Pruning Trees Safely


In order to maintain tree health, proper tree pruning is essential for tree growth. It involves reducing the crown’s foliage density, increasing wind penetration, and promoting interior foliage development. Structural pruning develops a strong structure and desired form. Trees that are properly pruned often require less corrective pruning as they mature. Each cut can alter the growth pattern and shape of the tree. When pruning, it is important to make careful, measured cuts. Improper cuts can result in permanent wounds, making proper pruning a vital process for preserving the health of a tree.

Topping is the most harmful form of tree pruning

Topping is a destructive form of tree pruning, removing more than half of a tree’s leaf bearing crown. This technique deprives trees of their most important food source: leaves. A tree that has been top-pruned will not have enough energy reserves to sustain itself during the winter. As a result, it will begin to grow multiple shoots from latent buds under each cut.

Topping reduces a tree’s ability to photosynthesize and produce food. It also results in a weaker tree and increased vulnerability to insect attack. Ultimately, a tree will grow back to its original height in two to three years, but it won’t be as healthy as before. It will require more care in the future and may even need to be removed.

Structural (subordination) cuts improve a plant’s health

In some cases, structural (subordination) cuts improve a plant or tree’s structure and health. Such cuts remove undesirable short branches from a tree, often referred to as stubs. In other cases, structural (subordination) cuts improve the health and structure of a plant by slowing the growth of subordinate leaders. This approach helps reduce the height and diameter of a tree.

Reduction is the removal of lower branches from a tree

Reduction is the process of cutting off lower branches of a tree to create a more pleasing and functional shape. It can range from a few inches off the ground for screening to about seven feet for a street tree. It is typically carried out over several years, beginning in the nursery and continuing even after transplanting.

The goal of reduction pruning is to reduce the size of a tree by 25% or 50%. Crown reduction is most effective when pruning back branch terminals and leaders. It is critical to cut lateral branches to one-third the diameter of the cut stem. The process also helps maintain the shape and structural integrity of a tree.

Time of year to prune

Most deciduous trees should be pruned in late fall and winter, when the majority of insects and disease-causing organisms are dormant and inactive. This is especially true of oak trees, as this timing helps prevent the spread of oak wilt. However, it’s also important to consider the time of year when trees are actively growing. Pruning trees in the late spring or early summer can result in excessive bleeding and may not be as effective as pruning in the fall.

Pruning is important for many reasons. It optimizes growth and wound closure. It also establishes a central leader. Most trees have a dominant trunk branch at the center that grows taller than other branches. Proper pruning should reduce competing branches and leave the tree with a single central leader. Moreover, it reapportions the plant’s food reserves: fewer shoots means more food.

Safety precautions to take

When trimming a tree, there are several safety precautions to follow to ensure the safety of yourself and others around you. First, you must make sure the area you are working in is clear and free of clutter. After that, you can begin pruning the twigs and branches of the tree. As you go, keep in mind to work slowly and carefully.

If you are not careful, you could damage your tree or even kill it. Proper pruning of trees will maintain their health and look, while avoiding the possibility of disease or storm damage.