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The Ultimate Guide to Tree Pruning – Tips and Techniques for a Healthy Landscape

Pruning is necessary to maintain the health of trees and shrubs. It also promotes good plant form and reduces hazards in the landscape.

How and where you make pruning cuts significantly impacts how plants heal. To do this correctly, understand two important branch features: the branch collar and bark ridge.

Know Your Tree

Pruning is essential to keep trees healthy and safe. It eliminates dead branches, weak limbs that may fall and damage property or people, and branches that rub together. Pruning can also help train the natural shape of a tree or create effects like espalier and topiary.

Proper pruning techniques require knowledge of the species you are working with. This means knowing key characteristics, such as leaf or needle size and shape, branching pattern, bark type, fruiting, and flowers.

Use sharp, clean pruning tools to make quick, accurate cuts. Remember to disinfect tools after each use to prevent the spread of disease. When removing a branch, cut a lateral bud, if possible, outside the ridge of bark that forms at the branch’s base (the branch collar). This will encourage rapid wound closure and minimize the chance of rot.

Know Your Branches

Tree pruning can help keep the shape of the canopy and promote good airflow in the landscape. It can also encourage fast healing of wounds and help prevent structural failure or damage. When pruning branches, it is essential to trim out dead, diseased, or broken limbs and thin the tree to increase light penetration. It is also a good idea to trim away limbs that hang low or are causing a safety hazard.

Before trimming, please look at the branch to see how big it is. Then, locate the branch collar (the swelled-up area under the branch where it connects to the trunk). This may be easier on some trees than others – look for a ridge or a raised spot in the bark slightly higher than the rest of the trunk. You want to make your cut slightly beyond this ridge but not too close so you don’t leave a stub.

Know Your Tools

The old saying “the right tool for the job” applies to pruning just as much as any other gardening or landscaping task. Using or misapplying the wrong tools can seriously injure a tree—or you.

Sharp, clean pruning shears or loppers will suffice for most pruning tasks. But you’ll need a pruning saw for branches too large for shears or loppers. These are available with an anvil or bypass blade and come in various sizes. Some have handles that telescope for increased reach.

A hard hat is necessary for pruning work above shoulder height for safety reasons. Also, eye protection is recommended to guard against flying debris and ricocheting twigs. Also, a specialty orchard ladder may be required to prune and pick delicious fruit trees. These ladders have three legs and are more stable than traditional ladders. They can be rented from many garden centers.

Know Yourself

While pruning shrubs and small trees can be done on your own or with the help of a few friends, larger branches require professional training. It’s also important to use caution with any power tools, which can be dangerous if not used properly.

Branches that grow too close to utility lines can pose serious safety concerns during a storm. They are also more likely to break or splinter if not pruned regularly.

While trees are unique, organic creatures with their natural growth patterns, they should be pruned to keep them looking neater, reducing the risk of branch and limb or entire tree failure. This helps improve the plant’s health, protects property and people from damage, and prevents obstructed views. It can even help reduce energy bills. Like the adage of “measure twice and cut once,” you should always have a plan before cutting any tree limbs. This will help reduce the amount of pruning a tree needs over time and avoid depleting its energy reserves.

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