Avoid These Pruning Mistakes That Can Kill Your Trees

examples of trees without branches

Pruning is an essential practice for maintaining the health and beauty of your trees and shrubs. However, it’s important to know the proper techniques to avoid making common mistakes that can harm your plants. At Tips Tree Planting, we have years of experience in gardening and tree care, and we’re here to share our juiciest secrets on how to prune your trees effectively.

Prune at the Proper Time

First and foremost, you need to prune your trees at the right time of year. Winter is the optimal season for pruning as it is the dormant period for plants and trees in northeast Ohio. Pruning during this time is less stressful for the plants and allows you to have a clear view of the branch structure. It also enables the trees to heal quickly before spring bud break.

On the other hand, pruning in the fall should be avoided. The new growth stimulated by fall pruning is susceptible to freezing temperatures, resulting in damage to the plant. Additionally, pruning in late winter or early spring can lead to a lack of blossoms in spring-flowering trees and shrubs. It’s best to wait until after they’ve bloomed before making any pruning cuts.

Furthermore, it’s crucial not to prune when trees are vulnerable to pests and disease. Pruning cuts made during the warmer months can attract beetles and increase the risk of spreading tree diseases. To prevent the spread of these diseases, it’s advisable to avoid pruning during the active beetle season.

Make Pruning Cuts Correctly

When making pruning cuts, it’s essential to avoid certain common mistakes that can harm your trees. Let’s take a look at these mistakes and how to avoid them:

No Flush Cuts

A flush cut occurs when a branch is cut flush with the tree trunk or larger branch. While it may appear clean and streamlined, it removes the branch collar, which is crucial for sealing the pruning cut. Without the branch collar, pests and pathogens can enter the plant, causing damage or even death.

To avoid flush cuts, identify the branch collar (an enlarged area around the base of a branch) and make a pruning cut just beyond it. This stimulates the tissue in the branch collar to grow over and seal the wound, ensuring the health of the plant.

No Stub Cuts

Stub cuts are the opposite of flush cuts, leaving a protruding branch stub that prevents the branch collar from growing over it. It’s important to remember that if a branch stub is long enough to hang a hat on, it’s too long.

No Lion Tailing

“Lion tailing” refers to the practice of removing interior branches while keeping leaves and growth only at branch ends. This practice is not recommended as it removes too much foliage, compromises the structure of the tree, and leaves the crown vulnerable to damage. It also leads to the growth of stress-response sprouts along the trunk and branches.

No Heading Cuts

Heading cuts involve chopping off the end of a branch without considering the natural direction of growth. This can result in weak branches and aesthetically unattractive growth patterns. It’s best to consult a Certified Arborist to determine when and where heading cuts are appropriate.

Use the 3-Cut Method

When pruning large branches, it’s crucial to follow the three-step process known as the 3-cut method. This method prevents bark tears and ensures a clean and proper cut. First, make a shallow cut on the underside of the branch beyond the branch collar. Second, cut through the branch beyond the branch collar, leaving a stub. Finally, remove the stub by cutting just beyond the branch collar.

Use the Right Pruning Tools

Having the right pruning tools is essential for a successful pruning session. Pruning shears, loppers, pruning saws, and chainsaws are the four types of tools commonly used. It’s important to choose the right tool based on the size of the branch you’re cutting. Using a tool that is too small can result in frustration and damage to the branch, leaving it susceptible to diseases and pests. Ensure that all cutting tools are sharp, properly tuned, and appropriate for the job.

At Tips Tree Planting, we believe in the power of proper pruning techniques to enhance the health and vitality of your trees and shrubs. Avoiding these common pruning mistakes will help ensure the longevity and beauty of your plants. For more expert tips and advice, visit Tips Tree Planting, your go-to resource for all things gardening and tree care.