How to prune trees

Tree pruning why, when, and how to do it

There are three reasons to prune a tree: to remove damaged, dead, or diseased branches; to control size and form; and to increase the quality and abundance of fruit and flowers.

At least once a year and after any major storm, inspect all important trees-especially fruit trees, landscaping specimens, and trees growing close to the house, drive, or road. Promptly prune any branches that endanger the tree’s health or that pose a safety hazard. To control shape and form or to improve fruiting and flowering of deciduous trees, prune in late fall or winter when the tree is dormant.

Prune evergreens in late winter or early spring. Look for a bud or small branch that grows the way you want the tree to grow. Then cut back to 1 inch beyond that spot. Use a pole pruner, lopping shears, or a pruning saw. Don’t just cut a branch off flush.

Leave the collar, or dark ring at the branch’s base, attached to the tree: it contains cells that close the wound. To avoid tearing away bark and wood, saw a branch one-third through from the bottom, then finish from above. Remove a large branch in two stages: first shorten it to a 12- to 18- inch stump; then remove the stump. To support a heavy branch while you saw it, tie a stout rope to it and pass the rope over a higher branch: have a helper hold the rope from the ground.

Call a professional for major surgery, such as a split trunk, or to remove high, heavy branches or those that are near power lines.