About Tree Pruning
If you have landscape trees, it goes without saying that you need to prune them. Here’s everything you need to know about pruning trees.
If you have trees, you will have to deal with pruning. In fact, it’s generally considered the most common procedure for tree maintenance. Tree pruning, in its most basic sense, is removing stems and branches for the benefit of the tree.
It’s true that trees in the forests don’t need humans to take care of pruning, but with landscape trees it’s a different matter altogether. Your trees need more care so that they can maintain their attractiveness and structural integrity. This is why pruning is crucial.
You don’t want to make mistakes when you’re pruning your trees. A mistake can result in permanent damage to the tree, which could shortern its life. To prune your trees properly, you will need a better understanding of the process, so here are some answers to the more commonly asked questions:
Why Should You Prune Your Trees?
While pruning is a common practice for tree maintenance, you don’t just remove branches randomly. You need to have a very good reason for each action, since every cut you make can have a tremendous impact on how your tree will grow.
The most common reasons for pruning a tree include:
- Dead, diseased, or weak branches have to be removed.
- You want to improve the form of the tree.
- Branches have to be removed to reduce the safety hazards, such as having branches tangling with power lines.
- You want to boost the air and light penetration to the inside of the crown of the tree.
- It may also be better if you can get more air and light to the landscape below the branches of the tree.
- Pruning can be a preventive or corrective measure for mature trees.
When Should You Prune Your Tree?
It’s imperative that you do your research properly when thinking about pruning your tree. Here are some tips that can help:
- Routine pruning generally involves the removal of substandard branches from the tree. These are the dead branches, as well as the diseased and weak branches. Generally, you can perform this procedure at any time of the year without seriously harming your tree.
- However, you may want to do your pruning before the flush of growth in the spring. This can optimize the growth of the tree, and at this time the “wound” can close faster.
- You do have to do some research on the type of diseases that your tree is most susceptible to. Note down the periods of active transmission for these diseases, so that you can avoid pruning at these times. Some tree diseases can spread when the pathogens are able to get through the wounds in the trees caused by the pruning.
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How Do You Prune a Tree?
There are several pruning techniques that may prove useful for tree maintenance.
- One of the more common techniques is called cleaning. This is when you remove the dead or dying branches from the tree. Diseased branches should also be removed, as well as any branches that aren’t attached securely as they can fall on people.
- In some cases when you prune a tree, you can pick certain branches to remove so you can improve the structure of the tree. Other branches may also be taken out so you get more light penetration and more movement of the air through the crown of the tree. This type of selective branch removal is called thinning. When you do this right, you can maintain the natural shape of the tree and you reduce the weight on some of the heavy limbs. You can also open the foliage.
- It’s also prudent that you take away the lower branches from the tree, especially if they’re proving to be a nuisance for pedestrians and cars. This is called raising. You can also do this so that you can clear and improve the view through the tree.
- Utility lines and tree branches aren’t really a good combination, so you need to perform a reduction of the tree. You may want to decrease the spread or height. Reduction also helps in maintaining its structural integrity form. Usually, in this procedure you prune back the leading branches so that you have remaining secondary branches that can fulfill the leader role.
Should You Prune Your Young Trees?
Some people think that because younger trees are smaller, they don’t need pruning. That’s not the case at all. Actually, pruning is crucial for proper tree development, so that you can have a great form and a robust structure. When you prune properly while the tree is still young, then when it matures it won’t need as much corrective pruning.
While the tree is still young, you need to establish the right structure of primary branches. These are the “scaffold branches” that will become the framework of the mature tree.
Here are some tips that you need to keep in mind:
- For newly planted trees, pruning should be limited to just the removal of broken, diseased, or dead branches.
- Other types of pruning can be started in the 2nd or 3rd year. The tree should have recovered from the stress caused by the transplanting.
- Most young trees will benefit when you just maintain one dominant leading branch as it grows upward. The tip of this leader branch shouldn’t be pruned back. You also shouldn’t let the secondary branches to outgrow the leader branch.
How Do You Prune Palm Trees?
If you have palm trees that need pruning, here are our recommendations:
- Generally, you’ll want to prune palm trees to get rid of the flowering (inflorescence), dying or dead fronds, and clusters of fruits like coconuts that can be a safety hazard for people walking underneath.
- Pruning is usually done twice a year, though for coconuts the pruning may be done every 3 or 4 months so they don’t grow too big to pose a risk.
- When you’re removing fronds, you have to be very careful that you don’t do any sort of damage to the terminal bud or trunk. For palm trees, it’s best if you just leave the fronds intact. Overpruning your palm trees can slow down their growth, plus you can also attract pests.
- If you’re going to climb the palm tree to prune it, don’t use climbing spikes. These things will just wound the trunk of the palm tree.
Should You Top Trees?
The answer is a resounding NO. You should never top your trees. This is in fact widely regarded as the pruning practice that can do the greatest damage to trees. For decades, experts have harped on just how bad this practice is, yet it still goes on. Don’t perpetuate the practice.
Tree topping is when you indiscriminately cut tree branches to just mere stubs, or to lateral branches that aren’t yet big enough for the terminal role. Many owners want to reduce the size of their tree for various reasons. You may think that a tall tree has become too risky, or that the tree has just simply become too large for your property. Those aren’t bad reasons to reduce the size of your tree. It’s just that topping is a bad way of accomplishing this goal.
- Topping can cut off too many leaves from the tree, and these leaves are what enable trees to feed. With too many leaves gone, the tree can starve and it can die.
- The wounds caused by pruning can make the tree more susceptible to disease and insect infestations.
- Topping also leads to decay.
- The removal of the leaves can expose the trunk and remaining branches to too much sunlight and heat. The tissues under the bark can then become sunburned, so that some branches can die and the bark can split. Cankers can become an issue as well.
- New shoots can also develop profusely bellow each topping cut, and these shoots are weakly attached. So if it’s windy or icy, limb failure is now much more likely.
What Should You Do Instead to Reduce the Size of the Tree?
There are alternative methods you can try which are much better than topping your tree.
- You can remove small branches back to their point of origin.
- Try not to shorten the larger limbs. If you really have to do so, then just prune it back to a lateral branch that’s big enough to take on the terminal role. This lateral branch should be about a third of the diameter of the limb you’re taking off.
- Be careful about the size of the cuts. If the cuts are too large, it’s possible that the tree can’t close over and compartmentalize the wound caused by the cut.
- In some cases, your best bet may not be to top the tree but to just replace it with a more suitable tree species for the particular location. A smaller tree may just be better.
Hopefully we’ve answered most of your questions. To get your trees professionally pruned, call us, Hawaii’s tree experts at (808) 518-4045 and receive a free estimate! Mahalo!