The Dangers of Not Properly Pruning Your Trees

By: albertaarb - July 22, 2014

Pruning trees may seem a simple task: grab a pair of pruning shears or a saw pruner and start cutting away branches and limbs. Willy-nilly pruning, without having a basic knowledge of tree-pruning techniques, can do lasting damage to a tree. Proper tree pruning, however, results in a healthier, longer-living tree that doesn't require removal in a few years due to poor care.

Improper Tree Pruning Techniques to Avoid

Improper tree pruning causes permanent injury to a tree; while the wound may appear covered and healed over by new bark, the wound will actually affect the tree forever. Where there's damage to an improperly trimmed tree, decay will soon follow. When tree pruning is a necessary undertaking, avoid these common mistakes:

  • Pruning at the wrong time --  Spring tree pruning causes stress to a budding, leafing tree and can stunt or impede the tree's growth. Avoid pruning or trimming trees in the spring when buds are forming and and new leaves are growing.
  • Using an improper cutting method -- When branches are larger than an inch and a half in diameter, cutting branches with one cut can strip and tear bark, leaving the tree vulnerable to insects, cracking and rot. Stripped bark leaves a slow-to-heal wound that puts undue stress on a tree, and can eventually lead to decay. 
  • Creating a Lion-Tailed or Broccoli Tree -- Inexperienced tree-pruners often get carried away and remove all the limbs growing along a branch until nothing is left but a group of limbs at the end of the branch, a condition resembling a lion's tail. A "broccoli tree" has had most of its bottom branches pruned away, creating a tree with an unsightly, high canopy. This pruning method weakens existing branches and puts undue weight on the end of a branch rather than equally along it. Over-burdened branches break, exposed bark becomes sunburned and reduces a tree's ability to engage in photosynthesis due to a lack of leaves.

Proper Pruning Tips for Healthy Trees

Proper tree pruning results in a healthier, more productive tree, especially true in the case of fruit or nut trees. To avoid the common pruning mistakes above, prune trees in the following manner:


  • Prune trees during their dormant season. Pruning during the winter, when many trees have lost their leaves, makes an easier job of shaping trees. 
  • Use a three-cut, not a one-cut, pruning method. In this case, the goal is to create a stub first, which can then be trimmed flush at the tree "collar." The swelling on the underside of the branch is referred to as the "branch collar." Make a cut under the branch, then a cut above at an appropriate distance until the branch drops away. Once the branch has fallen, the stub can be removed by sawing flush with the rest of the bark, at the swelling where the branch grew from the trunk or limb. 
  • Prune trees from the canopy edge, not interior branches and limbs. To avoid the bare, "Broccoli Tree" look, always prune no more than about 10% of a tree's branches at one time.

Proper pruning is essential in order to maintain the health, structural integrity and the asthetics of your trees and shrubs.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.

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