Tree Pruning and Maintenance

Tree pruning is one of the most common tree maintenance procedures in the world. Although forest trees are taken care of by nature’s pruning, landscape trees require a higher level of maintenance and care to preserve their aesthetics and structural integrity. Only a professional and experienced Arborist with the understanding of tree biology can perform tree pruning as improper pruning can shorten the tree's life and even create lasting damage.

Not a single branch should be removed without any particular reason as each cut has the ability to change and affect the growth of the tree. The most common reasons for tree pruning are to improve form, remove dead branches and, most importantly, remove any safety risks from falling branches.


Trees may also be pruned to increase air and light penetration to the landscape below or inside of the tree’s crown. Generally, in most cases, mature trees are pruned as a preventive or corrective measure, as consistent thinning does not always improve the overall health of a tree.

Arborist on a lift pruning palm trees.JP

When to Prune?

Mostly, the routine pruning is done to remove diseased, dead or weak limbs, and it can be done at any time with little to no effect on the tree. As a result, if pruning takes place before the spring; wound closure and growth can be maximized.

Oak wilt which is one of the few tree diseases, can spread when pruning wounds provide access to pathogens which are also known as disease-causing agents. During active transmission periods, it should be taken care that susceptible trees should not be pruned at that time.


Pruning Techniques

Specific types of pruning can be performed to maintain a mature tree in an attractive and healthy condition:



It is the removal of diseased, dead or dying, low-vigor and weakly attached branches from the crown of a tree.

Thinning is a process of selective branch removal to improve air movement and light penetration and improve structure through the crown. Efficient thinning can help retain the tree’s natural shape, reduces weight on heavy limbs and opens the foliage of a tree.



In this process, we remove the lower branches from a tree to provide clearance for pedestrians, vehicles, buildings, and vistas.



It is a procedure that reduces the size of a tree for the effective clearance of utility lines. Reducing a tree’s spread or height is accomplished by pruning back the branch terminals to secondary branches and leaders that are big enough to assume the terminal roles -- at least pruning one-third of the diameter of the cut stem. Compared to topping, reduction helps structural integrity and maintain the form of the tree.



Topping Trees – A Big No!

Topping is one of the most harmful pruning practices known to man. Yet, topping remains a common practice despite of more than 25 years of literature explaining its harmful effects on tress.

Topping is a process in which indiscriminate cutting of tree branches to stubs is done or cutting lateral branches that are not big enough to assume the terminal role. Other names for topping include tipping, heading, rounding over and hat-racking. Sometimes, for providing clearance of utility lines; a tree must be reduced in spread or height. There are far better techniques and methods for doing so. Small branches should be cut to their point of origin. If a larger limb has to be shortened, it should be pruned to a lateral branch that is large to assume the terminal role. This technique in which branch reduction takes place helps to preserve the natural form and integrity of the tree.

However, if the cuts are very large, the tree may not be able to fill up the wounds and close over. Sometimes the best way to deal with the problem is to remove the tree completely and replace it with a species that is more appropriate for the site aesthetics.