Tree Trimming Basics

Tree trimming is an important part of maintaining healthy trees and shrubs. It helps to direct growth and reduce the risk of damage or disease.Tree Trimming

When pruning a tree, it is important to make the cuts in a way that won’t damage the trunk or crown. The goal is to refocus the tree’s growth into a lateral branch, twig, or bud. Visit to learn more.

The main reason for pruning a tree is to remove dead branches, which are a hazard for people and property. However, other reasons include promoting flower and fruit production, increasing sunlight penetration to the ground, reducing soil erosion, and improving the overall look of the tree. The ideal time to prune a tree is during its dormancy in winter, as this lowers the risk of diseases and pest infestations in open wounds.

Regardless of the reason for trimming, you should never remove more than 25% of a tree’s canopy at one time. This can cause stress for the plant, and it can also lead to fungus problems and other health issues down the road.

When removing a branch, start by making the first cut underneath the branch at a 45-degree angle, about 2–3 inches up from the base of the trunk. This will help prevent the bark from ripping if the branch falls while being removed. Then, move up a few inches and make another cut just outside the branch collar—the slightly swollen area on the trunk where the branch meets it. This will help ensure that the wound closes properly, preventing water from settling into it and causing rot.

After that, cut the branch down to a stub no larger than an inch in diameter. Then, use the second cut to finish the removal, cutting it off just beyond the stub. Finally, make a third cut on the underside of the branch just outside the collar to leave a clean stub. This helps ensure that the wound will callus over quickly, lowering the risk of rot and insect infestation.

Always use sharp, clean pruning tools when removing branches. Dull tools will damage the wood and spread disease through the open wounds. Additionally, be careful not to nick or cut the trunk of the tree. This can cause rot and create serious structural problems for the plant. Finally, be sure to always remove debris from the site of each cut—anything left behind will provide a food source for insects and fungus.

Branches that need to be removed

Step 1: Remove dead branches. Dead or dying tree branches are the first thing that needs to be cut, as they are an invitation for pests and disease to take up residence, can cause safety hazards, and may lead to the collapse of the entire canopy. This is also a good time to take a close look at the branch union to ensure that it looks healthy and secure. Look for a ridge or circle of bark extending out from the base of the branch to the supporting stem or for the branch collar, which is a slightly swollen area of bark at the base of the branch. A proper pruning cut begins just outside the branch collar and angles down and away from the stem, avoiding injury to the living tissue.

If you’re not sure whether a branch is alive or dead, scratch the bark to see if it’s green underneath. Also, remember that a mature tree shouldn’t have more than 20% of its live wood removed each year. Over-thinning a tree starves it of the energy that it needs to grow and thrive, as well as leading to the dangerous practice of “lion tailing.”

Next up on the to-do list is removing branches that are hanging low or touching your home or other structures. These branches can be a tripping or climbing hazard, as well as providing an easy pathway for squirrels and other pests to access the interior of the tree. This can be accomplished by removing the lower portion of the branch, leaving a stub that will grow back to a suitable height over time.

Finally, make sure that you’re following standard clearance pruning guidelines, which are 3 feet from buildings and structures, 8 feet over sidewalks, 8 feet over roofs, and 14 feet over roadways. It’s also a good idea to avoid the temptation to seal pruning cuts with tree paint or wound dressings, as these materials don’t aid in the healing process and actually interfere with it.

Branches that need to be lifted

Branches provide support not only for the tree itself but also for any flowers, fruits, or leaves it may produce. They also play an important role in anchoring the tree and reducing the impact of storms or winds on it. For this reason, it is crucial to remove damaged or unhealthy branches from your trees. However, it’s important to balance this with the needs of the rest of the tree. If too many branches are removed, the tree will become overgrown and unstable.

Keeping the tree balanced and healthy is the key to avoiding structural problems. This can be done by removing dead or diseased branches and thinning to reduce the weight of the canopy. It is also a good idea to remove any branches that rub on or bind other branches, as these can create a point of weakness that can lead to the failure of the branch or the entire tree.

The proper technique for removing any large branch is called crown lifting. This involves shortening the lower branches of a tree to allow access for mowing or to better enjoy the shade it casts. This is especially important for street or lawn trees to allow vehicles or mowers under the tree.

Proper pruning will help prevent damage to your property and injuries to people or pets. It can also reduce the risk of storm damage and improve the aesthetics of your landscape. If you are thinking of trimming your own trees, make sure to use sharp, clean tools. Dull tools can damage the tree and spread disease through the open wounds of the branches you cut. You should also avoid letting the cuts heal improperly, which can result in rot or insect infestation.

A common mistake when thinning is over-thinning, which can starve the tree of its foliage. Over-thinning also leaves the tree vulnerable to wind damage and makes it more susceptible to decay. A good rule of thumb for determining how much to thin is to examine 6–12 twigs randomly around the canopy and evaluate their size.

Branches That Need to Be Thinned

Often, the main branches of a tree grow too thick. Thinning them out allows more light to reach the lower branches and other plants growing underneath. It also helps reduce the risk of fungus and insects that thrive in areas where leaves, flowers, or fruits are close together. The ideal time for this type of pruning is during the winter or early spring because it promotes new growth and reduces the chance of diseases developing in open wounds.

While thinning is a great idea for most trees, it’s important to be very selective about the branches you remove. Cutting too many branches at once can make the remaining foliage less strong, and it can also increase the amount of wind damage that a tree suffers during storms. A general rule of thumb is that no more than one-third of a branch should be removed when you thin it.

The best place to start when you’re thinning a tree is the outer canopy, where you should cut away any branches that are crossing or duplicating each other. This can help increase light penetration and air movement throughout the crown, which will reduce weight on the large limbs of a tree, reducing the risk of damage during storms. It can also reduce the “wind-sail” effect of clumps of foliage and promote the development of taper on interior branches.

When you’re removing branches, make sure to use a sharp tool like a pair of secateurs or loppers. Cutting with a dull blade can compromise the natural protection system of a tree, opening it up to fungus and insect infestations. It’s also important to prune as closely to the trunk as possible. You want to make the final cut just outside what’s called the stem collar, a small lip of bark that each branch protrudes from. This keeps the area around the branch wound clean, allowing it to heal quickly and protecting the tree from insects and diseases.

Another way to promote thinning is by removing suckers that form at the base of a tree. These aren’t as healthy for a tree, and they can eventually compete with the main branches and prevent them from getting enough sunlight to develop properly.