Reasons Why You Have to Prune or Trim a Tree

Whether the tree is not in a good shape or its branches are already blocking the way, it is best to consider pruning or trimming a tree. Letting the tree grow out its branches is not a good idea because these will cause hazards in the near future.

No matter what reasons you have, trimming and pruning a tree in the right way is a must. The reasons why trees are trimmed and pruned are because of the following purposes: safety, aesthetics and health. Why so?

  • Safety

Broken and dead limbs or branches have the chances of falling off any time. Imagine having many trees in your wide backyard. You should consider this as a serious safety hazard. Take this example too. Have you tried driving but the road is blocked by the branches of a tree? These branches could obstruct your vision while you are driving, thus there’s a need of trimming. Also, branches grow close some utility lines. The trees’ branches could disrupt the connection of the utility lines.

  • Aesthetics

Like mentioned, pruning and trimming a tree will help to maintain its appearance and shape. If you have seen trees with good shape and looks healthy, it looks appealing right? A healthy-looking tree is appealing to the eyes, and it really healthy. Remember though; don’t try to impose an unnatural size or shape on a tree even if it’s best to trim it. There should be a right amount of pruning and trimming so you couldn’t seriously damage the tree.

  • Health

If a tree is infected, it is best to save it to prune away affected limbs and branches. If you are not going to do it, the whole tree would be affected and you will have more problems in the future. One way is to thin the crown of a tree so the airflow will improve. Improving the airflow will become very beneficial to the tree. If the trees’ branches are rubbing or crossing together, it should also be trimmed to it won’t fall off any time.


How to Trim and Prune Trees

Trimming a tree requires techniques so you are able to do it by yourself. It is necessary to know the basics about tree trimming if you are planning to take the work by yourself. There are a lot of techniques that will help you keep your trees in nice shape. With the right equipment, you can prune and trim the trees in your background so you are able to maintain their health and appearance. Trimming the trees will also reduce the risk of potential dead branches.

If you’re not comfortable hiring a tree removal service yet because the tree is not that large, there are many trimming and pruning jobs that you can do with your own hands. If you are just going to trim long stems and not big branches, then this job won’t be too hard for you. The best one to keep in mind is prune or trim the unwanted branch of the tree while protecting its trunk and stem. Stems and branches are separated by what we call a stem collar. A stem collar grows out from the stem at the branch’s base. All the trim cuts are recommended to be done on the branch side of this lip tissue, which is the stem collar. Doing this particular method will protect the stem and some other branches that grow from it.

To prevent tearing the stem wood and bark, especially of the larger branches, follow the following procedure:

  1. Decide what to prune.

Before pruning or trimming, you should decide first what to prune. Assess the tree first and spend some time looking at the tree so you can imagine what it looks like when you’re finished doing it. Identify the tree’s major branches. If you find these major branches, avoid pruning it. When you find the small branches that show signs of damage, prune it so the nutrients would be distributed to the healthier ones.

  1. Pruning to Minimize Damage 

Take out your pruning tools. Remember to prune during the dormant season like early winter or late fall so less stress would be put on the trees. Make a small wedge shaped cut on the stem’s collar’s branch underside. Doing this will prevent a tear because it will break the bark at the point of doing it. The tear that will run along the stem tissue and the bark will be prevented, thus the branch won’t crack too close to the trunk.

  1. Do the Cuts Carefully

Start at the branch’s top, going farther along the branch, cut through the branch that leaves a stud end. Make sure that you don’t cut the branch collar because it should be remained intact.

  1. The 3-Cut Technique 

To reduce the stub’s length, make a third parallel cut on the stem collar’s branch side. This procedure will also be used when you trim branches that are joined together in a ‘v’ crotch. This cut is known as a drop crotch cut. The first cut should be the branch’s underside. The second cut should be made through branch from the crotches’ inside. Finally, to successfully shorten the stub, make the last cut to the branch bark ridges’ one side and parallel to it. This cut technique is best to do if you are trimming or pruning a long stem.

  1. Clean the Pruning Equipment 

It’ probably not very important to clean your pruning tool if you have avoided cutting through the infected parts of trees, but it’s still disinfect your tool with any household cleaner you have, like rubbing alcohol. Dip the blades with a cloth impregnated with disinfectant. Diseases have the possibility of spreading through trees too especially if you use the same tool you used while pruning an infected tree. So, if you might find it unnecessary, just imagine that you are performing a surgery and the tools are not cleaned, what happens to the next person you’re about to use it into.

To successfully carry out the task, make sure that you have done the following thing:

  1. Before pruning or trimming, first look for the branch collar. It can be found at the branch’s bottom base because it grows from the stem tissue. Then, look for the branch ridge. It can be found at the upper surface parallel to the stem’s branch angle.
  1. Cut outside the bark ridge, stay the cut away from the stem and make sure you don’t injure the branch collar.
  1. Use the same method trim and prune both living and dead branches.
  1. If the stem is long, you can apply the 3-cut technique which is mentioned above.


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When to Prune and When Not To

You should also consider the best time to prune or trim, however the best time will also depend on why you have to do the trimming in the first place. You just don’t trim or prune your trees because you feel like it. Like everything else, there is a best time to do this task.

The removal of dead wood and some light pruning can be achieved anytime. Here are some guidelines on when to prune and when not to.

Winter Pruning

The most common pruning practice is during dormancy. It results in new growth during the spring and should be used if you desired this effect. Pruning during this season will yield a good effect to the trees especially if the wounds heal faster during this time than any other time. However, it is recommended to wait until the winter’s coldest part will pass. Or, you can do the pruning during either during early winter or late winter. There are tree species like walnuts, maple and birches that might bleed if their sap begins to flow. So, you also have to consider the specie of a tree before you decide when to prune.

Summer Pruning

If you want to slow a ‘dwarf’ development of a branch or tree or you want to direct the growth of the branches, you should do the trimming after the seasonal growth to start pruning. The slowing effect will allow you to reduce the total leaf surface, which reduced the amount of manufactured food and sent to the tree’s roots. This way, the development of the branches will slow down just like how you want it. Another best reason to do summer pruning is for corrective purposes.

When Not to Trim or Prune

A tree’s decay fundi will spread during fall and healing of the tree’s wound is slower, this time shouldn’t be the time to prune your trees. Pruning at a bad time will only yield bad effects to the tree because it won’t be able to heal fast but will make the tree bleed even more. It’s best to wait for the best season to prune your trees for fast healing.


General Tips on Trimming a Tree

It is recommended to prune or trim a tree when it’s on its dormant season. Technically, you can prune or trim a tree any time, but it’s best to do the trimming when the tree is on its dormant season. The only exception to this rule is when a hazard exists.

Be conscientious about the branch’s size that you are going to trim or prune. If the branch is less than 5 centimeters in diameter, trimming is okay. However; if the branch is between 6 and 10 centimeters in diameter, think twice before doing it. If the branch measure 10 centimeters in diameter, trim or prune the branches if you have the best reason to do so.

Trim the branches that have V-shaped, weak and narrow angles. Don’t trim or prune the branches with strong, U-shaped angles.

If you are done pruning the tree, the ratio of tree height to living crown should be at least two-thirds. When you also try to prune the branches that are young, there is a lower risk of leaving scars because trimming at this point is easier to manage.

Another thing to remember is never trim a branch that is too long or too close. Don’t leave a branch collar or a large stub.


If you have to thin the tree’s crown, keep the following techniques and tips in mind.

  • Keep the branches which are lateral as even spaced as you can, especially on younger trees.
  • Prune or trim the branches that cross other branches.
  • Don’t remove more than ¼ of a living crown. If there’s really a need to remove it, spread it out for a couple of years.
  • If you wanted to provide clearance for pedestrians, raise the crown by gently trimming the tree. You should maintain the live branches on at least 2/3 of the height of the tree. Remember too that removing the branches near the bottom half will cause the tree to not develop a strong stem.
  • Remove the whole branch of the foliage if you have plans of removing more than half of it. If you are planning to reduce the tree’s crown, remove it if it’s really necessary.