Pruning Trees

Sheila Dunning
What is Pruning?
• Removal of plant parts
– Shoots, branches, fronds, flowers
• Improve health
• Control growth
• Influence flowering & fruiting
– Roots
• Encircling
Why Prune?
• Routine maintenance
– Don’t wait until overgrown
If a plant needs to be pruned several times
each year to control size, it is probably the
wrong plant for that location
• Proper plant selection may eliminate the need
– Florida Grades and Standards
– Dwarf cultivars
– Save landfill space
Plant Grading System
– Florida Fancy
– Florida # 1
– Florida # 2
– Cull
Document available online at
Florida Fancy
• Characteristics of
– Single straight trunk
– No chlorosis
• Characteristics of
– Exceptional health
– Well shaped
– Densely foliated
Florida #1
• Characteristics of
– May require some
corrective pruning to
develop good structure
– Minor trunk defects
• Characteristics of
– Healthy, vigorous
– Well branched
– Well foliated
Florida #2
• Characteristics of Trees:
– Require major corrective
– Badly misshapen
– Sparse foliage
• Characteristics of
– Healthy plant
– Fairly well shaped
– Fair foliage and branches
Reasons to Prune
Maintain or Improve Health or Vigor
Control Plant Size or Form
Train Young Plants
Influence Flowering & Fruit Production
Rejuvenate Old Plants
Maintain / Improve Health
• Remove dead, dying or damaged branches
• Remove diseased or insect infested parts
– Limits the spread
– Sterilize or replace equipment between cuts
• 1:9 Alcohol or bleach : Water
Control Size / Form
• Standard, espalier or topiary forms
• Thin canopy
– Never more than a 1/3 foliage cover at a time
– Remove ½ - 1” diameter stems from edge
– Never clean out interior
• Root prune
– Slows growth & produces compact plant
– ½ rootball at a time – 4-6 weeks apart
Cleaning of interior can leave trees
more vulnerable to wind damage
Train Young Trees
• Should begin within the first 2-3 years
after planting
• Continues for 20 years or more
• Good branch structure improves strength
and longevity
• Frequent light prunings encourages faster
growth & prevents undesirable sprouting
Influence Flowering / Fruiting
• Pinching new growth increases number of
• Severe pruning produces
fewer, but larger flowers
• Removal of deadheads
encourages re-bloom
• Larger fruit produced when number of
flowering branches is reduces
Safety Hazards
• Stem attachment influences structural
• Remove branches with bark inclusion
• Remove dead branches and stubs
Attachment Strength
• Codominant stems are
not well attached to
each other, especially
when included bark is
present in the union
• Branches are more
secure when they are
small in comparison
to the trunk
Included or Embedded
Included Bark
Pruning Embedded Wood
Pruning Techniques
• Heading
– Hedging, shearing
• Thinning
– Reduction
• Selective cutting of terminal ends of young
branches to a node
– Forces growth from lower buds
• Produces shorter plant
• New growth is vigorous and upright
– Can lead to interior shading / leaf loss
• Avoid top-heavy plants by heading shoots
to varied heights
Growth Habit Following Heading
Heading cuts should be made
on a slight angle ¼” above a bud,
facing in the direction of desired growth.
No Heading Cuts for Trees
Except when required due to storm damage
Topping Trees
Complete removal of branches
Gives open appearance
Increases light penetration
Encourages wind resistance
Pruning Steps for Trees
1. Remove dead, diseased or broken branches.
2. Select best permanent branches
Spacing 6-24” apart
Remove or shorten others
3. Remove suckers from trunk base
Don’t remove branch sprouts – tree struggling to
4. Form central leader
Depending on species
Reduce length of branches with bark inclusions
Two Year Process
Reduction Cuts
Where To Cut
Proper Pruning Cuts
cut a
with the
Proper closing of
a pruning cut.
Branch collar is intact
Wound wood
forms a circle.
Don’t leave a
Pruning Cut
Without a Visible Collar
Flush Cuts
Reduction Cut of
Large Branch
• Don’t remove more than 1/3 of the crown
at a time.
• Better to prune a little at a time over
multiple years.
• Maintain 50%-70% live crown ratio
• Avoid removing limbs >4” diameter.
Pruning Paints and
Wound Dressings
Do not prevent wood
rot, cracks, or
Some dressings may
actually promote decay
by trapping moisture.
Palms Are Not Trees
• Never damage terminal bud
• Remove only brown fronds and flower stalks
• “9-3” if green must go
• Harbor insects & rodents
• Hazard to people or property
Use the Right Tool for the Job