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5 Common DIY Tree Pruning Mistakes

Tree pruning is an art form. Do it right and the result is strong, attractive trees that beautify your property and city. Do it wrong, and the result can be pretty unattractive. Not to mention, you may just need to kiss your valuable tree goodbye. Yes, pruning techniques matter that much.

If you’ve resorted to a guy with a truck and a chainsaw to prune your established trees, because he’s cheap, just remember that you’ll definitely get what you pay for. Unfortunately, what you might be paying for are mistakes that can take years to correct. Or, are unfix-able.

In some situations, you might be tempted to prune your trees yourself. While there are some small pruning tasks that can be tackled by a savvy homeowner, there are some tasks that really should be left to a certified arborist.

Here are a few DIY mistakes to avoid:

Pruning Mistake #1: Your tree is growing too tall for the desired space, so you cut off the very top to make it look shorter. Or, you think it will make your tree bloom more (as in the case with crape myrtles). This is called “topping”.

Halleck crapemurder

Why topping is bad: When the tops of trees are sheared off, this encourages new leader branches to replace the ones that were removed. Over time, new small branches grow from the tops of the sheared branches. The new small branches are all competing to be the leader which could compromise the structural integrity of the tree. For trees to survive extreme conditions like high winds, ice and heavy rain storms, they need a strong central leader and weight distributed properly around the canopy. Plus it looks terrible.

Pruning Mistake #2: You don’t prune at all.

Why no pruning is bad: Not pruning trees at all is almost as bad as pruning them wrong way. Damaged, diseased or dead branches can quickly become a hazard. The potential damage to your home or even your family if your trees have branches that are too heavy or overgrown could be disastrous once storm seasoncomes around. Co-dominant trunks can also develop in trees that haven’t been managed properly. When they split apart, you’ll typically lose the tree and anything in it’s way. No one wants to lose a large established tree, much less have damage to their home. Prevention is always the best medicine!


Pruning Mistake #3: You keep snipping the tips all around your tree to keep it smaller.

Why this is bad: Did you know pruning stimulates new growth? Most people think that lots of little snips are not nearly as damaging as a large cut. But this is not necessarily the case. Each time you cut a small branch, multiple new branches grow in that place. Best to be careful and thoughtful about where and when you prune all those smaller branches. Strategic canopy reduction can be performed to train your tree - but it must be done under the skilled watch of a trained arborist.

Pruning Mistake #4: It’s spring! So it must be time to prune your oak trees.

Why pruning oaks in spring is bad: Because spring is the optimum time for oak wilt disease to spread and infect oak trees, we will always recommend pruning your oak trees from July through January. Occasionally, there are situations where we have to prune an oak during spring, but our Oak Wilt Certified Arborists take special precautions to prevent oak wilt infection.


Oak wilt disease can quickly kill a large oak tree.

Pruning Mistake #5: Poor pruning cuts

Why proper pruning is important: The bottom line is, where and how you make pruning cuts make a huge difference in the health of your tree. Too often, DIY pruners make the mistake of cutting branches off too close to the trunk. When you do this, you remove what is called the “branch collar”. That’s the swollen area between the branch and the trunk. It’s the branch collar that closes over an open cut or wound. Without the branch collar, your tree will have a very difficult time closing over the cut, leaving your tree open to pests and diseases.

Also, no good pruning cuts result from bad tools. Make sure you’re using clean and sharp bypass pruners to do your smaller DIY pruning work.

If you’ve recently pruned your trees, but would like us to check on it for any problems, we offer tree check up consultations with our experienced Certified Arborists.

Entry Info

Categories: Pruning, Storm Damage
Tags: Pruning
Posted: September 9, 2015