Pruning Guidelines For Deciduous Trees And Shrubs

Deciduous trees are the ones that lose their leaves every fall and enter winter dormancy. To ensure healthy leaf production every spring, proper trimming is needed during the active growing season. The following information can help ensure your deciduous trees get the care that they need.

Prune Early, But Not Too Early

Timing is very important when pruning a deciduous tree. The tree must be pruned before it begins to produce leaves and flowers in the spring. Waiting increases the chances of tree damage. Wounds from pruning can attract insect pests and disease pathogens, which are more likely to be active later in the season. Yet, you also don't want to prune a tree while the sap is frozen. This increases the chances of internal damage to the tree, plus the tree will heal from the cuts slowly if the sap isn't actively flowing. The proper timing is in late winter when the buds show the first signs of swelling but before they have begun to burst into leaf or bloom.

Keep the Trunk Clean

When it comes to trees or small shrubs with a tree-like form, you need a clean trunk free of scrubby, twiggy growth. Weak growth on the trunk can detract from the health of the upper canopy since the tree will waste resources trying to keep the weak growth alive. Prune off all branches on the lower one-third of the tree trunk, or up to the main lower level of branches of the canopy. Cut this twiggy growth off flush with the trunk. Inspect the trunk annually and remove any new suckers, or weak growth, that form from the base or low on the trunk of the tree.

Never Remove Too Much

Although pruning can be used to help reduce the size of a plant, when it comes to mature deciduous trees, the amount of reduction possible is small. Begin by removing any obviously weak branches — those that are already damaged, that don't grow at a healthy upward angle, or those that are rubbing against each other. Then, you can thin out a few additional branches if necessary to open up the canopy, but never cut out more than a third of the canopy. The rule of thirds also applies to the spread of the canopy — never cut back a single branch by more than a third of its length.

Pruning trees properly takes some practice and skill. Contact a tree trimming service if you would like more help.