By Bud Franklin

Excerpted from Tree Tips Newsletter Nov 2011

Pruning is a cultural practice that needs to be done every few years to eliminate any dead, diseased or damaged branches as well as to enhance the shape of the canopy and to allow for the penetration of light.  In other words to improve safety, health, and aesthetics.

Pruning is an art as much as a skill.  Those who attempt to do it themselves need to have a vision of what that tree should look like upon completion, an understanding of good pruning technique and the proper tools.  If your not ready to acquire these you should probably call a professional.

What should a tree look like on completion?  Every species has a different growth pattern.  An elm, maple and oak have canopies that could be described as oval whereas firs, spruce and cypress could be described as pyramid and columnar.


Common Tree Shapes

So before you start try to figure out what the natural growth pattern should be,  stand back and try to visualize what branches need to stay and which need to go.  Always start this process by removing dead wood first.

What is the correct way to make a cut?  Always cut back to the next branch while leaving what is referred to as the collar.

Collar Pruning Cut 

If done properly this will expedite the healing process. When removing large branches make two cuts, the first further out on the limb and the second by the collar.  This will prevent peeling the bark down the trunk. Do not leave stubs as this will promote suckers, possible dieback and an unnatural  appearance.  I always recommend using LacBalsam to dress the wound.  This also promotes healing and inhibits insect or disease infestation.

Good pruning tools can get a little pricey but they are worth every penny.  At a minimum you will need a good bypass pruner, a lopper, a pruning saw and perhaps a pole pruner/saw.  Corona makes a good product that is usually available at most retailers.

About the Author

Bud Franklin

I am a horticulturist with a B.S. in Horticulture from Colorado State University. I have been in the nursery business my entire life and currently reside in Arizona. My philosophy is to provide practical solutions to horticultural problems. Although I specialize in trees I have experience and training in all areas of urban horticulture including plant material, soil chemistry, pest control, plant propagation, irrigation and landscape management and installation.

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