I planted a Redbud ‘Forest Pansy’ a few years ago (don’t worry, I’ve had them before and they grow great where I live… close to L. Ontario) and it was growing really well. It was about 12′-15′ high and the canopy was spreading nicely. I was away and came back to a tree that looked like a closed umbrella… about 50% of the top branches, both big and small, had been broken off at the trunk and were just hanging from where the bark was still attached to the trunk. I suspect, because they’ve done this before to other younger trees, young racoons decided to climb up and the tree couldn’t withstand their weight.
I’ve removed all the dangling branches but I’m worried about the open wounds in the trunk and the possibility of disease entering into the tree.
I have 2 questions:
1) Do I just leave it to heal or do I try to clean up the ripped bark and seal it with something?
2) The tree is totally unbalanced now so I’d like to remove some of the lower branches that didn’t get broken. When would be the best time to do that?
Thanks for your time.
I love Forest Pansy redbuds. They prefer to grow in USDA zone 6 -8. Toronto is USDA zone 5b- so Forest Pansy redbuds are unreliably hardy in Toronto, depending on their exposure to harsh winds or long periods of direct sun without protection from other plants or built structures. You have obviously found a suitable spot for your tree- apart from the racoons!
Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ are prone to fungal infections if they are stressed or have open wounds. Your tree has been fairly heavily pruned -to clean it up after the damage, so will now be trying to recover. It will take up more nutrients and water than usual- as it works to produce new growth and heal its own wounds.
Drought and lack of available nutrients are common stress factors. To keep your tree in good health, while it recuperates, make sure you give it a deep watering once or twice a week- depending on rainfall.
Spread a several inch thick layer of compost around the base of the tree as far out as its drip line (to the ends of the widest branches). Take care to keep compost, soil or mulch away from the trunk. Clear a 5cm space around the trunk to prevent it from rotting or attracting fungal diseases.
The compost will release nutrients into the soil within the drip line -the area where the tree roots are most active in absorbing moisture and nutrients.
If you don’t have mulch currently, add several inches of shredded cedar mulch on top of the compost. This will help to keep moisture within the drip line, and reduces the evaporation of moisture from the compost layer. It will also release nutrients into the soil over several years as it decomposes.
Shape pruning- to balance up the shape of your tree, is best done when the tree is dormant. This is done late winter, so you can remove any branches damaged by snow, plus the branches that will improve its shape.
As far as the wounds on the trunk go, monitor them regularly. If the tree is getting enough food and water it will likely heal up the wounds by itself. If there is any sign of fungal disease you can spray the wounds with natural organic fungicide. Follow the manufacturers instructions on the label. It is likely that you will need to reapply the spray after rain.
I have added a link below to give you a year round guide to redbud care.
I wish your Forest Pansy Eastern Redbud a speedy recovery!