tree pruning techniques

Tree Pruning Techniques

Tree pruning techniques by NPK Turf Services and Landscape, Inc.

To keep with the ‘How To’ theme I thought Id talk about tree pruning this week. As with everything there are correct ways to prune trees and there are incorrect ways. Once a tree is established they are remarkably resilient to improper pruning techniques, so many get pruned time and again the wrong way. So whats the correct way?

There are generalities with tree pruning techniques that can be applied to the vast majority plants. Then there are the plants that have very specific needs. I will not be discussing these types of plants. I will stick to the overall basics, which will be most of the traditional landscape plants of our area.

TREES: (Deciduous)

  • You can begin pruning your trees right after planting. Make sure you remove any dead, broken or diseased branches. Remember to keep the leader (the leader is the main trunk/branch that grows straight up and is generally the largest middle branch) in tacked. You do not ever want to ‘Top’ a tree. This can cause a lot of problems, but mostly it promotes suckering which is the creation of weak wooded branches, and deforms the trees proper shape.
  • Remove any branches that cross each other, or are growing back towards the center of the tree.
  • Make sure there is one single leader. If there are more than one, remove all except the most desirable.
  • When pruning a branch you will want to make a cut about 1/4 inch above a bud or branch junction. If possible choose a bud or junction that faces outward. This will encourage the new growth away from the trunk.

Below is a good picture of what has been discussed above:

Tree pruning techniques









  • When pruning a larger branch make sure to use the 3-cut method. This will help prevent bark tearing.
    • Make the first cut on the underside of the branch about 18 inches from the trunk. Undercut one-third to one-half way through the branch. Make the second cut an inch further out on the branch. Cut until the branch breaks free.
    • Before making the final cut, identify the branch collar. The branch collar grows from the stem around the base of the branch. Make pruning cuts so that only branch tissue (wood on the branch side of the collar) is removed. Be careful to prune just beyond the branch collar, but DON’T leave a stub. If the branch collar is left intact after pruning, the wound will seal more effectively and stem tissue probably will not decay.
    • The third cut may be made by cutting down through the branch, severing it. If, during removal, there is a possibility of tearing the bark on the branch underside, make an undercut first and then saw through the branch.

tree pruning techniques







In addition to actual tree pruning techniques there is proper timing of the year for pruning as well. Late dormant season (February to April) is the best for most trees. This runs contrary to what most would think is a good time to prune. Mostly because its still winter and people are not thinking about landscapes yet.

However it has many benefits:

  • This leaves cuts exposed for the least amount of time. Once spring hits they begin to repair themselves right away.
  • It lessens the chances of Oak wilt, stem cankers, and fireblight in some fruit bearing trees.
  • In addition it enables you to see the actual shape of the tree which makes it easier to determine the proper pruning that needs to be done.

As with all my posts this is not intended to cover every technicality of tree pruning. It is intended to give you the basics, so if you have a simple issue you can take care of it. If you have specific questions feel free to contact us:

Click here to contact!

Remember we offer online tree sales. Delivery to your front door is included in the price!