Tips to Prevent Branch Splitting and Weakness on Ornamental Trees

The ornamental trees in your yard look their best when the branches are well spaced and healthy. One concern on some trees is scrappy, weak growth or branches that easily break and split where they join to the trunk. Not only do these issues affect the beauty of the tree, but they can also weaken a tree and make it more susceptible to pests, disease, and death. The following tips can help you prevent these problems.

Tip #1: Have no mercy for suckers

Suckers are those whip-like shoots that come up around the base of a tree or on the lower section of the trunk. They look like new branches or even new saplings emerging, but they serve no benefit to the actual tree. Instead, this weak growth tends to grow quickly and siphon energy and nutrients from the upper canopy. Use shears or a clean knife to cut the suckers off – either flush to the trunk or beneath the soil surface, depending on their growth habit. Suckers tend to grow most in spring and early summer.

Tip #2: Beware the water sprout

A water sprout is a branch that grows upright on top of a lateral branch. At first it may look like a normal twig developing, but it tends to form at a right angle to its parent branch and it grows exceedingly quickly. Much like suckers, a water sprout can siphon energy from desired growth. Its rapid growth also puts a weight strain on the parent branch, making it more prone to splitting from the trunk. Water sprouts are easiest to spot after the leaves drop in fall, which makes winter the best time for removal. Cut them off flush to the parent branch with a pruning saw.

Tip #3: Mind the crotch

When talking about trees, the crotch refers to the joint between a lateral branch and the main trunk. As a general rule, the healthiest and sturdiest branch crotches are between 90 and 45 degrees. A larger angle means the branch droops down, which makes it more likely to split from the trunk. This is especially likely in winter when it may be weighed down by snow or ice. A tighter angle can't withstand much downward pressure, which means it too is more likely to snap if weighed down.

Proper pruning is the key to preventing the above issues from becoming a major problem. Contact a tree trimming service for more help.