A Complete Guide to Pruning Trees


Pruning trees is an important part of tree care and maintenance. It not only helps to keep the tree healthy, but it can also help improve its appearance. Pruning involves removing dead or diseased branches and trimming back overgrown branches that are too close together or blocking views. Proper pruning techniques will ensure that the tree remains strong and healthy for years.

Pruning should be done regularly to maintain a beautiful landscape and promote good health for your trees. Different pruning methods may be used depending on the type of tree and its desired shape, size, and growth pattern. You can successfully prune your trees confidently with proper knowledge, expert guidance, and correct tools!

When to Prune

Pruning trees is necessary for tree maintenance and should be done at the appropriate times. Trees generally benefit from pruning in the spring or summer, when they actively grow and can heal quickly after branch cutting.

To decide when to prune a specific tree, one should consider its type and the time of year. For instance, many deciduous trees are best pruned in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. This is because the plant’s energy is focused on healing the pruning cuts and new branch growth instead of producing flowers or fruit.

When it comes to evergreen trees, however, they should be pruned during late spring or summer when there aren’t any blooms present, as this can reduce their aesthetic appeal and size. Pruning evergreens too late in the fall can subject them to cold weather damage and leave them vulnerable to pests and diseases.

Additionally, a tree needs to be addressed through a lack of pruning for several years. In that case, it may need an annual pruning schedule to return it to a proper shape and size. This should be done during the ideal time frame for its particular type of tree.

Lastly, trees damaged by storms or other factors should be carefully evaluated before deciding when to prune them. In general, pruning large branches should be avoided during periods of active growth. If not, one should wait until late summer when the tree is dormant, and new growth has ceased. (Gilman and Black)

Reasons to Prune Trees & Effects of Pruning on the Growth of Trees

Pruning is a critical but often overlooked part of tree care. It helps to keep trees healthy and growing in a controlled manner, as well as to remove dead or hazardous branches. When pruning is done correctly, it helps ensure that trees stay healthy and attractive for generations to come.

One of the primary reasons to prune a tree is to remove dead, dangerous, or diseased branches. Pruning can also reduce the chances of long limbs interfering with power lines, roofing, and other structures. It may also help improve a tree’s wind resistance by removing large, weak limbs that may break in strong winds. It can also help the tree grow symmetrically by removing crossing, rubbing branches, and thinning out overly dense crowns. Finally, pruning can also be used to control the size and shape of trees for aesthetic purposes.

When it comes to the effects of pruning on tree growth, this depends largely on when and how much you prune. If pruning is done correctly, it can lead to healthier and faster-growing trees that are better able to resist certain diseases and pests. However, when trees are pruned too much or in the wrong season, it can damage their growth. For example, if a tree is pruned in late winter or early spring when sap production is at its highest, sap flow will be significantly reduced, which can slow down the tree’s growth rate. In addition, incorrect pruning techniques such as topping (removing large branches from the top of a tree) can create “lion’s tails,” which cause uneven regrowth that leaves trees vulnerable to disease and decay. (Bedker et al.)

Types of Pruning Cut

Pruning is the process of selectively removing parts of a tree. Pruning cuts, when applied properly, can ensure strong trees and promote healthy growth and aesthetics in trees for years to come. Three main pruning cuts are commonly employed: living branches, dead branches, and drop crotch cuts. (Ferree et al. 319-344)

⦁ Pruning Living Branches

Pruning living branches is the most common form of pruning, which involves removing all parts of a branch that are growing in an undesired direction or not producing new growth. Pruning living branches requires careful consideration of the tree’s overall structure, health, and individual branches. Generally, living branches should only be removed if they are diseased, damaged, dead, or growing in an undesired direction. Pruning living branches should also consider the size of the branch and its location on the tree. Smaller branches should be removed from higher up in the canopy, while larger branches should only be pruned close to their base.

⦁ Pruning Dead Branches

Pruning dead branches involve cutting away branches that have died or been damaged due to environmental factors, pests, or disease. Pruning dead branches is important to remove any potential sources of infection or damage. Dead branches should be completely removed to prevent the spread of disease or damage to other branches. Dead branches can also harbor pests and should be removed to reduce the likelihood of infestation.

⦁ Drop Crotch Cuts

Drop crotch cuts involve removing the branch at its base, as close to the trunk as possible, to reduce weight and improve tree structure. Drop crotch cuts are a specialized form of pruning that involves removing the branch at its base, as close to the trunk as possible. This cut reduces the tree’s weight, improving its overall structure. Drop crotch cuts should be performed with caution, as cutting too close to the trunk can cause damage to the tree.

Pruning Tree Strategies

Pruning should be done with attention to the overall health and safety of the tree. Proper pruning can ensure that the tree is healthy and vigorous for years. Pruning tree strategies vary based on the age of the tree. (Gilman et al.)

⦁ Young trees in the nursery should be pruned to establish a strong structure and shape.

⦁ Young trees in the landscape should be pruned to reduce wind resistance and promote healthy growth.

⦁ Medium-aged trees should be pruned regularly to maintain a compact form and reduce the risk of structural damage.

⦁ Mature trees should be pruned sparingly, considering the age, condition, desired shape, and risk of disease or injury.


In conclusion, pruning is an important part of tree care necessary to keep trees healthy and attractive. Pruning can help remove dead or hazardous branches, improve a tree’s wind resistance, control the tree’s size and shape, and promote healthy growth. However, pruning should be done carefully to avoid damaging the tree and slowing its growth rate. Proper care and pruning can help ensure trees remain healthy and attractive for generations.

Gilman, Edward F., and Robert John Black. Pruning landscape trees and shrubs. Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, 2005.
Becker, Peter John. How to prune trees. Vol. 1. US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Area, State & Private Forestry, 1995.
How to Prune Trees – Peter John Bedker – Google Books
Ferree, David C., and James R. Schupp. “Pruning and training physiology.” Apples: Botany, production and uses (2003): 319-344.
Pruning and training physiology. | Apples: botany, production and uses (cabidigitallibrary.org)
Gilman, Edward F. An illustrated guide to pruning. Cengage Learning, 2011.

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