How to prune a tree
To put it simply: proper tree pruning removes unwanted growth while encouraging new growth. But which branches should you prune? When should you do it – and what tools might you need? To help you navigate the possibilities, we’ve put together this simple guide to tree pruning.
Tips for tree pruning
You can prune a tree to encourage existing branches to grow more, adding structure. Or, you can prune a tree to allow more light into your tree, to promote better fruit or flower growth. You can even prune a tree to create a ball-shaped tree!
We recommend that you bear in mind what you’re hoping to achieve when you set out to prune – whether it’s beauty, shape, strength or fruit – as this will help you decide which branches need to go.
In general, prune during the dormant months in late winter or early spring. This is when insect and disease exposure is minimised, while the tree also gets enough time to heal ahead of new growth. You should always cut dead, broken or diseased limbs as soon as they appear.
For some jobs, shears (secateurs), loppers, or a pruning saw will do the job. For larger jobs, you may need a power tool, such as a pole saw.
Working with outdoor power equipment can be dangerous. Make a plan to prevent accidents and reduce the severity should an accident occur by wearing the proper safety gear. Husqvarna recommends wearing a helmet with earmuffs, visor and protective glasses, protective pants or chainsaw chaps, forestry jacket with proper upper body coverage, protective trousers, anti-slip boots and gloves. For further advice on suitable safety equipment associated with Husqvarna tools, we welcome you to visit our site on protective equipment.
Don’t work with a tree if it is near power lines as this can be very dangerous. Get the help of a professional instead.
Never use a chainsaw while standing on a ladder. A chainsaw should only be used at waist level or lower. For jobs higher than this, use a ladder and a lopper – or use a pole saw. Always wear safety goggles and gloves. If you’re working with large limbs, make sure you wear a hard hat.
Start by observing your tree from a distance and decide on your end-goal. Prune branches to help shape the tree – for example, you may want to remove branches from the top to encourage limbs to grow outwards (this can help with providing shade or – if you have a fruit tree – make fruit more accessible). Each year, you should at least consider cutting the branches that have sprouted that year, just to keep the tree’s shape intact and to conserve its energy.
You can also prune to thin out areas that are thick or cluttered with branches. For this type of pruning, it can help to start further away from the tree and work your way in gradually.
Look for branches showing signs of damage. Also, look for branches that are pointing downwards and pointing into other branches. If you see two branches form a tree crotch, cut one of the branches off so they aren’t competing with each other.
Cut in three steps.
The first cut is placed underneath the branch, the second is placed further out from the stem to alleviate pressure. Then, cut 3 creates a neat finish while leaving the branch collar. This is important because if the incision is made any closer to the trunk, the wound surface becomes larger – meaning it will take longer for the tree to heal over that incision surface. Pruning trees using this method also prevents peeling the branch that might otherwise slow the healing process.
Generally, when cutting back the current year’s sprouts, you should aim to cut at 45-degree angles.
It’s best to remove as little as is required to get the desired effect – certainly, no more than about 20% – as removing too many branches can place stress on the tree. If you’re doing a major prune, you should try to spread it out over two or more years. On the other hand, you’re totally safe if you're just removing branches that have grown in the past year.
Bear in mind that tree pruning can create a lot of tree waste, so ensure that you have a plan in place for moving the trimmings to a waste processing station (where it can be turned into mulch) if you don’t have your own green waste bin.
Husqvarna’s range of battery-powered pole saws give you all the power of petrol-driven tools, but with lower noise, no fumes and lower vibration.
Our 120iTK4 battery pole saw – being a telescopic pole product – is especially versatile, as you can combine the “body” of the machine with either a pole saw or a hedge attachment.