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LeBeau Bamboo Nursery      Medford, Oregon 541-499-4992

Train Weeping Pant Varieties For Good Form

Weeping branches on Brewer's Spruce
No landscape is complete without at least one fantastic weeping specimen, and luckily there are weeping forms available in almost every woody plant group. The most popular weeping plants include weeping Japanese maples, weeping redbuds, weeping conifers, weeping cherries, and weeping willows. Weeping plants have long branches that hang down towards the ground rather than pointing up or growing out like normal and fill a very unique niche in landscape design.

Weeping Plants With Upright Growing Leaders

Plants produce weeping branches in several styles which are very distinct from each other. Some varieties grow normal trunks that grow straight and tall with side branches that grow out and then hang down towards the ground. Some species of plants produce this form even when grown from seed, such as the Brewer's Weeping Spruce (pictured above) and some species of weeping willow. Varieties that have been bred for improved form have a more extreme stature with more interesting character, such as the Weeping Giant Sequoia.

Weeping Giant Sequoia has an upright trunk and stiffly hanging branches.
Photo Credit: EncMstr
Because the main trunk, or leader, grows upright on its own these types of weeping plants generally need very little pruning to maintain an attractive specimen. However, for most gardeners the type of weeping plant without an upright leader fits much better into small landscape designs and works wonders when used as a central specimen plant.

Weeping Plants Without Upright Growing Leaders

Varieties that don't have the ability to grow upwards on their own take a very different form than the first type. If you were to start with just a baby plant that was only a few inches tall and didn't do any staking or training you would end up with a plant growing horizontally on the ground like a vine without a tether. But when pruned correctly from the beginning the result is a small or medium sized shrub with a perfectly rounded top and curtain-like branches that hang perfectly straight from a single crown.

Ruby Falls Weeping Redbud
Image Credit: Heritage Seedlings

Example From Start To Finish

We photographed the steps to take a bushy 'Red Dragon' Contorted Filbert and turn it into a single stem tree about five feet tall. Next year we will repeat these same stems again to get the tree to about eight feet tall. This whole process takes five minutes or less per tree each year and the results are very worth the small amount of time.

For those of you who are interested, a 'Red Dragon' Contorted Filbert is basically a new and improved version of Harry Lauder's Walking Stick. Like Harry Lauder's Walking Stick, Red Dragon grows with stems that twist and turn like a pig's tail and branches that hang down rather than grow up. Although these trees will get taller on their own, the trunks hang down eventually forming a large bush when left untrained. These trees always look best when pruned to a single trunk at least six feet tall and left to weep with an umbrella style crown.

The starting plant is growing in its natural shrub form.

We start by removing all the side branches from the bottom up.

This branch is already half an inch in diameter, this will not leave a scar but once branches reach three fourths of an inch they can leave a scar.

Make the cuts as close to the trunk and as clean as possible.

Try to follow the contour of any bends in the trunk. The blades are angled exactly parallel to the part of the trunk it is touching. This reduces scars and prevents the formation of buds that will need to be removed later.

Using a sharp blade makes cutting much easier!

After all the branches are removed it has a single stem with random crooks and bends.

Strips of duct tape are used to tie straighten the stem and attach it to the stake. Duct tape is often easier to use than tree tying tape because it will usually fall off on its own after a year. Check to be sure and remove any that doesn't within 12 months so it doesn't girdle the tree.

The plant is taped below and above each sharp bend to straighten the trunk. A few bends make the tree look more interesting so leave a few sharp bends here and there.

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