Proper pruning will get a tree off to a good start and keep it safe and healthy through its life.

There are several reasons to prune a tree:

  • Structure - make sure a young tree develops a strong, balanced structure
  • Sight lines  -remove branches that would impede roads, signs or sidewalks
  • Safety - keep branches from growing into buildings or power lines
  • Health - remove dead, cracked or diseased branches before they fall

Let’s dig a little deeper to learn more about each of these reasons for tree pruning:

Structure: Pruning a young tree to encourage the right structure can eliminate many problems later on.

Trees of most species are strongest if they have a strong central leader—one stem that leads straight up through the center, with other branches spaced more or less evenly around it.

Good nurseries prune saplings properly, so when you buy a young tree, check for that strong central stem.

Bear in mind, though, that each kind of tree has a characteristic form, which may be very different between species. This form may not be as apparent in a young tree as it will be later on. Before you buy a tree, research the species you’re considering so you know what shape and size to expect and how it should be pruned.

Clearance: As the tree grows, it may become necessary to remove some side branches to keep a sidewalk, sign or driveway clear, or to prevent branches from coming into contact with buildings or power lines.

It’s best to anticipate problems and prune out these branches when they’re small enough to remove easily and safely. Once a tree is large enough that pruning would require a ladder, your wisest move is to call in a professional. Pruning without the proper knowledge and training can not only lead to accidents, but do long-term damage to a tree, causing it to decline or die.   

Certified arborists are trained not only in safety but in tree care. They know how each kind of tree needs to be pruned to preserve its characteristic form.

Never top a tree — that is, cutting off the entire top of the tree, including the central leader, to keep the tree short. Topping makes trees ugly, stressed and potentially unstable. If a tree is growing under a power line or in another situation for which it’s too tall, remove it and plant another kind of tree or shrub that will naturally stay shorter.

Eliminating hazards: As a tree grows overtime, it becomes more beautiful, casts more shade and adds more to the value of the property. But it also becomes larger and heavier. Over time, some branches may crack in high winds, become infected with disease or start to rot. Rather than waiting for them to fall and cause damage, have a professional arborist check large trees regularly.  

A professional can remove problem branches before they become unstable, as well as checking the tree’s overall health.

Each species has a different natural lifespan; some trees naturally begin to decay in just a few decades, and others may live for hundreds of years. A trained professional will know what hazards and stresses to look for in each species. Regular professional pruning can often extend the life of a tree so you can enjoy its beauty safely for many years to come.



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