By: Mary Ellen Ellis
The ginkgo tree is one of the oldest plant species on the planet and is a desirable landscape tree for many reasons: it has a unique leaf shape, tolerates drought and urban locations, and is relatively low maintenance.
But what about pruning? When do you cut back ginkgo, and do you need to at all? These ancient, living-fossil trees can benefit from some pruning when young, but once mature don’t need much trimming at all.
The best time of year for ginkgo tree pruning is in the latefall, in the winter, or in early spring. The tree should be dormant when youtrim it. This will give it a chance to heal from the cuts before it needs toput energy into growing and producing flowers and leaves.
The trees are naturally tall with rounded canopies so trimming ginkgo trees is generally unnecessary. The bulk of the pruning you will do for a ginkgo is while the tree is still young and establishing its shape. Once the tree is mature, the only trimming you need to do is to remove dead branches or weak or broken limbs.
Young ginkgo trees benefit from an annual pruning during the dormant season. This will help it develop a nice shape and a solid, strong limb structure.
Before trimming ginkgo trees, be sure you understand the growth habit of the varieties. Each variety of gingko has it own natural contour. For instance, columnar trees grow up in a narrow, column-like shape. Other varieties grow out more and have a pyramidal or umbrella shape. This will help guide some of your cuts.
Ginkgo should have a single vertical leader, so trim out anybranches that seem to be competing with the main trunk. You may also see suckers– small, upright stems, growing from the ground. You can trim these away.
To shape your tree additionally, trim branches where theymeet the trunk. Remove branches that hang down too low and impede pedestriansor traffic. This will help you create a nice shade canopy for non-columnarvarieties. Cut out any branches that look dead or weak. And remove a fewstrategic smaller branches to increase airflow throughout the canopy.
Once your ginkgo is taller than about 6 feet (2 meters), you can slow down regular pruning. It should maintain its shape at this point and will only need broken or dead branches removed going forward. When you prune, remove dead wood and dying branches with clean, sterilized cutting tools. Trim out any diseased branches as well. Never top a ginkgo or any other tree.
This article was last updated on
The Spruce / Adrienne Legault
Ginkgo biloba, also called maidenhair, is a broadleaf, deciduous tree. While it loses its leaves in winter, it is classified as a conifer and is dioecious, meaning that some trees are male while others are female. Native to China, ginkgo biloba trees, broadly speaking, will grow well in planting zones 4 through 9.
The gingko biloba's uniquely fan-shaped leaves start out green but change to golden-yellow in the fall. Before the whole leaf turns golden, there is sometimes a stage during which the leaf is two-toned, with separate bands of gold and green. The common name "maidenhair" was inspired by the fan shape of the leaves, which reminds people of the maidenhair fern (Adiantum spp.). The bark on older specimens of the tree becomes deeply furrowed.
|Botanical Name||Gingko biloba|
|Plant Type||Deciduous tree|
|Mature Size||50 to 80 feet tall and 30 to 40 feet wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun to part shade|
|Soil Type||Sandy, well-drained|
|Soil pH||5.0 to 8.0|
|Flower Color||Green (insignificant flowers)|
|Hardiness Zones||4 to 9|
Many Ginkgos do very well in containers or pots placed on a patio amongst other plants and with correct feeding and watering, can live happily in a pot for many years. To pot up your Ginkgo:
The ginkgo grows in acidic, alkaline, loamy, moist, rich, sandy, silty loam, well-drained, wet and clay soils. It tolerates moderate drought and wetness but doesn’t grow well in hot, dry climates.
The Ginkgo tree is a living fossil, with the earliest leaf fossils dating from 270 million years ago. It was rediscovered in 1691 in China and was brought to this country in the late 1700s. The seeds and leaves have been (and are still today) used in medicine throughout the world.
The Arbor Day Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit conservation and education organization. A million members, donors, and partners support our programs to make our world greener and healthier.