I have planted a honey locust tree about three years ago. Ordered online. I believe it is the kind that is thornless. It is growing nicely as far as branching out but has not grown in height. My husband said I must have bought a shrub. I know it is a tree. Is it OK to trim the lower branches and will this help force some growth in height?

2 Answers 2


Stormy’s answer is great. I would wait to cut the lower branches until the tree has some shape.

One thing you can do to help the tree grow is water. I know it seems obvious, but new trees take years to establish good root structure (see stormy’s answer). If it’s a bare root tree five gallons of water a couple times a week would be great. Otherwise five gallons per diameter inch of the trunk would be fine (a couple times a week). Obviously if you live in a place like Missouri or somewhere with 30-60 inches of rain a year this may not be as important.

See stormy’s answer. What zone is the tree planted in - USDA plant hardiness zone map should be easily searchable. If your local retailer sold you this plant I’m assuming it is a good choice for where you are.

Again, I agree with stormy. Don’t cut the lower branches as long as the tree is not hurting other aspects of your landscape aesthetically or otherwise.

Transplanted trees do go into shock when they are put in their new homes. It takes a while for them to establish viable root systems to get the water and nutrients they need to thrive. Again, see stormy’s answer, but in general larger transplanted trees take longer to establish themselves than smaller younger trees.

Definitely follow up with photos stormy has requested. It’s very helpful to have more information.

  • What a sweetie, user22106, I am giggling and so very happy you agree with me. Excellent additions to my answer!! My name is in every paragraph? Major huggs.
    – stormy
    Jun 25, 2018 at 23:40
  • Im new here your answer seemed right on. I’m an arborist as far as work but aways learning. Thanks.
    – user22106
    Jun 26, 2018 at 0:15

Gleditsia triacanthos inermis moraine The inermis means 'without thorns'. How long ago did you plant this tree? Please send a picture of your tree in its environment.

Do not trim those lower branches. Yet. Would you say this little tree is multi trunked? Do you remember the variety by chance?

Your tree is doing work you are unable to see below the ground. This root growth is done first by the plant before putting much effort in the top growth. This is the tree's foundation to counterbalance the canopy. Leaves are necessary to make the fuel to do the work growing roots, caliper of trunk. Those little branches with a few leaves out of the end and growing out of that trunk 'feed' the girth of the trunk while young as well as providing carbohydrates via photosynthesis to make a solid root system.

When your tree gets a great root system started it will take off vertically. Honey Locust is not a shrub or large shrub. If you have Gleditsia it is a tree. Patience might be your only problem, grins.

I am fairly sure you purchased a bare root 'stick'? Or did you get a tree in a pot? To send in the mail, the lightest possible condition for plants is bare root. Works well but takes longer to show any growth upwards.

Addressing your thoughts on pruning the lower branches. A branch on a tree will always stay at that height forever. In fact, when taking the caliper of the branch thickening into consideration, that branch will even be lower in the future. The center of that branch will always exist at that height for the tree/shrub. Height and width happen at the apical tips of branches only.

The only trees I will stake until a decent root system is grown are bare root trees (and mature trees that blew over). Staking is like the cast on a broken arm to a tree. When you take that cast off that limb is very fragile, weak, atrophied. If you planted a stick, staking would not be necessary nor a good thing.

Trees/shrubs grow stronger root systems and trunks when they are allowed to move in the wind. All factors remaining the same, trees that aren't staked grow faster, their root systems more vigorous and stabilizing, the trunk girth or caliper is amazingly larger in non staked trees.

If you have a stick that is staked the staking is slowing down progress of healthier growth. I hope this is understandable and meaningful. Please send more information.

Need to see this tree, how it was planted (tell me everything you can remember in as much detail possible), the name of this plant other than the common name, the scientific name is best. If I am wrong about Gleditsia...then this is another tree with a similar common name. If you get ERMIS or with thorns you will want to pull it up and start over. Those thorns are a good 1 1/2 inches, so stout I swear you could use them for nailing wood. Get one in your foot? It will go through to the other side of your foot.

Gleditsia is a superb tree for a lawn, patio. (only the inermis plant). It allows enough light through its canopy for a healthy lawn. The leaves are tiny, don't worry about raking (I use my gas powered blower to blow them around and off the lawn, patio). Honey Locust is one of the hardiest trees that is also a valuable ornamental tree. It is considered a small to medium sized tree, depending on the variety I would expect no more than 20 to 30 feet in height and half that for canopy.

This is one of the plants I know well and that scientific name just pops up and rolls right off the tongue. Let's make sure this is the tree ID for sure. Where do you live? What zone? Pictures, invoice, company's name where you purchased?

This is a picture of this tree getting ready to be made into bare root maybe B&B for half. Look similar in size? Gleditsia triacanthos inermis moraine 'sunburst'

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