How to Prune a Tree

Pruning trees doesn't have to be a daunting process. Learn how to safely, quickly and easily prune the trees in your yard.
Pruning Tips

Pruning Tips

Depending on the variety, trees need pruning at least every year or so. Regular pruning keeps the branches separated, allowing light to pass through to the other plants in your yard. In the case of a large tree, you may want to hire an arborist to do the pruning for you.

Suggested Pruning Tools

rope saws
pole pruner and lopper
folding pruner
portable buck saws

Steps

1. Identify the type of tree you're working with. Some are fast-growing and cut hard, so it will be a while before you need to prune again. Others, like a lot of pines, will only regenerate from live leaves, so you'll have to prune more selectively.

2. If you're going to prune yourself, invest in a pole pruner. It will help you reach high without a ladder and prune branches up to an inch thick. Buy a better grade pole pruner if you plan to do a lot of pruning. Made of forged steel, it will last longer and do heavier work. Tip: When using heavy equipment, particularly chain saws, wear protective goggles and heavy gloves.

3. When pruning, use the "undercut" technique with the chainsaw. Make a small cut on the underside of the branch you're cutting to prevent breaking.

4. Finish by slicing from the corresponding spot on the topside of the branch, making an even cut. You'll have a clean edge all around, which will heal evenly and allow the branch to grow healthily from that spot.

Next Up

Pruning Trees in the Winter

It is easier to assess and prune deciduous trees in winter, when they are leafless.

Pruning Trees in the Summer

Trees that bleed sap when cut, such as magnolias, are best pruned in summer.

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Remove water shoots and suckers from trees as soon as you can, as they divert water and nutrients from the tree if left to grow. 

Basic Pruning Techniques

Regular pruning can improve a plant’s appearance and stimulate the production of fruit and flowers.

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Hollies easily tolerate pruning but not necessarily in deep winter.

Grow Guide: Pruning Storm-Damaged Trees and a Mysterious Stump Fungus

Try to remove as much of the jagged or torn branches and limbs as you can, in a way that promotes faster healing.

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