Tree Pruning Tips

Pruning or trimming trees helps keep them healthy and looking beautiful. It also removes potential hazards like dead or broken branches that can fall and damage property or injure someone. Pruning is also used to nurse a tree back to health by removing affected branches or limbs. Most pruning jobs can be tackled by yourself if you have the right equipment and knowledge.

When to Prune

How and when you prune depends on the species of tree you have on your property. It will also depend on why you are pruning. For example, you might want to prune your flowering trees to boost the growth of the tree's flowers. For flowering trees that start to bloom during the spring, prune once flowers start to fade. For trees and shrubs that flower during the summer, prune the tree in the winter or early spring for the best results.

A light prune to remove dead wood can be done for all trees at any time during the year. Most pruning is done in the winter when trees are mostly dormant. Pruning after the coldest period of winter helps encourage new growth during the spring. Summer pruning is typically done to direct the growth of your tree. This involves trimming branches that you don't want including defective ones. Summer pruning should be done following the main growth period of your tree. Avoid pruning in the fall when wounds heal slower and fungi from decaying leaves can spread more easily.

Tips for Good Pruning

Before trimming anything, inspect your tree starting from the top. Identify the best leader and later branches before pruning. Start by removing defective limbs and other parts of the tree. Once you have tidied the tree, it is time to fully prune the limbs. Avoid leaving a protruding stub and cut outside the branch ridge and collar when trimming branches. If the limb is short and there is no collar, cut close to the trunk. If you are shortening a branch, the cut should be at a lateral bud or branch. Keep buds that will form limbs in the direction you want while removing buds that are aimed at undesirable directions. Cuts should be about a quarter of an inch away from buds.

The Arbor Day Foundation recommends using the one-third and one-quarter rule when pruning trees. This means that you should not remove more than a quarter of the tree's crown in any given season. Also, the tree's side branches should be kept at least a third smaller than the trunk's diameter. For broadleaf or deciduous trees, avoid pruning more than a third of the tree's total height when trimming up from the bottom. Side branches should be trimmed in a way that forms angles that are one third off vertical. To do this, imagine that branches should form a 10 or 2 o'clock position with the trunk.

How you prune also depends on the age of the tree. When first planting a tree, you should leave as many leaves as possible to make sure the tree makes enough food for itself. This will help the tree take root and develop a strong root system. Only prune branches that are broken, swollen or competing with the trunk or leader limb. When the tree is three to four years old, the root system should be well developed to allow for more pruning. You should remove root suckers and sprouts in the crown, the lowest limbs, competing leaders, excessive branches, narrow and angled branches, and branches that are growing in undesirable directions. After five to seven years of growth, you can be more aggressive with pruning. Prune lower limbs to create a crown that is at least five or six feet fall and maintain this height. In future years, pruning should focus on keeping the tree beautiful and healthy by removing dead or damaged limbs.

Using the Right Tools

When pruning, always use sharp tools to create clean cuts and avoid damaging the tree. For younger trees, use a pruning shear with curved blades. A pole pruner is best for tackling higher branches. Complex jobs especially with larger trees or trees that are close to property and utilities should be done by a professional if you are not experienced at pruning. A professional will also have tools to complete bigger jobs, especially if equipment is needed to reach tall trees.

To find a professional tree trimming service use the form below. This online system will match you to local pros in cities throughout the US including locations such as New Brunswick, Portsmouth, Essex, Bangor and Shreveport.