correct and incorrect pruning cuts

Proper Tree Pruning Techniques

In Gardening, Plant Health Care, Spring, Tree pruning by Forest Keeper26 Comments

Proper pruning enhances the beauty  of almost any landscape tree or shrub, while improper pruning can ruin or greatly reduce its potential. Proper tree pruning is essential in developing a tree with a strong and desirable form.

Reasons for Pruning

  • to train the plant
  • to maintain plant health
  • to improve the quality of flowers, fruit, foliage or stems
  • to restrict growth.

Pruning should follow a definite plan. Consider the reason you are pruning before making any cuts. First remove all dead, broken, diseased or problem limbs by cutting them at the point of origin or back to a strong lateral branch. Often, removing this material opens the canopy up enough so that no further pruning is needed.

Make sure that, with all of your cuts, you do not leave stubs or make harmful flush cuts. Learning to identify the branch collar and make an according cut is invaluable when in comes to pruning.correct and incorrect pruning cuts


The next step is to make any training cuts that are needed. Training cuts are any pruning cuts on a younger tree that will direct the trees growth and shape. A tree that has been given the proper training when it is young will have a good branch srtucture that will carry the weight of it’s own canopy and the forces of weather very effectivly. To properly train a plant you need to have an understanding of it’s natural growth habit . Trying to prune a plant into  a form or manner that is contrary to it’s natural habit will destroy the natural beauty of the plant and can even result in   poor plant health.

This young tree has a nice central leader with evenly spaced branching

Straight central leader with good branch spacing

When to Prune

Tree with a developing double leader- should be pruned out

This young tree is developing a double leader. This should be pruned out to improve the structure and future growth of this tree.

Generally speaking, pruning can be done at any time of the year, but recommended times vary with different plants.  Though it is believed by

many that pruning at the wrong time of year will kill a plant, this is usually not true. For most plant species, winter pruning and early spring is ideal. This is because the trees are dormant and there is little to no threat of invading insect and disease problems. Avoid pruning evergreens and most other trees in the heat of summer or during periods of drought. Pruning can encourage new growth and this is to be avoided when trees are already under stress. Also keep in mind that, if you prune too soon after the initial rush of new spring growth, a good deal of stored energy has gone into putting out that new growth that has not been replaced by photosynthesis yet.

A good rule of thumb to know when to prune is to prune plants that flower on last years growth soon after blooms have faded, and prune plants that flower on this years new growth in winter or early spring before new growth begins.

There are many other consideration to proper pruning that can be learned with time and practice that we can discuss in other posts. This should be, however, a good start to give you an understanding of the basics.

Happy pruning!


  1. It’s also very important that whomever is hired to provide tree pruning; that they’re fully experienced. I’ve personally seen many mistakes that led to permanent damage (gaping holes, branches that didn’t need to be removed,etc)

  2. Author

    New York, I agree totally. I have seen some extraordinary trees, ruined by bad pruning. It always makes me sad to see this.

  3. Not all home owners or gardeners are aware of this which makes this post very helpful in providing information to the general public about proper pruning of trees. Indeed, pruning has a very important role in the health of trees or plants. Thank you for being so kind and sharing this information.

  4. Hello,
    For having good pruning we need to keep some factors in mind.Make sure tools are sharp.Loppers should cut the branch cleanly not crush it.One should always cut the branches where they join with other branches.Never leave stubs to provide a gateway for other diseases.
    I was looking for the time beat for pruning and through your blog got the information needed.
    Glad to visit the blog.

  5. Thank you for the article – I found this to be valuable. I never knew their were techniques to trim a tree. thank you for posting this.

  6. I liked that you pointed out that you need to prune your trees to keep trees healthy. That is good for me to know because I just moved into a new home, and it has a lot of trees. I am trying to figure out what I need to do to care for those trees. So, this good information for me to know.

  7. I really appreciate your tip on trying to identify the growing pattern of a tree before you do any pruning! My brother recently moved into a house that has a lot of trees, and I know that my brother is not a very outdoor savvy person. I will be sure to suggest to him that if he needs to prune his trees, he should hire a professional that can know the growing pattern of a tree.

  8. I never knew that a reason for pruning is to “train” the tree. I have a tree that is very overgrown and am going to call a tree service for it. Thanks for the tips on proper pruning techniques.

  9. It sure is interesting to know that pruning a plant at the wrong time can lead to its death. My cousin is looking to get into gardening, and this article will really help him out a lot. I’ll also be sure to advise him to get in touch with professional pruning services so they can handle his pruning for him.

  10. Thanks for helping me understand that pruning must not be done during the summer since it will affect them badly if they are trimmed while under stress. I guess now is the right time to do it instead of postponing this since the weather is nice during the springtime. This will be perfect timing as well because I noticed that there are branches from our tree that are almost reaching the roof, and it might damage it if we don’t get them cut.

    1. One thing to keep in mind about pruning in the springtime is that you should refrain from pruning shortly after rain or after an extended period of rain since that is when spores from harmful fungal diseases will be active. You could end up spreading disease with your pruning tools.

  11. The trees in my new backyard have not been trimmed in what seems has been years, so now I am worried that when stormy or windy days come, their branches will fall on our roof and damage it. I knew that pruning is used to restrict grown, but I never considered the fact that it can help maintain the plant health, as you mentioned. Tomorrow, I will talk to my husband about it and see if we can find a trimming service to help us take care of these big plants.

  12. I found it helpful when you talked about how pruning a tree helps improve the quality of the fruit that it grows. There are a couple of apple trees that need to be pruned in my backyard. I think it would probably be best if I hired a professional to do this for me so that I don’t hurt the plant.

  13. It’s great to learn that you should prune your trees to remove dead or broken limbs and to make sure you don’t leave harmful stubs. My in-laws just moved into a home with massive, beautiful apricot trees in the backyard. It seems like it could be best for them to find a tree care service in Arlington to take care of it.

  14. It caught my attention when you said that one can harm the tree id it is pruned at the wrong time of year. I have been wanting to get my parent’s trees pruned this summer to avoid getting the gutter clogged because my dad had surgery and can’t climb a ladder and do it himself. Maybe calling a professional will be best that way it will be done correctly without harming the trees.

  15. For tree pruning, it is important to consult an expert at work. Thanks for sharing these important tips. This article is useful.

  16. These proper tree pruning techniques are very informative. It will help all of us a lot to run trees professionally. In this article, there are all the elements that we must consider while doing tree pruning. Please keep sharing such kind of article with us.

  17. Way to go guys for pumping out solid content for consumers! These tips are great and on point! Keep it up!

  18. These are some really great tips, the illustrations definitely help people understand! Thanks for posting this!

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