Honey Locust Information – How To Grow A Honey Locust Tree

Honey Locust Information – How To Grow A Honey Locust Tree

Honey locust is a popular deciduous landscaping tree, especially in cities, where it is used for shade and because the small leaves do not need to be collected in the fall. A little bit of honey locust information is all you need to start growing this tree in your yard.

What is a Honey Locust?

Honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) is a tree that is native to parts of the eastern U.S., as far north as Kentucky and Pennsylvania, and as far west as Texas and Nebraska, but it can grow in many areas. In the wild this tree will grow up to 100 feet (30 m.) and beyond, but in landscaping it usually tops out at 30 to 70 feet (9 to 21 m.).

The leaves of the honey locust are compound, with several small leaflets on a single stem. These small leaflets turn yellow in fall. They are too small to pick up, but they also will not block drains, and this has made the tree popular for city street landscaping.

The honey locust does produce large, dark brown, twisted seed pods in the fall, which can create a mess. Picking them up is advised, but you can find cultivars of the tree that do not produce any seed pods. The tree naturally grows long, sharp thorns but, again, if you’re interested in growing honey locust trees, there are cultivars that do not have thorns.

How to Grow a Honey Locust

They transplant well, so growing honey locust trees is pretty simple to begin with. Choose a sunny location, somewhere you want to add shade, and where you have rich and moist soil.

Make sure you create a large hole for your tree because honey locust has a large, coarse root ball. It will tolerate a variety of soils, but avoid salt, higher pH levels, and drought conditions to avoid the stress that will make it more vulnerable to disease and pest infestations.

Honey Locust Tree Care

Because of the popularity of honey locust in landscaping, it has become vulnerable to a variety of diseases and pests. Good honey locust care includes management, prevention, and treatment for webworm, cankers, borers, powdery mildew, and other pests or infections. When you buy a tree from your nursery, find out what to look for and what steps you should take to prevent infestations, if possible.

Unfortunately, the truth is that honey locust has been overused in landscaping and avoiding all pests or diseases may not be possible. As a result, your tree may be short-lived as compared to its native counterpart in the wild, but it will still be enjoyable for shade and fall color while it remains healthy.

What Is A Honey Locust: Honey Locust Tree Care And - garden

by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener

This mountain native cheerfully shouts, “Hello, Spring!” with its glowing yellow leaves. As summer heats up, it settles down to a naturally cool green, only to turn gold again in autumn. This Watters exclusive casts a dappled shade perfect for reading a book or sharing an outdoor meal. Take the sun and wind, yet easy on your time, water, and maintenance, even the fall cleanup is a piece of cake! Impervious to deer.

Honey locust trees (Gleditsia triacanthos) have been admired for centuries for their lacey leaves, ability to stand up against the ferocious wind, blistering sun all with scarce water. This variety has no thorns and produces NO bean pods means no mess from this tree.

Honey locust is a member of the pea family, along with well-known landscape plants like lupine and wisteria. The compound leaves are fern-like, with a fine texture, and the branching pattern is airy. The new foliage starts out yellow, then morphs to cool summer green. In autumn, leaves return to the bright gold color that started out in spring. These are tough, fast-growing trees that like growing in challenging mountain conditions, such as drought, pollution, salt, compacted soil, heat, and alkaline soils.

Botanical Names – Gleditsia triacanthos

Common Name – Sunburst Honey Locust

Plant Type – Deciduous tree

Mature Size – 30 feet tall, 20 feet wide

Sun Exposure – At least 6+ hours per day

Soil Type – Adapts to most soil types

Bloom Time – Spring, summer

Flower Color – Greenish-yellow

Hardiness Zones – 4 to 9, USDA

Native Area – North America

How to Grow Sunburst Honey Locust

This tree has few restrictions on how to grow it the only place it struggles is in dense shade. It is an ideal tree to plant in locations where you want filtered shade rather than the deep shade created by many other landscape trees. It’s a good lawn tree since it allows plenty of filtered light to reach down to the grass. Keep the tree well-watered, and make sure to protect the trunks against damage from lawnmowers and other lawn equipment, as the bark is tender and prone to injury. Applying a ring of Watters Premium Mulch, of shredded cedar bark around the base of the tree is ideal, as it keeps mowers away from the trunk.

Honey locusts are somewhat susceptible to a variety of insect pests, including spider mites, gall midges, and webworms. Pests can be treated with organic sprays, and are less likely to be severe problems if you keep the trees in good condition by adequate watering and regular removal of dead and damaged branches.

Full sun is preferred by these thornless honey locust trees, although young trees will grow well in partial shade.

The honey locust tree is a super hardy tree and can grow well in different types of soil. Loam is ideal, but sand or clay will also be sufficient for this tree to thrive. She even tolerates salty soils.

Honey locusts have a moderate tolerance for flooding, drought, and other adverse conditions. They thrive in both moist or dry soil. The water guide for this tree is deep soak as soon as planted and at least weekly for the first year. A one-hour trickle that slowly saturates the root provides proper water for a new tree. Adjust watering based on rainfall.

Temperature and Humidity

Honey locust can grow in a variety of climate conditions, but it will perish if exposed to temperatures below minus -33 degrees F.

Older trees rarely need additional irrigation or fertilizing, especially if they are in an irrigated, fertilized lawn. For young trees feed three times per year with 7-4-4 All Purpose Food (March, July, and October).

Mature honey locust trees need little pruning except to remove dead or diseased branches, but until mature, you should prune them every five years or so to shape them as desired. This typically means keeping the canopy relatively open and airy. Branches that cross and rub can be susceptible to developing canker. The best time to prune is in late winter (January through March) when sap flow is reduced by colder weather.

Companion Plants with Honey Locust for a Stunning Backyard

Moonshine Yarrow A fuss-free, heat-loving bloomer with large clusters of canary yellow flowers held above ferny, grey foliage, just stunning. Sunny borders and rock gardens are perfect or planted in a mass to create a bold band of color throughout summer. Mountain tough, you can’t kill this perennial that only blooms better year after year. Javelina and rabbit detest the summer blooms.

Halls Japanese Honeysuckle An outstanding mountain vine with fragrant yellow flowers that loves blooming in the summer heat. Wind, drought, deer, javelina are no problem. Ideal at growing up fences, walls, or as a groundcover. An excellent solution for a fast-growing screen, even in the poorest of soil. Summer is the preferred planting time for this heat lover.

Gilt Edge Silverberry Variegated leaves of bright gold and blue provide interest every month of the year. Growing to head high, she screens out the most obnoxious neighbor while standing up to blistering heat and wind. The super sweet flowers are utterly animal proof, even javelina and deer don’t like the taste of this local shrub. Best planted in the heat of summer for faster growth.

Portulaca Portulaca tolerates the blazing sun, where the neon flowers attract butterflies. Available in red, orange, violet, white, and pink. Great for containers, rock gardens, between sunny stepping-stones, or any hot, dry garden space where nothing else grows. The brighter, the better!

Getting to Know the Honey Locust Tree

Gleditsia triacanthos, or the honey locust, is a member of the legume family. Many people love this on open spaces because of it’s fine-textured foliage that helps add shade.

It is a native in the eastern Great Plains and the eastern of the U.S. In urban areas, this tree is also famous because it helps soil erosion control. The tree also acts as a windbreaker and is also a renowned tree for rehabilitating lands and even mining strips.

Honey Locust

A honey locust
G. Lumis
The leaf of a honey locust
G. Lumis

Scientific Name: Gleditsia triancanthos

Foliage: Deciduous broadleaf
Height: 30 to 70 feet
Spread: 30 to 50 feet
Shape: Spreading

Long compound leaves have little leaflets giving the foliage a lacy effect. Bright green foliage turns yellow in fall.

Plant Needs
Zone: 4 to 9
Light: Partial shade to full sun
Moisture: Wet, moist, or dry
Soil Type: Sandy, loam, or clay
pH Range: 4.5 to 7.3

Suggested uses for this plant include shade, street tree, massing, and specimen plant.

Planting Notes
Plant improved thornless, podless varieties. Easy to transplant because it withstands a wide range of conditions. Does best in moist bottomlands or soils with high pH. Prefers full sun. Extremely salt tolerant.

Spray twice yearly to control webworms.

Susceptible to mimosa webworms, leaf hoppers, spider mites, and leaf galls. Webworms are the worst problem, occasionally defoliating trees by August.

Consult local sources, including historic or public gardens and arboreta, regarding cultivars and related species that grow well in your area.

`Sunburst' has yellow new foliage which turns bright-green. It is seedless and podless.

`Shademaster' has ascending branches, dark green leaves. It is seedless and podless.

`Majestic' has nice dark-green foliage. It is seedless and podless.

Native Honey Locust trees are best known for their hazardous thorns and long, flat seed pods. Thornless, podless nursery varieties are highly recommended. Lacy foliage gives a loose, open shade ideal for patios and shade loving plants. In autumn, the small leaflets filter into the grass as they fall, requiring little raking.

This material was developed by Carol Ness as part of the Interactive Design and Development Project funded by the Kellogg Foundation. Mary Miller, Project Director. Diane Relf, Content Specialist, Horticulture. Copyright 1989 by VCE.

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