Tree Pruning tips and guides

Pruning trees, especially when younger, helps promote healthy trees with good branch architecture. Good pruning:

* promotes good branch structure
* can correct poor branch structure
* reduces potential hazards
* improves overall health by removing dead, diseased, and dying branches
* gives the arborist a chance to examine the tree more closely than possible from the ground

Pruning Standards

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) requires the use of certain tools, cutting techniques, and pruning methods. If an arborist is adhering to the standard they:

  • will not leave branch stubs
  • will make few or no heading cuts
  • will not cut off the branch collar (not make a flush cut)
  • will not top or lions tail trees
  • will not remove more than 25% of the foliage of a single branch
  • will not remove more than 25% of the total tree foliage in a single year
  • will not damage other parts of the tree during pruning
  • will not use wound paint

When to Prune

It is generally recommended that some limited pruning be done at the time of planting. Generally, dead, broken, and split branches should be removed when a young tree is planted. Once the tree is established (up to one year or more after planting) a central trunk or leader or well-spaced multiple trunks or leaders should be developed by removing competing leaders and heading or thinning vigorously growing branches that compete with the selected leader(s). Branches should be retained on the lower trunk to increase taper. The pruning of large branches and/or working off the ground should be left to professional tree experts with proper equipment.

Pruning Paint

In the past, part of the standard recommendation was to apply a generous coating of a tree wound dressing to all fresh cuts. It was believed this would prevent decay-causing infection. However, research has shown that this practice works against nature’s design and the trees’ best interest. All of the wound dressings currently available do nothing to prevent decay, and some serve as a food source for microorganisms. They also can hold moisture against the cut wood, promoting the growth of decay-causing microorganisms. A light coating of non-toxic wound dressings can be used for cosmetic purposes. Wound dressing may also be recommended in some unique, limited situations, such as to control mistletoe or to discourage borer infestation that could spread diseases like Dutch Elm Disease. Consult your arborist for more information.