Are You Making These Common Pruning Mistakes?

Each year around this time of seasonal transition, I see the most horrific crimes against horticulture being committed that compromise tree health and cause homeowners to work much harder at maintaining the excessive growth caused from their uneducated cuts.

Improper pruning can not only lead to aesthetically ugly plants, permanently ruining the look of your valuable trees, but also make them vulnerable to storm damage and disease.

But don’t worry, Joe won’t let you be the neighborhood blemish. And just in case you’re guilty of one or all of the below (you know who you are) we’ve included tips to help you get it right next time.

Mistake # 1 – You regularly snip the tips of your plants


Snipping the tips of branches is one of the worst pruning mistakes you can make. Pruning stimulates growth. By cutting the end of one branch, four to six new branches will take its place.

Instead, try making a few large cuts-rather than a bunch of smaller ones. Our Sun Joe 2-in-1 pole and chain saws allow you to stand safely on solid ground and simply adjust the telescoping pole to gain up to 15 feet of overhead reach so no job is out of the question.

Quickly convert to a hand-held chainsaw to make light work of freshly cut branches. It’s a win-win for homeowners.

Mistake # 2 – You cut the top off a tree to prevent it growing taller

Cutting the top most branch (also known as the central leader) is okay when you want to make a scrawny shrub appear full, but it is a nightmare for trees. Removing the top of a tree (called ‘topping’ ) causes new growth, which results in several new leaders which compete with each other for sunlight and compromise the structural integrity of the tree.

If the damage is done, try these tricks:

With conifers (i.e. spruce, fir, pine), select the most defined lateral branch below the nub of the leader and bend it up with household masking tape. The tape will natural degrade over time.

With deciduous trees (i.e. oak, elm, bitch), prune any competing leaders so that the most vigorous branch becomes dominant.

 Mistake #3 – You’re cutting branches too close to the trunk


Trimming branches too flush to the main trunk removes an area of cells that help heal wounds. When you cut too close to the base, you may open a wound that makes the tree susceptible to disease and pests and leave a pruning scar.

branch-collar-cutIn this illustration, the collar can be identified as the place where the branch expands and is ‘fastened’ to the trunk . When making  a cut, you want to leave the collar on the tree.

If cuts are made inside of the branch collar, the wound is larger, takes longer to heal and is susceptible to infection.  A bump should be left on the trunk when you make a correct cut.  Within one growing season the wound closing process will be complete.  The normal bark texture will return after a couple more growing seasons and all signs of pruning will be gone.

Many homeowners may think that the above mistakes will make a tree safer by cutting it more frequently and making limbs shorter.  But in actuality, as the branches grow out they become weak from bad pruning and fall more readily than if they were left in their natural state.