I have a large tulip tree; the roots of this tree were damaged during a fence installation. Subsequently the tree developed slime flux and many branches died. I have kept the tree well-watered and fertilized, and it appears to be recovering and making much new growth. When would be the proper time to remove the dead branches from the tree? They are unsightly and some are quite large and could damage structures if they fell.
The tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) is not a tree for residential property. Many times we as gardeners just cannot help ourselves and purchase or inherit a tree that struggles where it is planted. The tulip tree needs a large, open area to grow and develop its branches and root system to display its real beauty and remain healthy.
You are taking the correct steps to insure the health and longevity of your tree after its injury. Since there are no curative or preventive measures for slime flux, you are correct in practicing IPM (Integrated Pest Management) to maintain the tree in a state of vigor by using a consistent watering and fertilization program and minimizing future wounds or injuries.
The best time to prune off the dead limbs would be in the tree’s dormant season, leaving less chance to spread the disease. When pruning, use a 20 percent bleach solution in water to dip and wipe your tools when changing cutting areas. This procedure will stop the spread of the disease from infected tools to healthy tree tissue.
Lastly, please investigate all the symptoms of slime flux to confirm your diagnosis, as this bacterial disease does not usually affect tulip trees in our area. Other diseases and insects are more likely to cause a problem showing some of the same symptoms, like aphids, which secrete large quantities of “honeydew” (a clear sticky substance). Unlike slime flux, however, there is a treatment program for aphids.