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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Sweetgum Ball Control

One of the things I hate the most this time of the year are the annoying sweetgum balls falling onto my porch and patio.  They hang up in the tree most of the winter then the late winter storms start blowing them off.  The do not all fall at once either.  It seems as if the tree waits until I sweep everything then the tree releases the next wave.  It is a near daily chore to keep the steeps free of these potential problems.  I would cut the tree down if it was mine, but unfortunately it is not mine.  
My wife asks every year, "Can't you spray something to keep the tree from forming these balls?"
There is a product that is labeled for this purpose and it actually works if used according to label directions.  The material is Florel Fruit Eliminator, made by Monterey Chemical Company.  It is sometimes available in retail garden stores, but is easily found from on-line sources.
The tricky part of using this chemical is that it must be sprayed to runoff on the flowers when the flower clusters begin to separate and the leaves are about half expanded. There is a narrow time window (2 weeks at most) when it will be effective and should only be applied when the temperature is between 65 and 95 degrees F. The label also cautions against spraying trees that are under stress from disease, drought, or other causes.
Also, it is a challenge to spray to the top of a large tree. A good hose-end sprayer can be adjusted to spray up to 30 feet with good hose pressure. Any amount of coverage at the proper time will help reduce the problem. For large trees, or when multiple trees must be treated, it is best to hire a company with the proper equipment to do the job.
Snipper Woody Plant Deflowering Hormone is an injectable de-flowering agent that causes premature death of developing flowers.  Injection overcomes the spraying tall trees problem.  This product needs to be applied by a commercial applicator. 
If you just have to have a sweetgum, you might want to check out the ‘Rotundiloba' cultivar.  This is a ‘fruitless’ cultivar and has lobed rather than pointed leaves.

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