How to Prune Young Trees for Strength & Form – Pruning Tools


Tree pruning is a crucial part of developing a strong structure and getting the desired shape for trees. When a tree receives appropriate pruning measures at a young age, it will require less pruning as it matures.

However, improper pruning can harm young trees significantly. Thus, one needs to be cautious and follow the proper pruning techniques. In this article, we will discuss the proper pruning techniques for young trees.

Simple Pruning Principles to Keep in Mind

Even before pruning a tree, one should know the pruning principles to avoid any mishaps. Here are 4 pruning principles that every tree owner should know:

  • Have a clear pruning purpose before making a cut, as each cut can influence the tree’s growth.
  • Learn the proper pruning techniques as improper pruning can damage the tree, which can last for the rest of the tree’s life.
  • Once a tree is damaged, the damage does not heal but is sealed. Therefore, the damage will last forever within the tree.
  • Minor cuts do less damage than larger cuts to a tree. Pruning a tree at a younger age will require less pruning while growing older.

These principles will help in pruning trees and keeping them in optimal condition. You can also check out tree lopping for more great options.

Pruning Tools

If you are pruning a young tree, it can easily be done with hand pruners. Generally, scissor-type or bypass-blade hand pruners are used for pruning young trees properly rather than anvil type.

You will need to use a pruning tool that can make clean cuts to the young tree. If you need to make a cut more than one-half inch diameter, you will need to use a pruning saw. Avoid using hedge shears while pruning a young tree, as it can seriously damage the tree.

Also, you will need to clean the pruning tools before and after pruning. Keeping pruning tools clean can help you avoid damaging trees and protect trees from diseases. Make sure to check if the tool is sharp before using them. Blunt tools can damage a tree and make the tree vulnerable to outside attacks.

Pruning a Young Tree

While pruning a tree, you must be careful about where you are making the cut. If the cut is too close to the trunk, it can seriously harm the tree and harm the tree’s growth. Also, the tree may suffer from permanent internal decay due to improper pruning.

The right place to cut a tree is just outside the branch collar. It will help you avoid compromising wound response and damaging the trunk. If you are pruning a large branch, prune it back to a secondary one.

Do not cut branches in between. It will lead the stem to decay, misdirect growth, and hamper sprout production.

Young trees can be pruned for two reasons, to gain strength and to gain form. Let’s discuss them separately:

Pruning a Tree for Strength

If you want your tree to expand the root system after transplanting, the pruning technique will involve leaving as much as the leaf surface to keep intact. In this pruning technique, only the damaged and dead branches are removed.

Here are the factors you need to keep an eye on while pruning a tree for strength:

  • If two branches are growing at a narrow-angle, it can weaken the whole tree structure. In such cases, remove one of the two branches growing at a narrow angle. The ideal angle for two lateral branches is approximately 2 or 10 O’clock.
  • Lateral branches should be one-half to three-fourths the diameter of the trunk. If any lateral branch exceeds this diameter, prune them.
  • If a young tree is deformed by natural force, you can prune branches to shift the center of gravity of the plant.
  • Suckers and waterspouts consume more energy than they return to the tree. They may occur inside the crown or at the base. They should be removed as soon as they occur.
  • Remove one of them if a tree develops rubbing branches to avoid notches and decay.
  • The branches below the lowest permanent branches are often kept to help young bark avoid injuries. These limbs may be kept for three to four years after planting the tree and then removed within the next two to three years, starting with the larger ones.

These are the pruning techniques to follow when you are training a tree for strength. When pruning the temporary limbs, make sure not to grow them enough to become vigorous and large. With time, your tree will grow stronger and have a strong root system.

Pruning Young Trees for Form

In this case, the trees are pruned to look good and occupy space properly. This kind of pruning is often done after pruning for strength. Here are the factors you should consider while puning for form:

  • Remove all tree limbs but one that is competing for light and space. The lateral branches should be 8 -12 inches apart in the young tree.
  • Remove the tree limbs that are growing towards the house, sign, or walk away to avoid hazards.
  • Remove the limbs that are growing inward. This will help other branches to get enough air and light.
  • Avoid over-pruning tree limbs. Keep at least three-fourths of the tree limbs along with the live crown.
  • Do not allow multiple branches to take the leading role. Remove the co-dominant leader that has defects and crooks. This will help the dominant limb to grow properly.

If you’re unsure how or when to prune your young trees, our arborists can help you with all your tree needs, including pruning young trees. Call us today to schedule a free consultation.

Final Words

Pruning is an essential part of the growth cycle of a tree. It gives the tree proper strength and shape during its growth period. Also, early pruning can help you prune less in the future.

However, improper pruning and too much pruning can damage a tree significantly. Once a tree is damaged, it cannot repair itself, only seals the damage. Therefore, if you are not sure of your pruning technique, call an arborist.

An arborist can assess the overall condition of your tree and prune it for proper strength and form. It will help you avoid hazards in the future and keep your trees looking phenomenal.



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