Can Pruning Kill a Tree? Know the Facts Before You Begin

By: albertaarb - June 3, 2015

Got a bad haircut? Don’t worry, it’ll grow back. Not necessarily so for your favorite tree if you prune it incorrectly.


Yes, you can actually kill your favorite tree if you prune too much off the top, make an incorrect chop, or even if the timing just isn’t right when you do your pruning.


Knowing the facts before you begin pruning your tree can keep you from accidentally killing your trees.


Here are four important facts to know before you prune.


1. Don’t Chop Off the Top


Just because your neighbor complains about your trees blocking their sun, doesn’t mean you should grab your chainsaw and hack off the top to keep them happy.


Cutting off the all the leaves around the top of a tree, or over-pruning a large section of the crown is known as “topping” and it is one of the most common – and fatal – mistakes people make when pruning their trees.


Topping not only can leave you with a disfigured tree, it severely weakens the branches and support structure which can cause the tree to die.


2. When It Comes to Tree Pruning, Timing Is Everything


Depending on the species and condition of the tree, there are good times and bad times to trim your trees.


If you don’t know the facts before you begin pruning, you can kill your trees – especially if you don’t know when the right – and wrong – time to prune is. Some species should only be trimmed in the spring, some can be trimmed in the summer, some in the fall.


The best and worst times to prune may also be determined by the condition of the tree. If a tree has recently been stressed – say by a recent bug or fungus infection, or even a weather-related event such as a storm – then in general it should not be pruned.


You should always have your trees inspected by a certified arborist before pruning or trimming any of them.


3. Not Knowing Where to Cut Or In What Order


Another common fact many don’t consider when pruning their trees that can kill them is making improper cuts.


Cutting off branches too close to the trunk, removes the branch collar, which has special cells that actually help the tree heal from being cut. If you cut this area off, the wound may become infected by disease, or pests which ultimately can kill the tree.


You may also inadvertently make your trees more susceptible to disease and pests by accidentally tearing off the bark if you don’t take the right precautions when cutting large branches, as those special healing cells won’t form properly.


4. Don’t Over Prune


Over pruning your trees to provide more room for grass or other plants actually can kill your tree.


Generally, you shouldn’t prune off more than about 15 to 20 percent a mature tree’s foliage. Usually, five to ten percent is more than adequate when deciding how much to prune


If you need to make room for other plants, it’s usually  better to remove some of your trees completely, rather than risk killing them by over pruning.


Hire Professional Tree Pruning Experts


Our professionally trained arborists can properly prune your trees & shrubs in order to remove dead, dying, diseased or damaged limbs, increase light & air penetration by selective thinning and also eliminate potential hazards.


Contact us today for a free, no-obligation estimate of your job, and save your money, time (and body) from pruning the trees yourself.

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