Pruning Perfection

Updated: May 8, 2019

Note - this is primarily for deciduous trees! For more detailed information and illustrations please visit the following:, any university Extensions site,

Tree trimming guidelines

Most young trees are best left alone their first 3 - 5 years of life (not the 3 - 5 years since planted or bought).

Some major rules of thumb for training young trees are:

1. unless you are creating a vase-like architecture for a small tree then select one leader,

2. thin the canopy by removing inner branches and branches with angles < 45 degrees, and branches likely to rub (crossed branches),

3. retain side branches at intervals such as 10 and 2 o'clock,

4. remove side branches of equal size or larger than the main stem (leader),

5. cut just above the branch bark ride and beyond the collar to allow for good wound healing,

6. cut slightly above a bud,

7. prune primarily when the trees are dormant (there are some exceptions),

8. used sharpened tools - don't tear the bark if you do tear the bark don't pull it off but rather cut the tear like you would a hang-nail,

9. for fruit trees being train for fruit production:

a. once mature enough to produce multiple fruiting branches, thin the canopy annually,

b. thinning should be removal of branches and opening up of canopy by taking off 30-40% of branches prior to bloom,

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