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Do You Have to Prune Trees?

Do You Have to Prune Trees?
by Alison North Alison North

Although there are some exceptions, most trees will benefit from pruning (trimming or removing parts of the tree). There are many reasons why we prune ornamental and fruit trees - usually it is done either to control the size and shape of the tree or to improve its health. For fruit trees, this can even increase the size of your crop - so it’s important to know the best way to do it, and when.

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What tools should I use to prune a tree?

  • Pruning shears/secateurs - for small, easy to reach branches.
  • Loppers/long handled pruners - used for out of reach branches and thicker branches.
  • Pruning saw - for branches too thick to cut through.

Wiping your tools after pruning and keeping them sharp gives cleaner cuts which help the trees heal faster.

pruning shears

How do I prune an ornamental tree?

Ornamental trees are pruned to keep their shape and size manageable as well as to keep them healthy by removing dead or diseased parts.

Firstly, find out if your tree is deciduous or evergreen.

Deciduous trees should be pruned in autumn or winter when they are dormant (not growing). If you prune a tree when it is in its growth phase, it could bleed sap, damaging or killing it. The exceptions to this are maple, horse chestnut, birch, walnut and cherry trees, which bleed even at the end of the dormant period, so they need to be pruned in mid-summer when their new growth has matured.

By pruning away some of the branches, we make sure the tree’s energy is directed towards those that remain, making it stronger and healthier.  

Evergreen trees rarely need pruning, except to remove dead or dying branches.

How do I prune a fruit tree?

Fruit trees need to be pruned to let the air and light circulate more freely. By reducing the number of branches you will prevent them from breaking or bending under the weight of the fruit also you will prevent crowding the developing fruit. It is important to prune lightly, removing too many branches will reduce the productivity of the tree.

You can have a lot of fun with fruit trees by pruning them or training them into unique shapes using cordons, fans and espaliers.

Our experts have put together a comprehensive guide on fans, cordons and espaliers.

pruning an apple tree

The three Ds

Dead, Damaged or Diseased!

If any of the three Ds apply to a part of your tree, it needs to be removed. This can be done at any time of year.

For better pruning and healthier trees, always check the instructions for your tree’s species on our product pages. Finally, never prune trees or hedges in the nesting season (February-August) unless you can see clearly that there are no birds’ nests in them.

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