Reality: Removing living branches takes food in the form of photosynthates from the tree.

Twigs, branches, and trunks of trees have billions of living cells that store energy reserves, usually as starch or oils. As leaves, twigs, and branches die, these reserves “move” back into the remaining living cells in branches and the trunk. If you prune these branches you also remove the living branches before the energy reserves have had time to relocate back into the trunk and this takes valuable energy from the tree.

We recommend waiting until after a tree is well-established before pruning. However, if your new tree has dead, diseased,or injured branches at planting time those may be removed. Be sure to use a clean and sharp pruning tool as a dull one will make a messy cut that can damage a tree and allow an entry point for pests or diseases.

Once established correctly pruning your tree at the right time of year tree will help the tree thrive and look even more beautiful with time.

How To Prune a young Shade Tree if Necessary

Caution: Before attempting to prune your tree be sure to identify your tree, and make sure you understand how and when pruning will be beneficial.

Each plant’s needs can be very different. For example, some fruit trees such as Figs or Guava require being heavily pruned each growing season, as they produce fruit only on new branches and will grow back vigorously after a hard prune. However heavily pruning back other trees that grow slowly can kill them or stunt their growth, so know your tree before beginning!

Prune modestly when planting a new tree

The most important objective when a new tree is planted is only damaged or dead branches should be removed. After the first year ot two, it will be safe to prune more.

Remove temporary branches over the next two to three years

Branches that are below the lowest permanent branch can protect young bark from injury from the sun and also add taper and strength to the tree. The lower limbs may be left on the tree for 3 to 4 years after planting. Don’t let temporary branches become too large and vigorous. Remove these branches between 3 to 4 years of planting the tree.

Thinning and Spacing Branches

Most trees benefit from thinning and spacing the limbs that compete for form space and light. Maintain evenly spaced lateral branches, 8 to 12 inches apart in a young tree. If you over prune it can damage or even kill the tree. Keep your tree alive by the two-thirds rule. This rule states to keep two-thirds of your tree alive when pruning so you do not over prune. Remove branches that give a crookes appearance of make the tree look lopsided. Also, if the branch has defects remove those branches. Branches that rub against other branches you may want to remove due to the wounds that may result like decay and notches. Water sprouts and suckers can occur at the base of the tree or inside the crown. They are rapidly growing weakly attached or upright it is best to remove as soon as possible.

Keys to Good Pruning

Prune early in the shade trees life so that the pruning wounds are small

Identify the best leader branches and the best lateral branches before you prune or remove defective parts of the plant’s form. Try to find lateral branches that form a ten o’clock or a two o’clock angle with the trunk of the tree.

When you prune back to the trunk or a larger limb branches that form a collar (swollen area at the base of the tree) should be cut close. For larger branches cut just outside the branch bark ridge and color. Cut right alongside the trunk of the tree.

When you shorten a smaller branch, make the cut at the lateral bud or another lateral branch. Favor the buds that will grow in the correct direction usually in an outward direction. Cut clean and sharp at a slight angle about a ¼ inch beyond the bud.

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