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Fringe Tree

May 13, 2017

QuestionI have two very large Fringe Trees or Old man beard in my front yard that are approximately 18-20 feet tall.  They are almost finished blooming now.  My question is, can I prune them back pretty drastically to a more manageable height, somewhere around 10 feet tall?.


I usually recommend trying not to remove more than one third of the plant at one time.  Prune as soon as possible after the tree finishes flowering, no later than mid-June.  Instead of just whacking it all back to one height, why not stagger your cuts and do selective thinning.  This should give you a more pleasing appearance while reducing the size a bit more gradually.


June 4, 2016


I lost my live oak that was located in the front yard covering a shade garden.  Too much ice and green leaves.  I am looking for a unique, colorful, attractive tree for a replacement.  Gracie gray beard has caught my attention.  Looks good in April and it's unique.  I don't see a lot of these trees in the area.  Not much color after blooming however, no fall foliage.   I would like to get your thoughts concerning this fringe tree as a replacement.  I have looked at the extensions' list of trees. Several would be satisfactory.



Grancy Gray Beard or Fringe tree (Chionanthus) is a great small tree, but not too exciting after bloom, but a nice addition to the garden. Chinese pistache is a great small tree with outstanding fall color.  Little leaf linden is a larger tree at maturity with small white blooms that the bees like.  And the summer flowering golden raintree is also a nice change. 

 May 21, 2016

QuestionAlso, do you have any tips a/b propagating a Grand daddy graybeard (I do know that is NOT the official name).


AnswerOld Man’s Beard, Grancy Gray Beard and others are common names for Chionanthus virginicus.  This small native tree has beautiful white fringed blooms in the spring which are followed by small fruits on female trees in late summer to early fall.  They are notoriously difficult to propagate from cuttings, and seeds can take two years to germinate.  You can try layering a low growing limb in the ground, or simply buy some new trees.


(October 2012)

QuestionIn front of our house we have two 17'x17' plots of ground between sidewalks. We would like to plant a tree in each plot that would not eventually lift the sidewalks with their roots and would not get too tall. We have tried dogwoods, red buds, flowering cherry, but the full sun and heat got to them. Someone suggested Bradford pear, but my wife and I are allergic. Are there any other trees that we might plant that have a better chance of survival?

AnswerDefinitely not a Bradford pear—they can get 40 feet tall and 40 feet wide—way too large for this location. You have several options. The new trend in trees is to produce fastigiated forms—those that grow with a narrow growth habit. Fastigiated sweetgum, fastigiated hornbeam, English oak, and Autumn Spire red maple are just some choices that would work. These would get tall, provide shade, but would fit the situation with a narrow canopy. Smaller trees to choose would include redbud (they usually take full sun well), crape myrtle, and fringe tree.

(November 2011)

QuestionThe Conservation District in our county in their "Beautification Tree Project" offered a choice of thirteen ornamental trees for sale. Some were native, others included some alien invasive species, such as Cleveland Pear and the Mimosa tree. What is the effect of adding these trees to our landscape and neighborhoods? As good stewards what should be recommended or omitted from planting in our communities?

AnswerIn looking at the plant list I have to commend them for making some great trees available at really good prices. Two named cultivars of red maple, the native fringe tree, dogwood and tulip poplar, in addition to yellowwood, smoke tree, redbud and golden raintree are great trees. It looks like they are going for trees that have some form of color, whether from flowers or from fall foliage. The Cleveland pear fits the bill, but is not high on my list of favorites. It is a smaller adult form of the ornamental pear which we collectively often call Bradford, but it still can fruit and become invasive. We have seedling callery pears coming up all over our state. The mimosa, however, I do consider a trash tree. Many folks like them, but they often suffer from mimosa wilt and send up seedlings, so not a good choice.

(August 2010)

QuestionWe live in Bella Vista and have several large black walnut trees on our property. We have tried a crape myrtle and a red tip but both died. What is it about the black walnut trees that cause shrubs and bushes to die? Can you recommend any thing that will grow when planted 16 to 20 feet from a walnut tree?

AnswerBlack walnuts produce a chemical called juglone, which occurs in all parts of the tree, especially in the buds, nut hulls, and roots. The leaves contain smaller quantities and can leach juglone into the soil if they are left on the ground after falling. Many plants are adversely affected by the juglone, but it is more typical of plants within the drip line of the tree. For small flowering trees that are not affected try dogwood, redbud, fringe tree or serviceberry. Shrubs include forsythia, viburnums, altheas and sumacs. Try to plant things that are adversely affected at least 40 feet away and don't use the leaves as mulch. If you can create a raised bed that can also help.

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