Pruning Basics: How to Prune a Small Tree

Your yard will look neater, and your trees will be healthy and happy, if you follow these simple tree pruning tips. Learn more about how to prune a small tree the way professional gardeners do.

Why should I prune my trees?

Mature trees usually don’t require any pruning. For younger trees, you should prune to encourage them toward their ultimate shape. Pruning will stimulate vigorous growth. To encourage next year’s flower buds, it’s a good policy to remove any old flowers or fruits when their season is over. Trimming a tree to keep it from encroaching on the space of another plant, and removing dead or broken branches, are also good reasons for pruning.

How much pruning does a tree need?

Every cut that you make to a tree increases the risk of exposing the tree to disease. For this reason, most arborists and the United States Department of Agriculture recommend against ‘topping’ trees. It’s better to select only a few limbs to cut. Trim as little as possible, leaving the main branches, the ones that form the “skeleton” of the tree, intact.
When should I prune my trees?

Hardwood trees should be pruned when they’re dormant. However, some flowering trees will do best if you prune them right after they finish flowering. Late winter or early spring, before the leaves come out, is a good time to prune most trees. It’s easier at this point to see the cuts you’re making. At this time of year, the wounds caused by pruning will heal more quickly than in other seasons. To see more instructions for how to prune a small tree, search online for your state’s Department of Forestry site, which may have free information on the best time to prune various tree species in your area. Prune only once a year, so that the tree can recover from the shock of being pruned.

Do I need to prune evergreen trees?

Most evergreens are grown for their natural form. They generally only need pruning for corrective reasons. Evergreens typically have a strong central branch, called the leader. If you need to prune an evergreen in your yard, don’t prune the central branch unless it’s absolutely necessary to shorten the tree.?


?If you prune the trees in your yard regularly, you will avoid having to make major cuts that may pose a risk to the trees’ health. To become comfortable with how to prune a small tree, see the website of your local Master Gardeners program. Do check with your local Cooperative Extension or Forestry Department, since most of them have lots of free information about tree care available to homeowners. Following the tree pruning tips in this article should help you to maintain a beautiful landscape around your home.