Gleditsia - Growing Guide

Growing Gleditsia triacanthos

Honey locust

Gleditsia triacanthos is a spreading deciduous tree originating in north America which is best grown in the UK in a baking hot, dry, location in full sun as a freestanding specimen tree. It has fairly nasty spines on its trunk and shoots which can be 3-6in long. A feature tree at Nymans garden in Sussex [I have pictures plus Isle of Wight] had a hideous trunk of spines in maturity but smaller trees seen in the Isle of Wight were not so spiny.

The glossy dark green leaves are pinnate with many pairs of leaflets. The leaves turn a rich purple in autumn. The flowers appear in upright racemes of small greenish white flowers but usually only after a particularly hot summer which induces flowering. The subsequent seeds are attractive in their own right as pendant sickle shaped pods which are twisted.

These are perfectly hardy trees when established but the soft new growth in immature plants without a woody stem can be susceptible to late frosts or cold winds. The seeds germinate readily if sown in the autumn in a cold frame.

Burncoose stocks, from time to time, two improved forms of G. triacanthos which do not have prickles.

G. triacanthos ‘Rubylace’ has dark bronze-red young leaves which mature into a bronze-dark brown by summer.

G. triacanthos ‘Sunburst’ is a slow growing conical tree with attractive golden yellow young growth turning to pale green in the summer and yellow again in the autumn. This form is grown for its foliage effect and does not fruit.


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