One of the best ways to keep a tree healthy is by pruning. Pruning is the selective removal of parts of a tree to shape the tree, improve tree health, and reduce the risk of falling branches. It has permanent consequences that affects a tree for its entire life. So, it’s a pretty good idea to prune the proper way. We’ve already told you what to do, now we’re going to tell you what NOT to do. Beware of these improper pruning techniques.

Keep the Crown Down

Foliage and branches grow where they can get sunlight to support tree growth. Raising the crown or canopy of a tree only helps to reduce photosynthesis and weaken the development of trunk growth. Done correctly, proper canopy adjustments are acceptable to provide clearance for safety or around obstacles.

The Tail End

The worst form of crown raising occurs when all branches are removed except a few at the top of the tree. The remaining limbs and foliage are referred to as a “lion’s tail”. Like with crown raising, this reduces photosynthesis, creates substantial wounding and disturbs the tree’ ability to move with the wind. This practice is tremendously damaging to a tree and should be avoided.

Topped Off

Topping refers to the unselective removal of branches and limbs to reduce the height of a tree. Sometimes referred to as a “tree haircut” this practice leaves large wounds that allows for decay to spread rapidly through the tree. It also creates an abundance of shoots that have little structural integrity.

A Thin Line

The practice of thinning is often rationalized to increase light penetration and air movement through the canopy of the tree. However, recent research has proven that thinning a trees’ canopy reduces the leverage on the tree and makes for an increased risk of branch failure in even normal winds. Thinning also reduces leaf surface area which can stress remaining limbs and living tissues for a significant period. By reducing interior branches, the process of thinning also reduces the structural support for the remaining foliage. Rather than reducing weight load on the entire limb, it shifts the load to the end of the remaining branch.

Don’t Be Like the Romans

Pollarding is an ancient Roman horticultural pruning technique started as early as 1st century BCE. It involves the removal of the upper branches of a tree, which promotes the growth of a dense head of foliage and branches. After many years of cutting back the sprouts, the stems form callused areas. Like topping these cuts create wounds that have a difficult time healing, but the continual removal of the sprouts prevents the development of hazardous limbs. Internal decay is a serious problem with pollarded trees.

There are many reasons a tree may need to be pruned but all pruning should be evaluated with the health and safety of the tree in mind. Improper pruning will weaken a tree, shorten its life, and reduce its aesthetic value. Proper pruning reduces the trees’ hazard potential; improper pruning can increase hazard potential. If you need your tree properly pruned, reach out to the professionals at Good’s Tree and Lawn Care.