Pruning Young Trees

Pruning Trees

What to Prune

  • Only remove dead, dying, diseased, broken or crossing branches.
  • Remove branches when there are conflicts with utility lines (always consult a professional) and lines of sight related to pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and low limbs over sidewalks.
  • If young trees are forked at a narrow angle, prune to create one central leader. This trains the tree to grow straight.
  • Remove sprouts or suckers at the base of the tree or inside the tree crown that are upright and grow rapidly.
  • Pruning should be done sparingly. If you remove too many leaves, a tree cannot gather and process enough sunlight to make food.

When to Prune

  • For most trees, prune in late winter or early spring before leaves emerge.
  • Prune dead, diseased and broken limbs as soon as you notice them. Prompt pruning prevents the spread of decay and cavity development.
  • Young trees should not be pruned for shape until after the first two growing seasons.
  • Never remove more that 25% of the live crown (leaves, twigs and branches) in a single year.

How to Prune

  • When pruning diseased branches, dip the pruners in household bleach or rubbing alcohol before storing or making the next cut.
  • Once you begin a cut, always finish it.
  • Trees do NOT need wound dressings to recover from pruning. Through natural processes, the tree will callus over the wound by itself.
  • Pruning mature or large trees should be left to Certified Arborists. Large branches are removed by making three cuts.
  • Consult the International Society of Arboriculture for more information.