Tree Pruning 101

August 29th, 2022 0 Comments

Arborist tree climber working on tree pruningEver felt tempted to take your axe to a branch that’s hanging too low? Or hack off a part of another that looks like it’s dying? Don’t! It seems a quick solution, but the truth is you might make things worse for your tree. And that’s where tree pruning knowledge can come to your rescue.

So, before you take action, let’s look at tree pruning in more detail. If it seems too difficult to manage, you might decide it’s best to hire a company that specializes in tree services to do the job for you. See what you think!

What is Tree Pruning?

Pruning is a maintenance procedure that involves cutting and removing a specific part of a tree. Some of your trees will be fine without pruning. However, where necessary, tree pruning usually has the aim of

  • gaining enough light,
  • introducing optimal air circulation,
  • improving the tree’s attraction, or
  • increasing tree health and strength.

Reasons to Prune Trees

As indicated above, your reasons will vary from aesthetics to necessary safety measures.

1 Appearance

A well-maintained, pruned tree encourages fruiting and flowering. And clean, healthy trees are more appealing, add curb appeal to your home, and may increase its value.

2 Sunlight and air

One reason to prune branches is to thin out and open the canopy (top) of the tree. Shade from the sun is good, but too much can hamper growth. If you thin out the canopy, more sunlight reaches the bottom of the tree, as well as the tree’s surroundings.

Air circulation is also vital for your tree’s survival. When the foliage at the top of the tree is too crowded, air doesn’t filter throughout the entire tree. Bad air flow not only increases the risk of tree disease but discourages new, healthy foliage.

3 Safety concerns

Pruning is also a good way to take control of the size and shape of your trees and shrubs for safety reasons.

Dead, diseased, or dying branches are weak and at risk of suddenly falling in strong wind. They can land on your property, other plants, or people. Worse, landing on electricity cables can create a domino effect of problems. Regular pruning can therefore avoid injuries and costly damage.

Failing to thin unhealthy or excess foliage is also a risk factor. Too much foliage results in a top-heavy tree. The tree is then more susceptible to falling during severe wind, hurricanes, or winter storms.

Sometimes tree suckers and water sprouts develop at ground level, especially in early spring, competing with the tree for food and water. Pruning them helps establish a single, strong tree that can withstand storms and high winds.

Unhealthy trees and branches also pose a threat to drivers. Without proper pruning and maintenance that takes into account the placement, size, and shape of your trees, a driver has limited sight of traffic, safety signs, or lights.

When to Carry Out Tree Pruning

The best time to prune depends on the situation and what you’d like to accomplish.

Unhealthy trees

It’s always a good time to prune away dead, diseased, or dying branches, buds, or roots. You should remove these as soon as you’re aware of them.

New trees

Start pruning new trees during the early stages of life. Tree pruning from the start reduces the amount of work necessary to keep the tree healthy and reduces stress on the tree.


  • Dormant Season: Pruning trees between mid and late winter is ideal for optimal results. That’s because pruning in the fall can introduce disease. If the fall is particularly warm, pruning encourages new growth that will suffer damage as temperatures drop.
  • Summer: If, for some reason, you see a need to stunt the growth of a tree or branch for part of the year, the best time to do this is summer. The heat helps reduce the passage of nutrients to the soil.

Flowering trees

With the exception of some fruiting trees, flowering trees generally fall into one of two categories. Optimal pruning is a matter of timing.

  • Early bloomers: Prune right after the tree finishes blooming.
  • Late bloomers: Prune in early spring.

How to Prune Trees

Each cut can change the growth of the tree, so pruning should be purposeful. Knowing how to prune tree branches effectively is also important. This is one reason we suggest hiring a professional company. (If you do, here are some questions to ask them first!)

A tree services company is expert in pruning methods for both thin and thicker branches. The arborists understand and have experience of where and how to make the cuts so that

  • the new growth goes in the right direction,
  • the rest of the tree is not damaged, and
  • a healthy callous can form – there is no need to dress the bleeding from cuts.

We’ll come back to this topic in detail in a future post to help you avoid serious errors, but for now let’s finish by looking at tree pruning methods that affect the crown of the tree.

Tree Pruning Methods

The leaves of the tree crown are essential for photosynthesis. So, without a strong, healthy crown, the rest of the tree will weaken over time. You therefore need to prune with an eye to creating good light, air circulation, attractive qualities, and strength.

  • Crown thinning

Trimming to remove branches reduces the overall density of the tree. This is best for mature trees that can benefit from more sunlight and air circulation. In addition, thinning allows the crown to withstand the stress of wind, ice, or snow.

  • Crown raising

Lifting the bottom tree limbs is called crown raising. Clearing the bottom of the tree gives better views for drivers or from buildings. Only carry out crown raising gradually, however, over a long period of time. Otherwise you risk making the tree weak.

  • Crown reduction

Crown reduction – taking a tree branch back to a growing lateral branch – can help strengthen a tree. You want the lateral branch to become part of the new tree crown when your tree begins to grow again.

  • Crown cleaning

This means removing dead, dying, or diseased branches from the crown. Whether you’re pruning for thinning, raising, or reduction, always look for ways to keep the crown of your tree clean as well.

Tree Pruning Done Right with B&R Tree Service

As you can see, there’s a lot more to pruning trees than grabbing your axe and cutting away at branches! It’s time-consuming and costly to make pruning errors – or neglect tree pruning altogether. Mostly, it makes sense to call in the experts.

At B&R Tree Service in Massachusetts, we have years of experience in making the right pruning cuts, in the right places, at the right time. You can read our FAQs post and see how we work with you to benefit your trees. Contact us today, and let’s talk about how our pruning services can ensure you have an ideal tree environment in your yard – one that’s safe and thriving all year round.

Image © B&R Tree Service

Tree Pruning
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