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Extension > Local Extension Offices > Douglas > County Horticulture Educator > Articles > Tree Pruning 101

Tree Pruning 101

I have gotten many, many questions regarding tree pruning this week.  The weather is lovely, gardens have been put to bed, and people are eager to get the rest of the garden chores done. If you’ve got pruning saw and loppers in hand, STOP, and put them right back where you got them.  It’s still too early to prune our deciduous trees!

Trees break dormancy with a flush of growth in the spring, followed by storing of manufactured food in the roots, a slowing of growth in the summer and then dormancy in the fall. Pruning of dead branches can be done at any time of the year since you do not cut into any live tissue. For most species, it is best to prune live branches during the late winter or early spring while the tree is still dormant. This allows the plant to replace lost branches and foliage during the coming growing season and allows wounds to close and seal faster. It also protects the tree from disease and insects that are present in the growing season.
Pruning is advisable if:

  • trees have crossing branches, weak branch unions, or other defects
  • branches are dead, dying, decayed, or hazardous
  • lower branches interfere with people or vehicles, or block visibility of signs
  • branches are growing into buildings or utility wires
  • limbs have been broken by storms
  • trees have grown too large and might injure people or damage property

Most pruning tasks in the landscape can be accomplished using hand pruners, lopping shears, pruning saws, pole pruners or hedge shears. For larger branches, one-half to 1½ inches in diameter, lopping shears are best. A pruning saw is used for branches larger than l ½ inches in diameter. Pole pruners remove branches from trees that cannot be reached from the ground. Most pole pruners have both a cutting blade and a saw. Use hedge shears (manual, gasoline-powered or electric) to shear or clip hedges or other plants when you want a neatly trimmed appearance. Do not attempt to cut large branches with hedge shears. To keep all pruning tools in good shape, sharpen and oil their blades at the end of each season.
For more information about tree pruning, visit, or contact me at 320-762-3890.


Robin Trott
Extension Educator, Horticulture
(320) 762-3890
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