The Q&A Archives: Replacement for Dying Redbud

Question: We have a large redbud tree in the center of a large circular driveway. That area has been turned into a flower garden with several bird feeding stations. The redbud in roughly 25 years old, about 25 to 30 feet high, and is slowly dying. Since it is the only tree in the center of this circular driveway, we hate to cut it down because the birds love it. It is probably half-dead, and cutting it down and planting another tree of that substantial size is not an option. I am wondering if I could plant a wisteria right next to the base of that redbud tree, and let the wisteria take it over. I thought the tree branches would give the wisteria something to climb over and yet wouldn't interfere with what remaining life the tree might have. Also thought maybe the wisteria would be enough stability so that when the tree did die completely, it would stand up to winds better and hopefully, not be blown over. Is this a valid idea, or not. It would be in full sun, we are zone 5, and our soil is clay that we are amending. I would appreciate your
comments. Thank you.

Answer: Redbuds are prone to disease, and what is happening to yours happens to many. You could prune out the dead parts and see if the tree responds and remains healthy.

As for growing a vine on the tree, you could certainly do this, but be ready for the rest of the tree to die and the vine to collapse. You might be better off by constructing a permanent, free-standing trellis near the tree to grow the vine on, so in the event of the tree's demise, you will still have your vine.

Wisteria is a very woody vine, and wll become quite heavy with time. Perhaps you should consider growing other types of vines that aren't quite so woody. Some annual vines: scarlet runners beans, hyacinth beans, cardinal climber, tall trailing nasturiums and moonflowers. Some perennial vines: clematis, silver lace vine, akebia, sweet pea and honeysuckle. You might contact your cooperative extension office for further information and possibly a verification of the problem with your redbud.

Good luck!

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