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I planted a young liquidambar tree (which was basically just a single 2ft branch, plus roots off course) this spring.

For unknown reasons (transplant shock?), the tree soon appeared to be dead. However, three months later, new leaves appeared from the ground. Two more months later, the tree recovered fully its previous height, but this time it has three branches/stems. One of these three appears to be stronger than the other two.

I would like to have a multistem liquidambar. How can I prune this tree to encourage all three stems to grow approximately equally?

  • Is this the original question, Aleksandar? I must be getting dementia...oh well. Pruning this tree that has developed 3 trunks is easy. Only branches going toward the center, branches that are redundant, branches that are damaged or rubbing on another branch...make sure to leave as much photosynthetic growth on all three trunks as you are able. Leave any leaves growing down low out of the trunks. That helps 'feed' the trunk. I have a hard time with that one but haven't found a reason to cut off lower vegetation until the tree is established. No staking! Send a pic? – stormy Sep 13 '18 at 20:54
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Beautiful trees but few are naturally multistemmed. The genetics of Liquidamber styraciflua dictate one trunk. There is no way other than grafting to make this trunk look multistemmed.

There is naturally multistemmed/trunked or there is faked multistemmed where one can graft or promote stems early on to branch from the main trunk. These branches do not come out of the ground and they should not be covered up with soil or bark to make them look like true multistemmed trees.

Multi trunked trees

I LOVE multi trunked trees! A grove of them makes an incredible room, space in the landscape. My all time favorite tree for this purpose is Amelanchier alnifolia, Serviceberry. 4 season beautiful tree and that is a rare classification.

  • There are plenty of illustrations of multistem liquidambars on the net that look perfectly natural to me, and without any traces of grafting – Aleksandar M Sep 13 '18 at 17:00
  • I went and looked for this tree on the internet hoping to see multi stemmed! Wow. Send a picture? I don't think you can make a tree multi stemmed for real after it has a phenotype present of multi trunks. We need to look at horticultural practices at the cotyledon stage? Was it Alina who does this type of stuff? What a breath taking 'grove' these trees would make! What are you planning to use them for. Just one...I'll ping her! @alina come check this out? Grins! – stormy Sep 13 '18 at 20:45
  • Multi stems may be physically weak for at least several years if their connection to the original root system isn't robust. You might want to stake your suckers for a while. – Wayfaring Stranger Nov 12 '18 at 16:40
  • @WayfaringStranger I hope my words help in the future. Staking only makes branches weaker. Like putting a cast on a broken arm? Atrophy. Staking should only be done for bare root plants for a very short time and then removed. Also for propping up a mature plant with a huge crown of canopy. Otherwise, staking WEAKENS growth. Somewhere I have photos showing my trees (Jacquemontii Birch) planted without stakes and the neighbors who planted the same tree same nursery using stakes. In one year, my trees had thicker trunks, twice the size of the neighbor's trees! – stormy Nov 12 '18 at 22:47
  • @stormy I've lost 3 metre avocado suckers growing from the roots of a cut down 10 metre tree, to a minor wind storm. I expect there's a lot of variability based on tree type. If multi-stem is rare in liquidambar, you are probably right. – Wayfaring Stranger Nov 13 '18 at 6:00

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