Honey Locust Information – How To Grow A Honey Locust Tree

Close up of a honey locust branch beginning to turn yellow in the autumn
(Image credit: Vincent Ryan)

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 (9-21 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

Due to 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.

Mary Ellen Ellis

Mary Ellen Ellis has been gardening for over 20 years. With degrees in Chemistry and Biology, Mary Ellen's specialties are flowers, native plants, and herbs.