Structural Pruning for Young Trees

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Pruning is all about perspective. What are your pruning goals? Consider your objective and take a few laps around your tree to get a better idea of what you want to do while prioritizing structural problems. Imagine the branches on the tree in 3 years or 5 years when you come back to prune again. Remember, when pruning a tree, remove less than 20% of the canopy in one year. You won’t accomplish everything this season- choose wisely.

Although the best time to prune trees is the winter, summer foliage allows you to see dead wood and new growth directions more clearly.

  • Prune for dead, damaged, or diseased wood
  • Prune large shade trees for a dominant leader
  • Prune for conflicting, crossing, or rubbing branches
  • Prune for good branch spacing (at least 2” apart on the trunk)
  • Prune for obstacles (branches touching house, hitting the car in the driveway, blocking a sidewalk, etc.)
  • Prune for included bark (look for “v” shaped crotches)
  • Prune for suckers
  • Prune for balance and aesthetic

Don’t forget the proper pruning cut, just outside the branch collar. The proper pruning cut will trigger healing hormones to seal around the cut and protect your tree from decay.

You’ll know it’s a good cut if it makes a perfect circle. For larger branches, use the 3 cut method.

Do you have a tree that needs pruning but you have a question? Contact our program director, Kylie Stackis at kylie@treesupstate.org for some guidance.