Tree Pruning Tips & Tricks

Trees play an important role in your landscaping. They add shade to keep your outdoor space cool, and they also add depth and interest. Accenting trees with landscape lighting can add drama and highlight the plant’s beauty after the sun goes down.

But just like any other plant, trees require routine care to stay healthy and strong. Pruning is an important part of maintaining healthy trees.

Here are some helpful tree pruning tips to keep your trees looking their best.

Fall and Winter Tree Pruning Tips

Fall is an important time for corrective tree pruning. Now is the ideal time to remove branches that:

  • Interfere with the growth of other plants
  • Could potentially damage your home or other structures during storms
  • Are diseased or damaged

Winter pruning can invigorate trees, encouraging healthier growth and helping ward off disease.

Here are some tips for fall and winter pruning:

  • Prune deciduous trees after the leaves have fallen.
  • Prune weaker limbs to protect structures and promote tree health. Pay attention to the angle formed by the branch. The narrower the angle, the weaker the branch.
  • Walnut, dogwood, maple, birch and elm trees should all be pruned in the fall.
  • Use the 3D rule when determining what to prune first. Ask yourself whether the branch is diseased, damaged or dead. If so, remove these branches first before pruning anything else.
  • Prune no more than 1/3 of branches that produce new growth.

In winter, avoid pruning oak trees, as this makes them more susceptible to Phytophthora ramorum. This plant pathogen causes Sudden Oak Death.

Prune Side Shoots or Suckers to Promote Tree Health

Tree suckers and shoots should be pruned as quickly as possible to keep your trees healthy. These are the quick-growing, vertical stems growing alongside your trees. They share the same root system, and they can quickly zap your healthy trees of all their energy.

In many cases, a tree’s rootstock will grow plant suckers because the tree is under stress, like disease, drought, pests or overwatering. Regular, healthy pruning can help limit this new growth to keep your trees healthy.

To prune side shoots:

  • Use hand pruning shears to trim the shoot down to the base of the tree.
  • Take care not to damage the trunk of the tree when pruning.

You will likely need to prune regularly to keep this growth under control.

Use Tree Trimming to Open the Canopy

Without regular, healthy pruning, tree growth can quickly get out of control. Thick, dense canopies can starve the plants below of oxygen and light.

Use tree trimming to open up the tree’s canopy to allow more light to penetrate through to other plants in your landscaping and to keep your lawn healthy.

When trimming trees:

  • Make upward cuts to remove branches. Cut about an inch from the collar.
  • Thin canopies when the plant is dormant.
  • Focus on pruning small branches from the outside of the canopy rather than the interior.

Take care not to overdo it when thinning a tree’s canopy. Trimming lower and interior branches will lead to a weak tree, so take care only to remove branches that are small (1-3″ in diameter) and on the outside portion of the main branches.

Proper tree pruning and trimming can help keep your trees and the rest of your landscaping looking its best. It also encourages healthy growth so that you enjoy your trees for many years to come.

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