Everything to Know About Pruning Your Tree

January 10, 2018

Have you ever pruned your trees? Maybe you saw that the branches were becoming overgrown and thought it would be good to handle the matter yourself. As explained in this piece from the University of Minnesota Extension, “pruning is a horticultural practice that alters the form and growth of a plant.” Pruning can also be considered a strategy for preventive maintenance. Keep in mind that many problems can be prevented by correct pruning techniques during formative years for a tree or shrub. Keep reading as we dive deeper into tree pruning.


In order to develop a strong structure, it’s critical for a young tree to be trained early on through pruning. A young tree that isn’t pruned properly may require more significant maintenance to remove larger branches. When you plant the tree, be sure to remove only branches that are diseased, dead, or broken. Here are some other tips to consider:

  • Prune to shape the tree and that’s it.
  • Remove any crossing branches, as well as branches that grow back toward the tree’s center.
  • As the tree matures, gradually remove lower branches to raise the crown and remove branches that are too closely spaced on the trunk.


Many homeowners aren’t quite sure how to handle pruning large branches. Be aware that rushing through and making random, careless cuts can spell disaster for your tree. With that in mind, here are some best practices for pruning large branches:

  • Avoid tearing the bark – Three or four cuts will be necessary to do this. Ideally, make the first cut on the underside of the branch about 18 inches from the trunk. Then undercut up to halfway through the branch. The second cut should be made an inch further out on the branch. Remember to cut until the branch breaks free.
  • Identify the branch collar – You could be thinking, “What in the world is a branch collar?” Well, it grows from the stem tissue around the base of the branch. Before making the final cut to sever a branch from the main stem, it’s imperative that you locate the branch collar. If it’s left intact after you’re done pruning, the wound will seal more effectively and there’s a good chance the stem tissue will probably not decay.
  • Cut down and through the branch – The third cut should be all about severing the branch. If you feel as though there’s a chance you may tear the bark on the branch underside, make an undercut first and then saw through the branch.
  • Be smart with wound dressing – Tree care experts agree that wound dressing is usually not necessary on pruning cuts. However, if you want to protect the wounds from potential insect transmission of certain diseases, opt for latex as opposed to oil-based paint.


Now that you know when to start pruning your tree and how to properly handle large branches, it’s time to dive into tools. It’s almost guaranteed that a pruning job done without the right tools will go awry. Here are a few must-haves before getting started:

  1. Pruning shears – A quality pair cuts up to ¾ inches in diameter. It’s safe to say pruning shears rank as the most important tool here.
  2. Lopping shears – Are you in need of shears that provide greater leverage? Lopping shears have no problem cutting branches up to 1 ½ inches in diameter.
  3. Hedge shears – Be aware that these are meant for pruning hedges and nothing else. Hedge shears are best when us to cut succulent or small stems.
  4. Hand saws – Pruning becomes difficult if you can’t cut branches over one inch in diameter. Some hand saws even cut through branches up to four inches in diameter.
  5. Pole saws – This tool allows for extended reach with a long handle. Watch closely to what you’re doing with pole saws, as it’s a challenge to achieve clean cuts with them.


We just threw a ton of information at you. Here’s the takeaway though: Tree pruning/trimming may be required to keep the structure intact and prevent it from becoming a safety hazard. If you’d rather not take on such a project yourself, you can always turn to the professionals at Pro Tree Service. For nearly three decades, we’ve provided unmatched tree care for those throughout Chicago. From tree removal to land clearing, our tree service experts have you covered.  

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