Pruning Standards


There are many things you need to figure out before pruning your tree. It starts from assessing the tree, making the right cuts, and ends with a short or long-term goal in mind. You can even damage or deter a tree’s growth if you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s why it’s best to leave it to the professionals by searching for tree service near me”. If you take care of your trees by yourself, you should check out these pruning standards and practices to get better at it:

The Standards

  1. Start with the weakest trees and end with the strongest trees – Trees go dormant during the autumn and winter seasons and it’s the best time to prune your trees. However, weak trees will take a longer time compared to stronger trees to heal from the pruning before the frost hits.

That’s why you should start pruning the weakest trees during the mid-autumn season and take your time till you prune the strongest tree. This gives all your trees enough time to recover and bloom in all their glory after the snow melts down.

  1. Remove thick branches – Thick branches and big wooden blocks on your tree have very limited cropping potential. That’s because thicker branches are more vigorous and provide ample shading. That’s why you need to remove thick branches early during the growing stages of the tree and don’t allow them to crop fruits. This keeps the fruiting branches young and highly productive.

While you prune thick branches and try to assess the thin branches that you should keep, follow the 3-to-1 rule. That means branches that have one-third the thickness of the trunk get to be on the tree while the thicker branches get removed during the early life of the tree.

  1. Prefer thinning cuts over heading cuts – A thinning cut removes an entire branch, shoot or scaffold from the tree without messing with its natural growth. It doesn’t influence the shape of the tree either. It doesn’t deter apical dominance either where the main stem of the tree is dominant over other limbs.

On the other hand, a heading cut promotes the development of strong and new shoots immediately below the cut. It is an invigorating cut that promotes the tree’s productivity. However, heading cut also makes crowding, forks, and shade. That’s why you shouldn’t make too many small heading cuts on the tree. Too many small heading cuts irritate the tree and don’t allow the tree to calm down. After the pruning season, your tree should have as few heading cuts as possible.

  1. Pruning cuts on undersides of scaffolds and branches – When you leave pruning cuts on the undersides of scaffolds and branches you avoid strong upright shoots from growing. This helps you to avoid unnecessary shade and can also save you some pruning effort in the future.
  1. Maintain the correct height of canopies and trees – During the summer season, trees form upright canopies. However, all trees have a permissible maximum height that shouldn’t exceed the row width. Otherwise, the tree becomes unstable and structurally weak.

For some trees, the maximum permissible height is 60 percent of the row width and for others, it may be around 80 percent. You may check with your local arborist to figure out the permissible height limit for your trees. This also helps you to check excess growth so that the tree doesn’t run into power lines.

  1. Postpone cutting the head of the tree till the structure of the tree is formed – Try to keep the tree branch heads soft and upright. Check the tip of the leader stem and treat it as a ship’s rudder. It’s responsible for the rest of the tree and communicates with every part of the tree including the roots.

To keep the tree calm, you need to leave the head alone for as long as possible. Interfering with the head can severely irritate the tree and deliver a quick death. If pruning the head is absolutely necessary, you need to postpone it after flowering to minimize damage as much as possible.

  1. Prune older wood to contain scaffold length – The scaffold length of your tree should never exceed over 4 feet. Moreover, the scaffold needs to be horizontal and shouldn’t be in a bowed position. To contain scaffold length, you can prune old wood from the tree. The limb or branch should be more than two years old. Otherwise, you may hinder the growth of the tree.
  1. Use the 1-2-3 rule for fruiting wood – you need to keep the fruiting limbs on your tree young to keep it productive. Optimally you don’t want your fruiting wood to exceed the two-year mark. Otherwise, the fruits become smaller in size, have fewer nutrients, and don’t taste as good.
  1. Delay heading branches – As mentioned above, the tree can’t be allowed to grow over a certain permissible height. That’s why you should delay pruning the branches and make heading cuts during the flowering season late into spring. If you make heading cuts in the winter, you restrict the growth of the tree in upcoming seasons.

If you have an apple or pear tree, they may develop blind wood if the heading cuts are made in winter. The buds remain dormant or “blind” and reduce the overall bearing capacity of your tree.

  1. Remove old and tired spurs – Weak and old spurs bloom late, produce small fruit and have smaller leaves than the rest of the tree. That’s why you should keep the spur strong by limiting it to two buds at most. This helps the tree to redirect its resources and use them more efficiently. It also opens up the canopy and allows the tree to soak in more sunlight.


Now that you know about these pruning practices, you can do a better job when it’s pruning season. If you feel like you’re lacking proper equipment and experience, you can search for “tree service near me” and hire the right professionals to get the job done.

A tree trimmer port st lucie can help keep your trees looking their best. Our arborists are experienced in all types of tree trimming and can help you maintain the health and beauty of your trees.

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