Pruning A Tree - Purpose, Types, Techniques & FAQs

How to Prune And Trim a Tree

Tree pruning and other concerns requiring special attention are covered in these broad guidelines. Ideally, tree pruning should only be done by qualified and experienced arborists with horticulture and tree care skills. However, keep reading if you want to attempt it yourself or want to know the process!

What Is Tree Pruning

Tree pruning is the process of removing undesirable branches from a tree to reduce risk and discomfort to the public, preserve or improve the health and structure of the tree, or improve the appearance of the tree. Pruning trees incorrectly is damaging to their beauty and health and may result in irreversible damage to trees.

What is The Purpose of Tree Pruning

Pruning helps in shaping a tree. Before beginning any pruning operation, it is necessary to determine the pruning objectives. The three primary reasons for tree pruning are as follows:

1. Preserving or enhancing the health and structure of trees

Keep trees healthy and flourishing by preventing pest and disease invasions by removing dead or insect-carrying twigs and branches that provide harbourage for pests and diseases.

As a result, the increasing the amount of light and air that enters or passes through the crown eliminates densely packed leaves, twigs, and branches. Preserving lowers the likelihood of harm in the event of a heavy wind by trimming out overgrown twigs and branches. This is critical, even more so when the tree’s root structure is disturbed by transplantation or surrounding construction work.

2. Reducing Public Risk and Inconvenience

It maintains clear and safe roadways by removing branches that restrict motorists’ sightlines or physically obstruct vehicular accesses, resulting in insufficient headroom for heavy vehicles like double-decker buses. It also helps avoid interlacement with overhead cables through routine tree cutting to maintain a safe distance between trees and overhead wires.

As a result, it helps in safeguarding pedestrians and property from damage caused by fallen, dangling, and detached twigs/branches. Twigs/branches that have the potential to fall should be removed immediately upon detection. It also helps in ensuring enough road lighting by removing tree branches that obstruct street lamps.

3. Enhancing Tree Appearance

Pruning also helps to keep trees in the best possible shape and structure. It helps prevent food reserve wastage by removing weak branches and unattractive shoots that originate from the tree’s base to conserve food reserve for the tree’s healthy portions.

When to Prune Trees

Pruning is best done in late fall and early winter after trees have shed their leaves. The naked branches provide a clear view of the tree structure. Avoid extensive pruning during “maple sugar season” (January through early March in most areas). Oak beetles are active from late spring until summertime. If your region is affected by oak wilt, avoid pruning your oaks during this period.

When you see dead or diseased branches, prune them away. Pruning these branches in the fall or winter may result in additional tree damage or infection in the event of sick branches. (When pruning unhealthy branches, immerse the pruning blade in a 10% bleach solution between cuts to prevent disease spread.)

Types of Pruning

You can improve a tree’s health and shape in various ways. Each aims to produce a tree with good light and air circulation, beauty, and strength. Crown thinning, crown raising, crown reduction, and crown cleaning are general pruning procedures. You’ll notice that each method includes the tree’s crown because photosynthesis requires leaves from the tree’s summit. The remainder of the tree will weaken without a robust and healthy crown.

1. Crown Raising

Crown raising is the process of lifting the bottom edge of tree limbs to make room for traffic, buildings, or a view. One should carry out this kind of tree pruning gradually over an extended period. Eliminating an excessive number of lower branches all at once can result in a weak tree. Each year, prune only a few limbs with a diameter of fewer than four inches. I prefer to take a few steps back and assess the tree’s overall balance regularly. On deciduous trees, the live crown should comprise 60% of the tree. If the trunk begins to deteriorate above 40%, the tree may become weakened. Most conifers can be balanced at a 50/50 crown/trunk ratio and still stay strong and healthy.

2. Crown thinning

Thinning the crown entails removing certain living branches from a tree to minimize its density. The most typical pruning on mature trees is thinning. It improves sunlight and air circulation. It can help lessen limb stress from gravity, wind, ice, and snow.

Because the goal is not to modify the tree’s size or shape, thinning should be uniform. One should remove only 10-20% of the canopy’s tree branches. Large trees benefit from removing limbs 1–4 inches in diameter. Cut out smaller limbs 14-12 inches thick from ornamental landscaping and fruit trees. One should do crown thinning in such a way that the tree appears unpruned.

3. Crown restoration

In trees damaged by storms or vandalism, crown restoration is usually the only trimming required. Trees can benefit from having their branches pruned back to smaller than typical lateral branches in the expectation that the tree will preserve or eventually regain its natural form and beauty.

The specifications for crown restoration might vary significantly depending on the tree species being pruned and the degree of damage to the tree. “Crown repair by pruning weak or damaged branches back to lateral branches that are at least one-third the diameter of their parent limb,” for example, could be said.

4. Vista pruning

Vista pruning is a technique in which branches are pruned or removed to improve the view of scenery or an object from a predetermined vantage point. When it comes to vista pruning, it may be necessary to remove entire branches, or it may be required to thin, or even over-thin, a specific part of the tree canopy.

Pruning standards for the vista operating system When it comes to pruning, a lot will depend on what kind of view you’re trying to achieve. Still, it could be as simple as saying, “If you’re looking at it from the patio, remove the three lowest branches on the right side of the tree back to its main trunk, and remove the lowest branch on the left side of the tree back to its main trunk to improve your lake view.”

5. Crown Reductions

Crown reduction is a type of tree trimming technique most often performed on older, more mature trees. It can assist in strengthening the tree and promoting new growth. Crown reduction is the process of relocating a tree branch to a growing lateral branch. This lateral branch will become an integral element of the new tree crown when the spring growing season begins. This procedure, in my opinion, is a more benign alternative to tree topping. There are fewer cuts, the more small crown is eliminated, and sufficient old growth is retained for structure. While crown thinning is used to thin out branches and foliage, crown reduction removes old growth and promotes new.

6. Cleaning of the Crown

When trimming a tree, the crown cleaning process involves removing dead, diseased, and broken branches. It is a procedure that can be performed at any time and should be incorporated in crown thinning, elevating, and reduction procedures. Cleaning the tree crown strengthens the tree as a whole, minimizes future harm to the tree and surrounding property, and improves the overall safety of your landscape.

7. Espalier pruning

It is uncommon to see espalier pruning on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. It is more prevalent in Europe, where small courtyards could accommodate trees if they clipped to remain tightly against a wall. Espalier pruning necessitates a significant investment of time and work, but the resulting plant is virtually always visually appealing and attention-grabbing.

Even though I’ve never had to develop a pruning specification for an espalier, if I did, it may look something like this: “prune all non-horizontal growth to retain existing, horizontal branching habit.”


Pruning Techniques

To ensure that it is done safely and correctly, qualified professionals should carry pruning under the supervision of experienced personnel with horticulture, arboriculture, and tree care skills.

For your convenience, we’ve included a list of common trimming strategies below.

1. Stay close

When removing a lateral branch entirely, avoid cutting it flush with the main trunk or leaving a stub. It is essential to stay as close to the trunk or parent limb as possible during the final cut and avoid cutting into the branch bark ridge or collar. Long and heavy branches should be cut in a section-by-section fashion, following the sequence of the part by section.

2. Older trees

On older trees, avoid topping (i.e., cutting the trunk and branches between nodes, leaving stubs) to prevent the tree from becoming diseased. Topping would hurt the form and structure of the tree and cause deterioration in the trunk and branches.

3. Dead branches

They must be pruned back to the live tissue or growing point where they originated.

4. Single top cut

Using a single top cut that results in bark tearing should be avoided, and one should use an undercut approach instead.

How to Trim Large Branches

Trimming large branches requires just a little more care and is slightly different from trimming smaller branches. Some ways of trimming large branches are:

1. Start with a small cut

A tiny notch should be made in your branch rather than a full cut when you initially start cutting it. When this occurs, it should take place at the very bottom of the limb of the branch, around 2-3 feet away from the tree’s stem. Approximately a fourth of the way through the process, one should cut.

2. Continue with a relief cut

As soon as you have finished making your notch cut, which is holding the tree’s bark in place, you may move on to the next cut, which is a relief cut. Ideally, you should make this cut just outside of the notch cut and about a foot or more away from where you will be making your final cut. This relief cut should entirely remove the branch from the tree, leaving just a much smaller branch attached to the tree that is small enough to be lifted with one hand.

3. Finish with your final cut

After making the initial two cuts to assure your safety (and the safety of your tree), you may proceed to the last cut, which is the actual cut that removes the branch from your tree. This cut should occur at the point where the branch collar transitions into the smooth branch bark. If you’re unsure where this happens, look for a swollen lump towards the beginning of your branch. When cutting, ensure that you cut along the slant of the branch collar rather than straight down. Cut the bottom up if it is more convenient for you and the tool you are using.

4. Avoid cutting the branch too short

While it may appear that cutting the branch directly off the tree with the trunk is the proper procedure, this is not the case. There should be no hole in the tree trunk following the cutting since this will prevent the callus tissue from correctly forming. Trees have an exceedingly difficult time recovering from rotten holes or oozing wounds, which are frequently caused by excessive branch pruning.

5. Avoid leaving the branch for an extended period

In contrast to the preceding, leaving the branch too long will also doom your tree. The callus tissue cannot mend if the branch collar is not severed since the healing area remains covered. Leaving the branches uncut for an extended period will delay the healing process from occurring.

Safety Measures for Tree Pruning

To safeguard both the operatives and the public, the following safety procedures are advised during pruning operations:

  • Operators should dress in proper protective clothing, such as goggles, chainsaw trousers, safety boots, gloves, and helmets when working with chainsaws.
  • Implement job-specific instruments such as small chainsaws, pole saws, tube saws, long pruners, ladders, and rope to complete the job efficiently.
  • Remove everything from the trees that could become a stumbling block during the pruning process.
  • Keep a first-aid kit on you at all times in case of an emergency.
  • Whenever possible, avoid pruning trees on humid, windy, or wet days, as this will make the job more difficult.
  • Appropriate personnel should be assigned to the task of maintaining traffic flow.
  • Clean up and secure the tree pruning area to prevent unauthorized access.
  • Install directional/warning signs to divert traffic/pedestrians if necessary, with permission from the appropriate authorities.

How much to trim a tree? Prune to eliminate problems but do not dramatically alter the tree’s form. Remove inward-growing branches that could go crossroads, interfere with buildings, or have narrow V-shaped crotches. Eliminate secondary or originating at the same level on the trunk. Small branch training enables a well-formed, safe, and appealing landscape tree.


1. What is the Difference Between Pruning and Trimming?

Trimming is primarily used on shrubs and hedges, whereas pruning is used on trees and shrubs of all kinds. Both services are provided at different times of day and with varying types of equipment.

2. Do Tree Branches Grow Back After Pruning?

When trees are pruned properly, the branches that are eliminated will not regrow. Instead, the tree will develop what appears to be a callous over the pruning cut, which will aid in the protection of the tree against decay and disease. It is not necessary to use a pruning sealer because trees heal on their own.

3. Why Does Trimming the Plant top Make the Plant Bushier?

Trimming the top of the plant damages or destroys the apical meristem, which is responsible for activating the growth of the axillary meristems. Trimming encourages the plant to create new rhizomes, which leads to the development of more branches.

4. Which is the Best Tool to Cut Tree Branches?

To do this, One must make clean and precise cuts. Specifically designed for this purpose, bypass pruners, which cut like a pair of scissors but have a curved cutting blade that slips past a lower broad blade, are recommended. A lopper, also known as lopping shears, is the tool of choice for cutting branches with a diameter of 2 inches or less. The size of the branch that one will clip should be specified on the lopper label.

Also Read:

How to Grow a Bonsai Tree at Home
Best Trees to Plant in a Small Space
Lucky Plants for Wealth, Health, and Love

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