Pruning a Golden Chain Tree?

Fort Mill, SC


I would appreciate some advice on whether or not to prune a golden chain tree, or what other actions I could take short of that.

I planted two of them last spring from bare root and they have grown pretty well. They are just growing at different rates. They both started out at about 3 - 4' but now the taller one is about 12' and the shorter one around 8'.

I planted one each on either side of the sidewalk going into my yard. The larger and healthier-looking one is near the house and gets less sun than the other. It may also be getting a bit more water given the slope of the yard, but I have been watering the shorter one a couple of times a week and it has not made much if any difference.

I have also fertilized the shorter one with granule-type fertilizer that said it was for trees and shrubs as well as a tree spike pounded into the ground. That has not seemed to make much difference either. The smaller one has a lot fewer leaves and those are a bit yellow. They also yellowed last summer as well, but it came back this spring very healthy and with a lot of leaves. It just seems to not like the sun much (I am in SC in zone 7b or 8a and it is a bit on the warm side).

So the questions are:

1. Can I do anything else for the smaller one to help it along?

2. Will they both max out at about the same size, so I should just not worry about it?

3. Should I do anything to the taller one to prune it back? They are both essentially single leaders with almost no horizontal branches. The taller one was drooping over on the top 5 - 6 feet to almost horizontal, so I had to get a 16' length of pipe to stake it up. I am worried that they might have grown too tall for their diameters (the larger one is about 1" and the shorter one is about 5/8 to 3/4", measured a foot off the ground).

I hate to hack away at the trees without knowing if I should, much less how I should. The uninformed (meaning I am not an expert) thing would seem to be to cut off the top of the taller one to take it back to the same height as the shorter. That would even the two trees up and take care of the too-tall-for-it's-diameter issue.

But would the tree re-establish a central leader? I would guess so given it's very young age?

Thanks in advance for the advice!

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Can you post some pictures? If the main reason you want to prune is because you want them to be the same height then I would definitely not recommend it, but without seeing the trees it's hard to say if there are other reasons why you should prune them. As far as why the second one isn't doing as well--assuming you have Golden Chain Tree (Laburnum) and not the easily confused Golden Rain Tree (Koelreuteria), they do not do as well in warmer climates so it could be that the shade which the healthier one gets is enough to keep it happy and the one in the sunnier location just gets a bit too hot. It wouldn't hurt to check your watering though--if you're giving it extra water a couple times a week that could be too much. Before the next time you'd typically water it, try sticking your finger down a few inches into the ground and see how wet it feels.

Fort Mill, SC


Thanks for the response.

I am posting two pictures, one of both trees to show the difference in height, but more importantly, these are just goping straight up and look too fragile being too tall for the diameter and requiring staking. It seems wrong that a tree would grow too tall and droop over if it was growing properly.

The second one shows a closer look at the smaller one. Definitely looks like a heat issue, but I am hopeful it will settle in for the long haul and be OK once it starts to get more mature.

Thanks for any advice.

Thumbnail by MilesBFree
Fort Mill, SC


Looks like I can only post one pic at a time, so here is the second one:

Thumbnail by MilesBFree
Fort Mill, SC


They are definitely golden chain trees, as we also have a golden rain tree in a different part of the yard.

Any thoughts on what to do as far as pruning goes?

Leave them in peace?

Or is the one way too tall for the girth since it can't stand on its own?

Fort Mill, SC


Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

There are definitely people around here who know more about tree pruning than I do so if they tell you something different then feel free to ignore me! But since nobody else has jumped in I'll give it a try.

First of all, I would stick with what I said originally about not trying to prune them to keep them the same height. You can do that with things like boxwood hedges, but it's not really a great idea with trees. There's too much chance of pruning like that resulting in problems like multiple leaders, plus it's not likely to be effective anyway. If the larger tree is healthier or a bit happier with its conditions then it's going to grow faster next year too, so you'll be right back with the same problem.

As far as how spindly they are, pruning won't make the trunk any sturdier and it doesn't look like you have a ton of branches that you could cut off, so I think the best thing to do is let them grow and over time they should get stronger. Make sure you're not giving them too much high nitrogen fertilizer either--that will make things grow fast but the growth will tend to be weaker as a result. If they're not well rooted yet you can keep them staked so the wind doesn't knock them over, but it's not recommended to keep the stakes there indefinitely. Here's some info on proper staking

Here's a reference on pruning trees that you may find helpful: And here's a general reference I ran across about care & conditions for Laburnum:

Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or register to post.

Upload Images to your reply

    You may upload up to 5 images