Trees are the largest, oldest living organism on the planet and can live long, healthy lives with some assistance. Pruning is “one of the best, worst maintenance practices” performed on trees. If the process is done wrong it can have a major negative impact on plant processes. Improper cutting on a tree causes severe damage or even death. To prune properly, it is important to understand proper techniques and how the tree responds to pruning. This dangerous work requires expertise and training to prevent injury or unnecessary damage. Never let the situation exceed your skills! If you are uncertain about how to prune larger trees, contact a qualified tree expert like Woody's Tree Service to assist you.
The most common reasons to prune typically include aesthetics, structure, and reducing risk. Typically, people prune to improve the appearance of the tree by reducing the length of fast-growing stems or unwanted growth. However, too many times trees are pruned only to maintain a desired shape or size to fit a location in the landscape. This can be the result of poor placement or because the wrong tree was selected for the intended space.
Some things you should never do: Topping is a form of poor pruning that can ruin the tree’s shape and health with excessive canopy removal and poor cuts. Topping is the indiscriminate removal of branches between internodes and not where branches meet, leaving stubs and wounds which cannot heal properly. This provides the opportunity for disease and decay, creating serious problems for the tree. The tree responds to topping by producing many sprouts that are poorly attached and prone to damage from wind, ice, and snow. The dormant buds on the stems, which have flushed, are only connected to the xylem and do not overlap or commingle with the main supporting stem. This is a poor attachment that grows quickly and will become a safety concern. Because of this weak attachment, the branches are likely to fail more easily and pose a higher risk of injury or damage around the tree. The topping process typically involves large branches that are removed, leaving massive wounds that cannot compartmentalize and lead to decay as a result. Pruned branches should be removed back to a point of origin. If a branch must be removed or reduced, it should be cut back to a lateral that is large enough to assume the terminal role. The best practice for this is to cut back to a lateral that is at least 1/3 the diameter of the limb being removed. However, if large cuts are involved, the tree may not be able to seal over and compartmentalize the wounds. When severe pruning is required and excessive, sometimes the best solution is to remove the tree and replace it with a species that is more appropriate for the site. Topped trees present a serious risk to the tree owner and those around the tree. Never use any tree care company that advertises topping.