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Tips for Growing Flowering Trees

Flowering trees can be one of the most memorable elements of the landscape. Fragrant flowering crabapples, frothy, aromatic fringe tree flowers, and weeping cherries dripping with pink blossoms can linger in the mind well after the flowers are gone.

For a lofty layer of flowers and greenery, flowering trees are magnificent when mixed with flowering shrubs, annuals, and perennials. But they are even more important in a yard with few flowers. Tree bark -- silver, black, red, or green, either smooth or textured -- can also be beautiful. Consider, for example, stewartia's peeling bark of gray, brown, orange, or red, as well as its creamy summer flowers and great fall color. The paper bark maple, with only small, early spring flowers, has glowing exfoliating, rust-colored bark and leaves that light up orange and red in fall. And colorful fall fruits provide a feast for the eyes as well as for the birds.

Flowering trees bring surprising color and fragrance to any garden.
Flowering trees bring surprising color and fragrance to any garden.

  • Choose trees that have wide crotch angles to avoid weak branches and ice damage. The crotch (or branch) angle measures the distance between the trunk and the base of the branch. An upright branch has a narrow crotch angle of less than 45 degrees. A sturdy, wide-angled branch has a 45- to 60-degree crotch angle.

    The problem with branches that have narrow crotch angles, a common occurrence on trees like Bradford pears and plums, is that they are not well supported on the trunk. If coated with ice in a winter storm, they may split off. The narrow branching angle can also catch moisture and encourage diseases.

    Another problem arises when upright-growing branches with narrow crotch angles near the top of a young tree begin to grow as fast as the main trunk. Prune the branches back to keep the trunk taller and dominant.

    If allowed to continue in this way, the tree develops a split leader, two trunks growing side by side. In severe weather, the trunks can crack apart, and the tree may be finished for good.

  • Use spreaders on young fruit trees to correct narrow branch angles. Fruit trees are particularly prone to developing upright branches. Not only do these branches have all the problems mentioned in Hint 317, but they also grow tall and wild instead of slowing down to flower and fruit. Shifting them into a more productive mode begins with creating a wider branch angle.

    When the tree is young and flexible, you can prop short struts in the gap between a shoot and the trunk to force the branch down into a better 45-degree angle. Slightly older branches can be tied to a stake or weight to pull them down into position. Once the branches mature enough to become firm and woody, you can remove the spreaders, and the branches will stay in place.
On the next page, learn how to choose the right flowering trees for your landscape.

Some Crabapples with Small Fruit
  • American Masterpiece
  • American Salute
  • Christmas Holly
  • Donald Wyman
  • *Louisa
  • M. sargentii
  • Weeping Candied Apple
  • Spring Snow (no fruit)
  • *Camelot
  • Cankerberry
  • *Cinderella
  • *Excaliber
  • *Guinevere
  • *Lancelot
  • *Snowdrift
*Excellent choices for disease resistance

Want more gardening tips? Try visiting these links:
  • Gardening Tips: Learn great helpful hints for all of your gardening needs.
  • Annuals: Plant these beauties in your garden.
  • Perennials: Choose great plants that will return year after year.
  • Gardening: Discover how to garden.

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