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General Care For Ginkgo Trees

General Care For Ginkgo Trees

In this Episode of the MrMaple Show, Tim and Matt talk about Ginkgo trees and some of the general care information, as well as some tips and tricks for taking care of Ginkgos.

About Ginkgo Trees

When we talk about Ginkgo trees, we're talking about Ginkgo Biloba, the same thing that people often take as medication. They are very easy plants to grow, and they typically thrive in Zones 3-9. Garden Ginkgo trees are extremely cold, heat, drought, and pollution tolerant, but there are different tips that we can give you to help your tree grow well and survive in the landscape and garden.

Watering Ginkgo Trees

If you've seen our other general care pages and videos, the first key to growing Ginkgo trees is good drainage. Ginkgo are plants that do not like boggy or wet feet, so you want to make sure that somewhere the drainage is good, not holding water or staying swampy. If you let the roots continue to stay wet, you will get root rot and you will slow the overall growth of your tree down. 

Soil for Ginkgo Trees

One great tip with Ginkgo that is different from a lot of other trees is that Ginkgo love a more alkaline soil, so by giving them lime when you're planting them and lime throughout the season, you help this plant get established and take up water and nutrients way more efficiently. 

A tip from Tim and Matt's friends in Japan is to use pelletized garden lime. This will help increase the growth rate on your Ginkgo trees. Here at Mr. Maple, we tried putting basic garden lime on half the Ginkgo trees in a greenhouse, and left half as a control group. After just one growing season, the trees that we had limed were significantly larger than the trees that had been fertilized but not limed. 

Many people say "I find Ginkgo to be incredibly fast growing," but we have found Ginkgo to be slow growing. This difference is often the alkalinity of your soil. Make sure to use garden lime, not the fruit. We joke that "you're not making a margarita out there in the garden." Make sure as well to use the granulated, pelletized form instead of the liquid lime. You don't want your lime washing away too quickly. 

Lime itself is not a fertilizer, instead what it does is it allows the plant to take up water and nutrients more efficiently due to the lime changing the soil's pH to the correct pH for the Ginkgo's roots to perform best at. Lime is not a fertilizer, but it helps plants take up the fertilizer more efficiently.

Lime works not only with regular sized Ginkgo trees, but with Dwarf Ginkgo as well. It will grow faster and more full. 

Light Conditions for Ginkgo Trees

Ginkgo Biloba are actually sun-loving plants in most USDA Hardiness Zones. Ginkgo grow mostly in Zones 3-9, and even some in Zone 10, so they can go into some high heat areas. The key, however, is sunlight. If you want to pick up the growth for your Ginkgo, you will want to make sure it gets at least 4-5 hours of sunlight during the day. This will help the tree to have a more direct growth rate. When Ginkgo are grown in heavy shade, they grow much slower and have darker foliage. 

Picking the Right Cultivar

Picking the right cultivar for you is definitely going to matter when taking into account what you want to achieve long-term. There are dwarf Ginkgo that are going to be small and compact, while there are other forms that are going to be faster, upright-growing trees. If you want a smaller Ginkgo, start with a dwarf. You don't want to grow an Autumn Gold or Saratoga and have to continuously cut them back to maintain the smaller overall size. There are a lot of great, small, compact forms like American and Troll that are going to give you the more compact, dense, smaller size than an overall larger tree. 

Now, you may be looking for a larger overall tree, and a great selection would be the aforementioned Autumn Gold.

Since there are so many different variances, be conscious of this when planning the spot you are going to plant your Ginkgo in. Pick a tree that will fit your spot long-term and fits the parameters of what you are looking for. Dwarf Ginkgo are going to lend themselves extremely well to container growing, so a very popular way to grow those would be a small patio planter or container. (Again, if you are container growing, be conscious of the drainage in the container. You do not want to put a saucer at the bottom, because that will hold too much moisture and cause swampiness and root rot). 

Fertilizing Ginkgo Trees

 Timing is key. Early spring is a good time to fertilize your Ginkgo, but you want to cut that off after May. This will give you better winterization if you don't fertilize after May, so that your tree has adequate time to shut down for winter. If your Ginkgo is still trying to flush new growth in August, it will not shut down correctly, and that can affect your spring flush. It will also give you better fall colors. 

You will want to use something similar to what you fertilize Japanese Maples with, something 15 or under on the nitrogen. This is excellent for growing your Ginkgo at a moderate pace and help it to thrive in the landscape. Remember that if you are not limiting the plant while you are fertilizing, it's not taking up most of the fertilizer. Make sure to limit when you fertilize so that you don't waste your fertilizer. When you have a larger Ginkgo or something that's been established in the landscape, you can give it a little bit more and a little bit higher nitrogen count as long as it's established.