Earthworks WNC

Tips For Healthy Pruning Practices

To ensure their proper growth and shape, trees, particularly those in your yard or community, need consistent pruning and maintenance throughout their lifetime. However, the first few years after planting are critical and require extra care, as they greatly influence the tree’s future form and strength. Providing pruning is a valuable gift to your tree’s well-being.

Why Prune Trees

Pruning your trees can be done for several reasons. One reason being safety. Pruning branches that pose a risk of causing injury or damage to property in case of a fall is essential. Additionally, pruning should be done to clear street and traffic signs and improve visibility.

Maintaining tree health is another important reason to prune your trees. Pruning helps eliminate diseased, dead, storm-damaged, and intersecting or friction branches for the tree’s health.

Pruning young trees is helpful for a strong central stem, to avoid multiple dominant stems, and establishing a strong branching structure. Regular pruning helps maintain the tree’s natural appearance and enhances its beauty.

Best Time to Prune

The ideal time to prune a tree is in winter, when it’s dormant and you can see its structure. Pruning mid-summer is also effective after the leaf growth season is complete. You may remove dead or damaged branches at any time of the year.

Only prune oaks and elms in the winter to minimize the chance of oak wilt or Dutch elm disease spreading. If you must prune one of these species in the spring, summer, or fall, apply a latex paint to the wound. This is the only time you should paint a tree wound.

It is vital to never prune trees during the spring budding or fall leaf drop phase since these phases are when the trees are using energy to perform these processes and will be less able to respond to the pruning wound.

Conifers usually require little, if any, pruning. But if needed, these types of trees can be pruned at any time of the year.

How to Prune

To prune a tree, cut off branches about 1 inch in diameter or smaller. Doing this allows the tree to repair and seal the wound more quickly. Hand pruners are usually suitable for jobs of this size.

Before making any cut, locate the branch collar and the branch bark ridge. Your pruning cut must be made outside these two areas so that your tree properly seals the wound.

For branches larger than one inch in diameter, use the three-cut method described below. A hand saw is required for these cuts.

Step 1.

Make the first cut on the underside of the branch about 6 to 12 inches away from the branch collar. Cut a third of the way through the branch to prevent it from tearing during the second cut.

Step 2.

In order to remove the weight of the branch, the second cut is made several inches outside of the first cut, cutting through the branch from top to bottom.

Step 3.

Finally, the third cut is made directly outside of the branch collar. It is also important to disinfect pruning tools between trees using rubbing alcohol or a 10% bleach solution.

What Not to Do

Whatever you do, it is vital to ensure you don’t make these mistakes when pruning your tree. Never prune more than 25% of your tree’s branches during one season of growth. 

Never top your trees. Topping a tree involves cutting down entire tops of trees or large branches and trunks, leaving stubs or lateral branches that are too small to function as a terminal leader. When tree topping occurs, the tree will send out new growth that is quite weak, which allows for infestation of insects, disease, and possibly even decay, significantly shortening the tree’s life. 

Never flush cut while pruning. When a branch is flush-cut, the branch bark ridge and the branch collar are removed, resulting in an injury that a tree cannot seal and which may lead to future decay.

Avoid leaving a branch stub. Cutting a stub is similar to topping or tipping, resulting in weak, poorly attached shoots and prolonging the wound’s healing process, making it vulnerable to diseases and insects.

Avoid using pruning paint or tar. These substances inhibit wound healing and raise the risk of tree decay.

Avoid pruning healthy branches of a newly planted tree. Wait for one growing season before pruning to ensure enough branches and leaves are left to support the tree’s food and energy needs.

Pruning Tips

Pruning TipsHave a clear purpose before making a cut, as each one can affect the tree’s growth and stability. Consider the following factors: 

1. Eliminate the three D’s: dead, diseased, and damaged branches.

2. Remove sprouts and suckers originating from the roots, base, trunk, and branches.

3. Foster a central leader by cutting co-dominant stems to promote a single, upright stem growing up the center.

4. Remove any branches that crossover or rub on other branches.

5. Cut narrow V-shaped branch connections and promote strong U-shaped branch connections.

6. Prune safely and avoid utility lines! If a tree near power lines requires pruning, contact your local utility company.

7. Contact a professionally certified arborist if the job is too big or you’re not confident in your pruning skills. Our team of professionals at Earthworks Tree Services can help you get the job done! Get your free estimate here today!

Scroll to Top