Pruning is a critical maintenance activity for many landscape trees. When done properly, it reduces wind damage and promotes healthy growth. Avoid indiscriminate pruning practices such as topping, which can seriously affect tree health and branch structure. Be aware of the pruning needs of the specific species in your landscape. Certain shade and flowering trees excrete large amounts of sap from pruning wounds. To learn more, visit this website at

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Pruning Techniques

When pruning trees, it’s important to understand a few basic principles. A properly executed pruning technique promotes healthy tree growth, which improves appearance, increases strength, and protects the structure of the plant from damage or disease. Pruning also helps control the size and shape of a plant, which can be critical to its success as a landscape accent or shade tree. The four most common pruning techniques are thinning, crown raising, crown reduction and crown cleaning.

When using the thinning technique, the goal is to reduce overall branch density and encourage vigorous growth of remaining branches. This is done by selectively removing branches that are rubbing, crossing over each other, dead or damaged, or that have lost their vigor. Thinning can also be used to correct poor growth form or to reduce wind resistance in a tree.

This is a more difficult and time-consuming pruning technique than heading. It involves reducing the number of terminal branches on a tree by cutting them back to lateral branches or to the trunk. The goal is to promote new side branching and maintain a full, natural crown shape. This method is often recommended for younger deciduous trees and is an especially good choice for species that produce a lot of suckers, such as lilacs, azaleas or rose-of-Sharon.

It’s important to remember that when cutting a branch, it should be cut back to a branch, twig or bud that is pointed in the desired direction of growth. This will prevent the removal of too many low temporary branches, which can weaken a young tree. Instead, when pruning young or growing-in trees, prune the lower branches to a point about 8 to 12 inches above the ground.

Always cut above a small lip of bark that is known as the stem collar. This area is vital to the health of a tree, and cutting it can cause serious damage or even death to the plant. Avoid making flush cuts, which leave stubs that are more vulnerable to decay.

Homeowners can safely handle most pruning of young plants, but pruning high, heavy limbs of mature trees requires a certain level of skill and safety equipment. If power lines, people or property are nearby, it’s best to have a professional tree care company perform these services.


While pruning can help your trees look their best, it’s also important to keep them safe. Overgrown branches can be a hazard to people, cars and other structures. They can also prevent plants below from getting the nutrients and sunlight they need to thrive.

Performing the correct pruning techniques can prevent damage and maintain safety while also encouraging growth. A well-maintained tree is more resilient to disease, insect infestation and storm damage.

Thinning is a common type of pruning that involves selectively removing smaller branches from the crown to improve the structure of your trees. This opens up the foliage to increase light penetration and air flow, and reduces the load on more substantial limbs. Thinning is often performed before the onset of a hurricane season, as it can help keep trees from becoming top heavy and prone to collapse or falling during severe weather.

When a branch or limb is removed, it creates a wound on the plant that can be a source of infection and disease. This is why it’s important to make clean, sloping cuts to reduce the size of the wound. It is also helpful to use a sharp, properly-sized tool. This will ensure that the cut is made flush with the trunk or branch collar, which helps to prevent wound decay and provides a natural barrier against insect pests and diseases.

While there are many different pruning techniques, some of the most common include thinning, raising and reduction. Thinning removes smaller branches from the crown to open up the foliage and light penetration, whereas raising reduces a tree’s height for clearance for buildings or vehicles. Reduction is similar to thinning, but it’s used to reduce the size of a tree or shrub to allow for utility line clearance or to maintain form and structure.

Pruning is typically done during the winter, while the plant is dormant. This can be a great time to prune, as the lack of leaves makes it easier to identify dead or damaged branches that need to be removed. Pruning should always be done in a manner that doesn’t disturb the bark ridge and branch collar of a tree, as these are vital for promoting the health and longevity of your plants.


While pruning and trimming are similar in that they both involve cutting back plant material, a tree must be pruned for the sake of health whereas a hedge or shrub must be maintained for the sake of appearance. Specialized pruning techniques such as thinning and heading can help to enhance the beauty and shape of your plants, but you must determine the desired outcome of your landscape plan before deciding what type of horticulture technique to use.

The purpose of thinning is to open up a tree’s crown by removing branches that rub, cross over one another or interfere with other branches. This is a specialized procedure that should be performed by a professional arborist. It involves removing the overlapping and crossing branches while spacing the remaining branches along the major limbs to promote more symmetrical growth. This also allows the trees to better resist wind damage.

Heading, on the other hand, refers to promoting more dense growth. This is accomplished by shortening the ends of existing branches and shoots to encourage regrowth at those points. This is a very effective way to create an attractive shape and to reduce the overall size of a plant.

Many types of shrubs and plants require a combination of thinning and heading to achieve the aesthetics you desire. Some species of evergreens such as spruce, pine and fir respond well to a thinning technique that removes rubbing and overlapping branches while spacing them evenly around the main trunk. Others, such as broadleaf evergreens like holly or magnolias, do not need to be pruned at all because they develop a naturally symmetrical shape.

Pruning Heavy Branches

When the weight of a large branch or limb becomes too much for the tree to support, it is time to prune it. Heavy branches can cause damage or injury to people and property. When they are removed with proper technique, a tree can be maintained in safety while maintaining its health and beauty.

In a three-step process, thick and heavy branches or limbs are cut away from the tree with a sharp pruning shear, lopping shears, or a hand saw. The first cut is made at the underside of the limb where it meets the trunk. The second cut is a little farther back on the limb, about halfway into the branch. Finally, the final cut is made at the branch collar swelling on the lower side of the limb. This swollen area, which is rough and darker than the rest of the bark, acts as a natural barrier against decay-causing organisms.

Proper pruning helps to keep trees healthy, encourages a well-shaped canopy and controls size. When done in the right way, it also prevents disease and promotes strong growth. Tree pruning mainly involves the removal of diseased, dead, damaged, or loose branches. It also involves removing branches that are interfering with the growth of other parts of the tree, such as crossing over one another.

The best time to prune a tree is in late winter or early spring. Pruning is most beneficial for young trees, as it establishes a sturdy structure that will need less corrective pruning as they grow older. A strong framework of primary branches is vital to a mature tree’s form.

When pruning, it is important to always use sharp tools that are regularly cleaned and oiled. A sharp tool will ensure a clean, smooth cut and will minimize the chance of introducing diseases into the wounds. In addition, it is important to keep in mind that tree trimming and pruning is difficult and dangerous work, and should be left to professionals with the proper tools and expertise. If you are not a professional, be sure to wear head and eye protection when using pole pruners.