Be gentle with au naturel trees


Question: This question is regarding our bottle tree. Should we trim and shape the tree? It has grown to a considerable height. The wind, appearance, and health of the tree are our concerns. Does the cracking on the trunk need addressing? And should I wrap the trunk in winter?

Very nice-looking tree. I posted the picture you sent me on my blog. I would not do anything to it. The cracking in the trunk is normal for an aging tree. It should not have difficulty handling a normal winter of freezing temperatures.

I know it may not look picture-perfect, but that is what can be charming about these types of trees used in our environment. As it grows, it will naturally fill in some of the voids.

You could prune it to shape it a bit, but be very careful when you do this and do not change it radically, or the plant may respond in a way that you may not like.

Don’t do anything dramatic to it or you could end up with some problems such as sunburn on the lower limbs and, consequently, dieback.

If you are going to do some pruning, do it this winter and hire someone who has a good reputation with shaping trees. This tree is a focal point on your property and needs special care.

Bob Morris is a horticulture expert living in Las Vegas and professor emeritus for the University of Nevada. Visit his blog at xtremehorticulture.blogspot.com.