Tree Pruning 101

Tree Pruning 101

A quick and dirty guide to pruning trees.

1. WHY PRUNE A TREE?

There are various reasons to prune a tree, although for most home owners these reasons are aesthetic. Trees block views, grow sporadically, and are sometimes just outright ugly. Sometimes branches grow into hydro-wires and some trees grow into roadways.

Often homeowners want to cut down their trees because they are unsightly or overgrown. Little do these homeowners know that pruning a tree can rebeautify, allow for more light, and increase the value of their property.

Whatever the purpose for pruning, one thing remains: there is a RIGHT and a WRONG way to prune trees. Reading through this article will provide a basic overview of the RIGHT way to prune trees.

2. WHEN CAN I PRUNE MY TREE?

Most maintenance pruning (the removal of dead, diseased, or damaged branches) can be done any time of the year. However, to avoid the oozing or “bleeding” of sap, the ideal time to prune is before spring when trees are dormant and after the tree has bloomed.

There are certain exceptions to times trees can be pruned. Fruit trees should be pruned while dormant (November-March). In some areas, pruning certain species of trees is restricted to avoid the spread of pests. A qualified Arborist or Landscaper can provide guidance on these special cases.

3. DO ALL TREES NEED PRUNING?

Unlike the forest, in cities it’s uncommon for a tree to have space to grow to its full size without conflict. So, short answer: almost all trees in the city will require pruning at some point in time.

4. WHAT ABOUT YOUNG TREES?

Moved into a new house? Are your trees newly planted? Pruning your tree when they’re young will save you lots of money in the future.

Pruning a young tree is an opportunity to promote good structure. Here are a few rules to follow:

  • Try to maintain a single dominant stem that is the highest point on the tree.
  • Prune any branches that are competing with the dominant stem.
  • Prune any crossing and rubbing branches.

5. MAKING THE CUT

When pruning a tree, there are three main things you want to avoid:

  1. Stubs: Leaving a branch stub can slow down healing and allow for pests to infect the tree.
  2. Flush Cuts: Pruning too close to the stem leaving no branch collar.
  3. Bark Peeling: When bark strips off near a pruning cut.

6. CAN I TOP MY TREES?

No. Topping a tree is making large pruning cuts that cause permanent damage, increase the liability risk for the owner of the tree, and are typically illegal in most municipalities. Qualified Arborists do not top trees except in extreme circumstances.