that is thriving and very healthy. The trunk circumference is about 16 inches and it is about 14 feet tall. It must be relocated about 10 feet away from its present location in my front yard. What season or month is considered BEST to move this tree?
If you have the option, the best time of year to move a tree would be November. The trees are just going dormant, yet the soil temperature is still warm, and they can re-establish quickly. The overall dormant season is great--November through February, but for trees, planting in the fall allows them several months of root establishment before they have to get down to the business of supporting foliage.
(May) I have seven older Bradford pear trees, and I have just noted that two or three of them have some leaves turning black. The leaves are not falling off, just turning black. Is this some sort of blight, and if so, how do I stop it?
When Bradford pears were first released, they were touted as being resistant to fireblight-a common bacterial disease on many edible pear and apple trees. Due to the heavy concentration of trees in the state, we have been seeing some fireblight on the ornamental pears in the past few years. Spraying is pointless, since the disease is transmitted during bloom. For now, cut off the damaged areas, sterilizing your pruning shears between each cut. The disease will stop with hot weather, but the damage will remain if you don't cut it out.
(June) My parents just bought a house that has two large Bradford Pear Trees in the Front yard. Of course, there is no grass under them so we thought we'd just mulch and maybe plant some impatiens and hostas. Our question: how much, if any, soil can we put on the ground under the trees? I know I've heard that you're not supposed to do that but someone told me that you could sometimes. What's the rule here?
Adding enough soil in pockets to plant hostas and other perennials should be fine. The key is not to completely cover the root zone with large quantities of soil. Unfortunately, there is no set amount of soil that can be added for every tree. Bradford pear trees tend to have surface roots, and some people try covering up the roots to try and grow grass, but the roots will simply grow back through. Your option of mulch and a few plants should work fine and is a much better option.
(June) We need your advice. We have a very large Bradford Pear in our front yard which is 12 feet from the front of the house. It is at least 40 feet tall. We would like to prune it to a pear shape and remove at least 20 feet from the top. Would this damage the tree? What would you recommend?
Bradford pear trees are not small trees, and topping it -- or removing half of the tree is not a recommended practice or one that would be healthy to the tree. The resulting growth would be even bushier than it is now, and it would again grow back to that height -- if it didn't snap off in a storm first. If the tree is too large for the site, consider removing it and planting a smaller tree. There are many ornamental pears that have overgrown their site, and many more that get damaged every time it storms.
(July) When is the best time to prune the lower limbs of a Bradford pear tree? My trees are about 6 years old, and I am having trouble mowing under the lowest limbs. Thanks so much in advance for any help you can offer!
You can limb up trees at any time of the year. Be careful how many limbs you remove, however, since Bradford pears tend to have a fairly dense upper canopy and can be a bit top-heavy as it is.
(August) We have some great Bradford pear trees that are lovely and healthy -- the problem is that some of the branches are so low we can't mow under them. We need to prune those lower limbs (some of which are quite big around). Should we wait until they lose their leaves this fall or can we safely prune now? Also do we use pruning paint after cutting?
If you simply need to remove lower limbs, that can be done at any time, regardless of their size. You may want to enjoy the pretty fall foliage of your Bradford, cut them after the leaves fall, but it really doesn't matter. Make sure your first pruning cut is on the underneath side of the branch, about a foot or more from the trunk -- about halfway through the branch. Your second cut should then be a few inches past that on the top. When the weight of the limb causes the branch to fall as you cut through it, the undercut will prevent damage to the main trunk. Once the bulk of the branch is off, come through and make the final cut at the branch collar. A nice clean wound is all that is needed -- tree paints are not recommended, and in some cases can cause problems.
(September) In the fall of 1999 our landscaper planted 3 Bradford pears. The trees were trimmed high up on the trunk ,and now, instead of filling out in the typical Bradford shape, they just grow straight up. Are there two types of Bradford pears -- one that grows tall with a small diameter at the base? Or did we get trees that were incorrectly pruned? Is the only solution a replant?
There are actually quite a few cultivars of ornamental pears. 'Bradford' is only one, but has the most name recognition. 'Capital' and 'Chanticleer' are cultivars that grow more columnar. All of the ornamental pears often get lumped together in the 'Bradford' section. Many of these other cultivars make a better plant and should not fall apart as easily as the 'Bradford'. I was driving recently at the bottom of Cantrell hill when a quick thunderstorm came up. While all the trees in the parking lots were blowing and bending, it was the Bradford pears that began to split. At least three of the 'Bradfords' split in front of us -- some dropping large limbs, one split in half. That remains a huge limiting factor in growing Bradfords. Even though yours do not have the teardrop shape, you may have them lasting longer in the landscape.
(October) We have several Bradford pear trees in our yard. One of them recently sustained a good amount of damage from high winds. Is it safe to prune the damaged areas now? We have several younger ones that are growing straight up -- not "bushing out" at all. Could we top (cut) these trees to make them start "bushing out"? Or what would you suggest? Or should be prune them in a certain manner? What time of the year would you suggest doing any or all of the above?
Whenever there is damage, clean it up as soon as you possibly can. Leaving jagged wounds or major damage on the trunk can lead to more decay and problems. Try to make them as structurally sound as possible, which can be hard to do -- other than a chainsaw to the ground. Topping is a practice that should never be done to a tree. It causes more problems. Many people lump all ornamental pear trees as Bradford pears, but there are numerous cultivars out there. Some have a narrower canopy than the Bradford Pear, which is actually a good thing -- it makes them more secure during wind storms. If you want to encourage some additional branching, prune selectively, making cuts at a variety of heights to encourage a fuller tree. My preference for timing of this pruning would be in the spring, after they bloom. The two main seasons of interest on the ornamental pears is fall color and spring bloom. You might as well enjoy both before pruning.
(December) I would like to know if and when can I trim the top of my Bradford Pear trees to make them bunch out instead of growing so tall?
We really do not recommend topping any trees ever. Pruning out the top of the tree will give you even more suckers and dense growth, and the tree will be more susceptible to wind damage. Many people do not realize the eventual size and shape of the Bradford pear flowering pear. They can get 40 feet tall, if an ice or wind storm doesn't get them first. I would suggest possible thinning of some of the branches to keep them a bit more open, but do your pruning after flowering in the spring.
(December) I have two 20 foot Bradford pear trees in my yard. This weekend I noticed that the lower leaves, still on the trees and leaves that have fallen are covered on the back side with little white "gnat like flies" or white spores where it appears that something has hatched. (gnat like flies) What is it and should I do anything? I currently don't want to lose these beautiful trees.
It is possible it is white flies eggs, or some other insect egg, or possibly even a scale insect. I would simply be sure to rake up the leaves as they fall and dispose of them. Leaf-attacking insects are usually not a problem with trees, and this late in the year good sanitation should help. Watch the trees as they head into summer next year and see if there is anything on them.
Two years ago we planted a Bradford pear tree in a nice sunny spot in our yard, with the expectation of bright red fall foliage. The tree is now approximately 18 to 20 feet high and seems to be in good health. However, we are disappointed in the foliage. Instead of brilliant red, the leaves persist in staying yellow. Are there different varieties of Bradford pear’s with some with yellow fall foliage and some with red? Or is it a function which changes with age, and will perhaps change and give red color as it matures? I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter.
Variability of fall color may be based on cultivar, early fall weather conditions, and pH and nutritional levels of the soil. It is true that many of the ornamental pear trees have red to purple fall color, there can be fluctuations from year to year based on weather and moisture levels. How soon we have a frost, gradual temperature changes or extremely dry conditions can all alter fall color. Some cultivars are more prone to color changes than others. Test your soil to make sure your pH and nutritional levels are all in bounds, and then hope for the best.
We have two Bradford pear trees and one Kwanzan cherry tree. These are three year old, beautiful, healthy, small trees. However, they have never bloomed. Can you suggest anything to encourage bloom?
Several things may be at play here--one is age and the other is growth habit. These plants need plenty of sunlight to bloom, so make sure shade is not a factor. Many times these trees will take up to five years to begin blooming, although I have seen relatively small Kwanzan cherry trees with flowers. If they are growing extremely fast, they often grow to the exclusion of blooms. Make sure they have ample light, and avoid extra nitrogen. Use some super phosphate fertilizer now and again in six to eight weeks, and see what happens next year.
My thirty foot healthy Bradford Pear tree has a dozen or more top limbs with Fire Blight. Will it survive without pruning?
Fireblight actually becomes inactive with hot weather, so you won't see any more damage this season. However, the organism will lay dormant in the damaged tissue. Next spring, this tissue, which contains bacterial cells, will become active. Bacteria can actually ooze out of the damaged wood, and can spread to other trees via insect travel or mechanical transmission. So it would benefit not only your tree, but surrounding trees as well, by removing the damaged tissue, several inches beneath where it is visible. It is advisable to sterilize your pruning shears between each cut.
We have a Bradford pear tree that is three years old. It looks like it is dying. I know last year there was a disease. It has brown leaves that are falling off. Is there anything I should do now to help save it?
Many Bradford pear trees were hit hard this spring by fireblight, a bacterial disease spread by bees during the bloom period. By now, the damage that was done, should be done. Normally this disease becomes inactive during hot weather. It leaves the plants disfigured and with many dead tops of branches. Prune these out several inches beneath where the damage has occurred.
Our 4-year old Bradford pear tree has quickly grown to about 20' tall, and was very thick, with a beautiful shape. Then the recent wind storm tore a portion of it out. The trunk of the tree is about 6" in diameter, and it had 4 main branches from the crotch area. The wind blew one of the main branches out, leaving about a 6" x 4" gash in the trunk. It didn’t tear down the length of the trunk, like you might expect. It is a fairly clean wound. There is enough of the tree left that I believe we can reshape it, if it can survive the damage. Can we seal that cut, and reshape the tree and save it?
Bradford pear trees tend to have a dense, tear-drop shape that makes them susceptible to breakage. They often snap off or split in half. If you think the tree is salvageable, go for it. There is no need to seal the cut edge, since tree paints won’t help the tree recover. The main thing is to make sure the wound is clean, with no cut or jagged edges. Then reshape as needed.
Our four year old Bradford Pears have dead tips on some of the limbs...the last 6 or 12 inches turn brown and die...I have heard that there is some problem with Bradford Pears....we have been cutting the dead parts off...Any ideas?
The problem is fireblight, a bacterial disease that occurs during bloom. At first, Bradford's were immune, but now with the high concentration of plantings, they have become susceptible. All you can do is cut it out at this stage. Make sure you cut it back six to eight inches beneath where you see it, and sterilize your pruners in between cuts, since you can transmit it mechanically.
I had some beautiful Bradford pear trees in my yard prior to our recent storms. Now they look horrid, since some broke in half, while others simply lost limbs. I noticed that a local shopping center had the same results. What can I do to save what is left of these trees? Is there anything I can do to prevent similar losses in the future?
Bradford trees, because of their dense shape and heavy canopy, are susceptible to wind damage. They can snap off, break in two or simply lose branches, especially in areas prone to heavy winds. All you can do for what is left of your trees, is clean them up, removing any broken or jagged limbs. Leaving behind clean wounds is most important. Tree paints aren’t necessary. Then try to reshape the trees as much as possible. In severe cases, I would suggest removing what is left and planting a different tree. While they are pretty trees, they have too many problems in my opinion. To protect your other trees, avoid heavy fertilization which will make them grow faster, and don’t top the trees trying to limit height. Instead, you may want to make some thinning cuts to the interior branches to limit their top-heavy weight.
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