Common Tree Pruning Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Posted on: 17 March 2020

Most people are aware that healthy landscape trees require periodic pruning, but they may not be fully aware of the major pruning mistakes that can damage or even kill a tree. Know what these mistakes are so you can ensure they don't happen to your tree.

Know Why You Are Pruning

Don't simple start cutting out branches because a tree needs to be pruned. Determine your end goal for the tree. For example, a tree with a dense canopy needs to be thinned, where one with a uneven growth may need to be cut back. Young trees typically need trained, where as mature trees only need maintained. Know what you want to achieve for each particular tree before you cut so you can develop a customized approach to trimming.

Sharpen Your Tools

Dull tools can injure both trees and people. A sharp tool cuts cleanly through a branch, reducing the chance of injury to the tree. Sharp tools also cut with less effort, which reduces the chances of the tool slipping and causing injury to the person wielding the tool.

Learn the Techniques

How you prune is just as important as what you prune with. When removing branches smaller than your thumb, for example, use bypass pruning shears. For larger branches, pull out the pruning saw. Make all cuts right at the branch collar, which is the slightly swollen ring of wood at the base of a branch. Smooth, flat cuts heal over quicker and cause less stress to the tree. For trimming back a branch but not removing it, make the cut just in front of a leaf bud or node so you don't end up with bare branch tips.

Follow Proper Timing

As a general guideline, most trees are pruned most heavily in in late winter while they are still dormant. This is the time for major shaping and removal of damaged wood. Some flowering trees are an exception, and are better pruned right after they finish blooming. A tree service can provide you with proper timing for your flowering trees. You can prune out dead, damaged, and dangerous branches at any time of year, as needed.

Never Over-Prune

It can sometimes be tempting to prune a tree too much. As a basic rule, avoid removing more than a third of the canopy in a single year. Too few leaves remaining will weaken a tree, so if you want to cut back drastically you must do it over several years. Never top a tree, either. Always work to maintain the natural shape of the canopy as you prune.

Contact a tree trimming service in your area if you're unsure how much trimming you should do, or if you would rather then address this issue for you.