How do you prune a tree?

Pruning large trees can be dangerous and is best to hire a professional arborist. An arborist can determine the type of pruning necessary to improve the health, appearance, and safety of your trees. A professional arborist can provide the services of a trained crew, with all of the required safety equipment and liability insurance.

  • Educate yourself about proper tree pruning (by visiting websites or or hire a professional tree trimmer.
  • If you decide to tackle pruning yourself, have a purpose in mind before making a cut. Good pruning techniques remove structurally weak branches while maintaining the natural form of the tree. For most young trees, maintain a single dominant leader. Leave some lateral branches in place, even though they may be pruned out later, to contribute to the development of a sturdy well-tapered trunk and to help protect the trunk from the sun and mechanical injury. Branches selected to be permanent must be well-spaced, both vertically and radially, along the trunk. A good rule of thumb for vertical spacing of permanent branches is to maintain a distance equal to 3% of the tree's eventual height.
  • Use the proper tools and make sure they are clean and sharp. Clean and sterilize tools before making cuts on another tree to prevent the spread of pathogens. For branches up to ½" in diameter, bypass hand pruners are adequate. For branches larger than ½" in diameter, use loppers or a pruning saw.
  • Prune branches that are dead, dying, diseased, crowded, weakly attached (those with narrow angles of attachment and tight crotches), of low-vigor, and to increase light and air penetration, reduce weight on heavy limbs, and provide clearance.
  • Make clean cuts just outside the branch collar.
  • Cut branches back to a lateral branch or bud. Do not make internodal cuts (cuts between buds or branches).
  • Avoid over thinning the interior of the tree, which can starve the tree, reduce growth and make the tree unhealthy. Maintain at least half the foliage on branches arising in the lower two-thirds of the tree.
  • Do not use wound dressing. It does not reduce decay or speed wound closure and rarely prevents insect or disease infestations.

Show All Answers

1. How do I select a tree?
2. How do I plant a tree?
3. How do I hire an Arborist?
4. How do you prune a tree?
5. Removing a tree?