How to Trim a Coral Tree

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Coral trees are tropical, deciduous ornamentals often used for shade but really prized for their coral-red flowers that coat the bare branches in spring. The tree has a large, spreading canopy that requires at least 50 feet of overhead and lateral clearance to accommodate its mature size. It does not require heavy pruning, and overzealous pruning can mar the natural beauty of the canopy. For that reason, judicious trimming is key.

Things You'll Need

  • Loppers
  • Fine-toothed pruning saw
  • Ladder
  • Prune your coral tree in the later spring or early summer immediately after the bloom cycle has ended and the tree is beginning to leaf out. Earlier pruning can be done safely, but the bloom for the current year will then be compromised.

  • Thin the canopy of any dead, broken, abrading, unhealthy or congesting twigs and branches. Place cuts down into healthy tissue just above a robust lateral or above a leaf node. Work through cleaning the entire canopy so you have an evenly lacy network of interior branches and a roughly symmetrical canopy when finished.

  • Reduce the spread of the tree, if absolutely necessary, by trimming back the terminal tips of the longest branches. Follow the natural form of the tree canopy so you do not distort its appearance. Remove only what must go, placing all cuts just beyond a healthy lateral branch or a leaf node.

Tips & Warnings

  • The twigs and branches of the coral tree species are thicker and more stout than other trees, which may limit the use of loppers, as they won't be able to make clean cuts. A fine-toothed pruning saw is your best tool for any wood larger than 1/2 to 3/4 inch in diameter. Use extreme caution and follow proper safety precautions when using a pruning saw.

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