The Dos and Don’ts of Pruning Your Trees and Shrubs

The Dos and Don’ts of Pruning Your Trees and Shrubs

Pruning is a crucial part of maintaining the health and appearance of your trees and shrubs. However, it’s important to know the dos and don’ts of pruning to ensure that you’re not causing more harm than good. In this article, we’ll cover some essential tips for proper tree and shrub pruning to help you keep your landscape looking its best.

Do Start with a Plan

Do Assess the Health of Your Trees and Shrubs

Before you start pruning, it’s important to assess the health of your trees and shrubs. Look for signs of disease or damage, such as dead or broken branches, wilted leaves, or discoloration. This will help you determine the extent of pruning needed and identify any potential issues that may need to be addressed.

Do Identify Your Goals

Identify your goals for pruning, whether it’s to improve the overall health of the plant, remove dead or diseased wood, shape the plant for aesthetic purposes, or encourage better fruit or flower production. Having a clear plan will help you make informed decisions about which branches to prune and how much to remove.

Do Use the Right Tools

Do Use Sharp, Clean Tools

Using sharp, clean tools will make pruning easier and less damaging to the plant. Dull or dirty tools can create uneven cuts and introduce disease to the plant, so be sure to regularly sharpen and clean your pruning tools.

Do Use the Right Tool for the Job

Using the right tool for the job will help you make clean, accurate cuts and minimize damage to the plant. Hand pruners are best for small branches, while loppers are better for larger branches. For very thick branches, a pruning saw may be necessary.

Do Prune at the Right Time

Do Prune During Dormant Season

For most trees and shrubs, the best time to prune is during the dormant season, typically in late winter or early spring. Pruning during this time helps minimize stress to the plant and allows for new growth to emerge in the spring.

Do Prune to Maintain Shape

When pruning to maintain the shape of your trees and shrubs, it’s important to make cuts that encourage new growth in the right direction. This may involve selectively removing branches to open up the plant’s canopy or thinning out dense areas to allow more air and sunlight to reach the interior of the plant.

Don’t Overprune

Don’t Remove More Than 25% of the Canopy

Removing more than 25% of a tree or shrub’s canopy at once can stress the plant and lead to reduced growth and overall health. It’s important to be conservative with your pruning to avoid causing unnecessary damage.

Don’t Top Your Trees

Topping, or cutting back all the branches to a uniform height, is a harmful practice that can lead to weak, unstable growth and increased susceptibility to disease and pests. Instead, selectively prune branches to maintain the natural shape and structure of the tree.


By following these dos and don’ts of pruning, you can help ensure the health and beauty of your trees and shrubs for years to come. Remember to always start with a plan, use the right tools, and prune at the right time to achieve the best results.


Q: When is the best time to prune my trees and shrubs?

A: The best time to prune is during the dormant season, typically in late winter or early spring.

Q: Is it okay to prune my trees and shrubs in the summer?

A: It’s best to avoid pruning in the summer, as the plant is actively growing and may be more susceptible to stress and damage.

Q: How often should I prune my trees and shrubs?

A: The frequency of pruning depends on the type of plant and your specific goals for pruning. In general, most trees and shrubs benefit from annual pruning to maintain their health and appearance.

Q: Can I prune my trees and shrubs myself, or should I hire a professional?

A: Minor pruning can often be done by homeowners, but for larger or more complex pruning jobs, it may be best to hire a professional arborist to ensure the job is done safely and effectively.

Q: How do I know if a branch should be pruned?

A: Look for signs of disease, damage, or overcrowding, and consider your overall goals for pruning. If a branch is dead or diseased, crossing another branch, or interfering with the plant’s natural shape, it may be a candidate for pruning.