How Do I Prune Unwanted Branches? Easy guide!

Pruning is a vital practice to train your young trees to develop strong structures. The right tools and techniques make pruning easy and effective. What are the best practices for branch pruning?

Cut a branch or twig back to a side branch to shorten them. Or, cut about 1/4 inch above the bud facing the plant’s outside. It helps force the new growth to follow that direction. Removal of large branches needs three cuts. Avoid damaging the branch collar or branch bark ridge.

Keep your equipment well-maintained and sharp. It will help improve their performance. The late dormant season is the ideal time for most prunings. During the formative years, pruning can prevent many insects and diseases. It can change a plant’s growth and form.

Sharp pair of secateurs or a two-handed pruning lopper can remove thinner branches. Use a pruning saw to cut thicker branches above 20 mm in diameter. Cut only the branch tissues to prevent the decaying of stem tissues. Cut much closer to the trunk to help the wound heal faster.

First, remove all dead, broken, diseased, or problematic limbs. Cut them at the point of origin or back to a strong lateral branch or shoot. Avoid flush and stub cuttings that can cause bark injury and ripping.

Make your cut at a downward angle to avoid water settling into the wound. Cutting back upward-growing branches will leave a space where water can collect. It can cause the tree to rot over time.

Cutting too far from the stem will leave branch stubs. Stem tissue forms a callus tissue to heal the wound when the branch tissue dies. The stub will delay the wound closure as the callus tissue needs to seal over it.


What Are The Pruning Methods?

A tree needs a strong and healthy crown to produce leaves for photosynthesis. Pruning increases plant health by allowing air circulation and light penetration. It helps create a viable tree structure as well.

Crown Thinning

Thinning involves removing a few selective live branches to reduce the density of a tree. It is the most common pruning practice for mature trees. 

Thinning supports heavy crops and snow loads by reducing the weight on large limbs. Focus on cutting off weak branches while avoiding overdoing them on mature trees.

Remove only 10-20% of the branches from the canopy edge. Remove limbs’ end portions of large trees between 1-4 inches in diameter. Cut off small branches between 1/4 and 1/2 inch from small ornamental and fruit trees.

Crown Raising

Providing clearance for streets, buildings, or a view; crown raising removes lower branches. Deciduous trees should have a live crown of 60% of the tree. Most conifers can survive a 50% crown loss.

Crown Reduction

Crown reduction is reducing the height or spread of a tree. Some call it drop crotch pruning. It is suitable for older or more mature trees as it can help new growth. Crown reduction differs from topping as it leaves no stubs. It removes a tree branch back to a growing lateral branch. 

Cut at lateral branches at least a third of the diameter of the removing limb. It will help prevent branch dieback.

In Crown reduction pruning, large pruning wounds on stems may cause decay. Avoid using this method on a tree with a pyramidal growth form. Use this method when there are no other options.

Crown Cleaning

Removal of dead, diseased, dying, and broken branches is crown cleaning. It should be a part of crown thinning, raising, and reduction. You can perform it at any time of the year. Cleaning the tree crown protects nearby properties and trees from further harm. It strengthens the tree as well.

Related article: What Is The Best Tree Pruning Method?

How Do You Trim Overgrown Branches?

Three-cut pruning method is helpful when cutting thicker branches. It lessens the chance of ripping the bark or harming the tissues in the trunk. The first two cuts help remove the weight of the tree limb. The final cut helps promote callus growth.

The First Cut

Go about 18 inches up the branch’s underside you wish to remove. Cut up about halfway through it. It will prevent the falling limb from stripping the stem bark.

The Second Cut

Move to the branch’s topside. Choose a spot an inch further out from your first cut. Then cut down through the limb until it breaks free. It will take the weight of the branch off.

The Third Cut

Start the third or final cut on the outside edge of the branch bark ridge. Make an undercut first to prevent the bark from tearing. Then, saw through the branch. Be careful to cut beyond the branch collar. Make sure not to leave a stub. 

Make a complete cut with a 45-degree angle out from the tree base. It helps quick callus formation and prevents water damage. Watch this video to learn more about the 3-cut pruning method.

Pruning cuts heal on their own, where wound dressing is not essential. Cover them to prevent transmission of certain diseases if needed. Latex is most suitable for covering branch wounds.

How Do You Cut Off Branches?

First, remove large limbs, starting with the tree top. Place the cutting blade side of the secateurs or loppers towards the side of the branch crown. It prevents the flat part of the blade from crushing the bark and stem tissues.

How Do You Prune Lower Branches?

Perform the crown-raising method for a long time for the best pruning of lower branches. Removing too many lower branches at once can weaken the tree. Each year remove only a few limbs less than 4 inches in diameter.

Should I Cut Dried Branches?

Dried or dead branches can allow pests and diseases to invade the tree. Prune them before the plant produces new growth in the spring. It will prevent wasting energy on damaged areas. Dried branch removal helps reduce the risk of property damage and personal injury.

What Is The Best Tool To Cut Tree Branches?

The most appropriate cutting tool will depend on the size and location of the branch. Hand-held pruning saws can cut branches up to 3 inches in diameter. For limbs thicker than 3 inches, a chainsaw offers the cleanest cut. Pole saws allow you to prune limbs beyond your arm’s reach.

Can You Cut A Branch Off A Plant?

Pruning is a healthy practice to strengthen your plants. Plants benefit most from spring and summer pruning. It gives you control over how your plant is growing.

Can You Use A Trimmer To Cut Tree Branches?

The design of a trimmer does not help to cut through branches. Even powerful hedge trimmers lack the horsepower needed to prune limbs. They are suitable for trimming hedges and thin branches up to about 3/4 inch.

What Is The Equipment You Use To Trim Trees?

Loppers, handsaws, a pole saw, a chainsaw, and pruning shears help most trimming jobs. You’ll have further support from an ax, wedge, hatchet, and ladder. Wear a hard hat, glasses, and gloves for your safety.

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