Simple Pruning Techniques

Pruning of trees requires:

  • Knowledge of when, why and how to initiate the desired pruning techniques.
  • Years of experience in the tree care field.
  • Tree service skills like pruning must be developed and refined to be able to manipulate the appropriate concepts and tools needed for pruning.
  • An understanding as to how the tree evolved from a seed.
  • A great respect for trees, the time it takes for its growth, its size, strength and awesome beauty.
  • Ability to “see” the future growth, or sense that certain twigs or branches will develop in ways that would not fit well with the tree’s overall function… so they can be trimmed to redirect development.

Why do we need to prune trees?

Trees need pruning for several reasons:

  • Improves natural form and appearance.
  • Improves branch spacing.
  • Strengthens branch attachment.
  • Invigorates or slows branch growth rate.
  • Improves stability by reducing wind resistance.
  • Removes dead, weakened, injured, diseased or insect-damaged branches.
  • Increases lighting to the interior.
  • Reduces hazard potential.

Practices Pruning Standards In Accordance with the International Society of Arboriculture(ISA)

Trees and other woody plants respond in specific and predictable ways to pruning and other maintenance practices. Careful study of these responses has led to pruning practices which best preserve and enhance the beauty, structural integrity, and functional value of trees.

In an effort to promote practices which encourage the preservation of tree structure and health, the ISA Certification Committee has established guidelines, recognizing that trees are individually unique in form and structure, and that their pruning needs may not always fit strict rules. The Certified Arborists and tree care specialists must take responsibility for special pruning practices that vary greatly from these Standards. The following is a summary of the ISA Standards

Pruning Techniques

Thinning Cut

  • Removes a branch at its point of attachment or shortens it to a lateral.
  • Opens up a tree removing primarily dead, crossing or diseased branches.
  • No more than one-third of the live foliage should be removed.
  • May reduce a tree’s height.
  • Distributes resultant invigoration throughout a tree and helps retain the tree’s natural shape.
  • Can safely be accomplished anytime of the year.
  • Preferred in tree pruning.

Heading Cut

  • Removes a branch to a stud, a bud or a lateral branch.
  • Should be seldom be used because hearty, weekly attached upright sprouts are forced just below such cuts, and the tree’s natural form is altered.
  • May result in stubs dying off or producing only weak sprouts.

Pruning cuts

  • Should be clean and smooth with the bark at the edge of the cut firmly attached to the wood.

Large or Heavy Branches

  • That cannot be thrown clear, should be lowered on ropes to prevent injury.

Wound dressings and tree paints

  • Have not been shown to be effective in preventing or reducing decay.
  • Are not recommended for routine use when pruning.

Types of Pruning – Mature Trees

Crown Cleaning

  • Removal of dead, dying, diseased, crowded, weakly attached, and low-vigor branches and water sprouts from a tree crown.

Crown Thinning

  • Includes crown cleaning and the selective removal of branches to increase light infiltration and air movement into the crown.
  • Stimulates and maintains interior foliage, which in turn improves branch taper and strength.
  • Reduces weight of important limbs.
  • Emphasizes the structural beauty of trunk and branches while improving the growth of plants beneath the tree by increasing light infiltration.

Crown Reduction

  • Used to reduce the height and/or spread of the tree.
  • Thinning cuts are most effective in maintaining the structural integrity and natural for of a tree and in delaying the time when it will be pruned again.
  • The lateral to which a branch or trunk is cut should be at least one-half the diameter of the cut being made.

Crown Restoration

  • Improves the structure and the appearance of trees that have been topped or severely pruned using heading cuts.
  • One to three sprouts on main branch
    • stubs should be selected to reform a more natural appearing crown.
    • Selected vigorous sprouts may need to be thinned to a lateral, or even headed, to control length growth in order to ensure adequate attachment for the size of the sprout.
    • Restoration may require several pruning over a number of years.Crown Raising
    • Removes lower branches of a tree in order to provide clearance for buildings, vehicles, pedestrians, and vistas.
    • At least one-half of the trees foliage should be left on branches that originate in the lower two-thirds of its trunk to ensure a well-formed, tapered structure and to uniformly distribute stress within a tree.
    • When pruning for view, it is preferable to develop “windows” through the foliage of the tree, rather than to severely raise or reduce the crown.

Want to learn more about pruning and taking care of your trees? Visit some of these related articles below that discuss proper tree care. You can also visit our services page to learn more about what tree services we provide.

Simple Pruning Techniques

Preventing Roots from Damaging Your Home

Benefits of Mulching Around Your Trees

How to Keep Your Trees Healthy


Mature trees are a valuable asset in your yard for several reasons. Not only do they provide curb appeal, making your home look beautiful, they also offer additional benefits like shade or keeping your home cool during the summer months. Tree replacement and tree care services can be very costly, so it’s important to protect your investments by keeping your trees as healthy as possible and investing in the long-term look of your yard. 

Prune Your Trees

Pruning a tree means to cut off dead branches so that you can stimulate growth. But did you know that you can prune your tree at any time of the year, even during the dead of Winter when the tree has halted its growth period? Pruning can be a way that you can thin out your tree and remove some of the dead or diseased limbs. This can be important because it prevents overcrowding with our limbs, which can stimulate growth and give your tree some curb appeal. It’s important not to get too carried away or you can do more damage to the tree. Hiring a tree service expert to do some meticulous pruning can save you the headache or stress of trying to do it yourself!

Feed Your Trees

Giving your tree the right nutrients and water is important to not only stimulate growth, but also keeps your tree healthy. Trees need fertilizer to not only help them grow strong and tall, but it can also make them more resilient. They are much more likely to stand-up to diseases and pests. Watering your tree is also essential to its health. If you’re wondering how much water you should give your tree, it primarily depends on the soil and also your climate. Obviously, regions with more rainfall require less watering! If you’re going through a particularly dry spell or drought, pay attention to watering your trees more often. During Colorado’s Winter months, there’s no need to water your tree during these dormant months when there isn’t a growing period. Summer months, where Colorado can be much more dry is when you want to make sure that your soil around the tree is moisturized.

Mulch Around Your Trees

Mulch is often something that most people forget when thinking about tree health. Mulch, such as wood chips, pine needles, grass clippings, bark, or gravel offer several benefits. It can prevent weeds from getting enough sunlight, which will keep all of the nutrients going to your tree instead of using it all up for their own growth. Mulch also keeps the soil moist. This will ensure that all the nutrients stay around the tree and that it doesn’t get washed away during those Summer rains. Mulch can keep the soil from becoming too compact. It helps reduce compaction that might occur in areas with lots of foot traffic.

Protect the Roots

Healthy roots are so important for a tree’s health. As mentioned above, compaction of the soil can impact a tree’s health. One of the ways that trees get nutrients into their tree roots is through oxygen. A tree’s roots needs air space to get oxygen, when a tree’s soil is compacted through foot traffic or even near-by construction, it can halt the tree’s ability to get proper water, oxygen, and fertilizer into the root system.

Healthy roots are essential for healthy trees, which means healthy soil is also critical. Oxygen is necessary for nutrient absorption by tree roots, which is why healthy soil has air space. Compacted soil is one of the biggest threats to tree roots because compaction impedes water infiltration and oxygen into the root zone.

What to Do Next

If you’re concerned about the health of your tree, be sure to reach out to one of our tree care professionals who can help give a proper diagnosis or give guidance on how you can better protect your trees and keep them in tip-top shape for years to come! We offer lots of tree services, so visit our services page for more information!

Want to learn more about how to keep your trees healthy? Visit these articles below:

Prepare Your Soil

Care For Your Black Walnut Tree

Easy Ways to Tell If Your Tree is Alive or Dead

A few years ago, one of our customers came to us in a panic after one of their large Cottonwood trees fell on their garage only a week before new buyers were about to close on their home. They were justifiably upset that this could potentially prevent the buyers from purchasing their home. In addition, they only had a week to repair the damage that the fallen tree did to their garage.

When these customers had purchased their home ten years prior, they noticed that the tree looked sickly, but thought nothing of it. The tree (no longer budding leaves) showed signs of being sick, but it seemed to withstand all the summer storms that came with strong Colorado winds. Although advised by several people, they didn’t understand the safety issues that come with sick or dead trees until it was too late.

It’s important to take the time to examine your trees to determine their health. You can also ask one of our professional tree care specialists or arborists to provide you with a free diagnostic assessment of your trees. There are several ways you can also examine trees on your own, but as always it’s important to get expert advice from a reliable tree service company.

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Signs of Your Tree’s Health

Often there are straightforward signs that your tree is alive or dead. You might see rotting branches falling off or you could also see year around dead leaves covering your tree, but there is a much easier way to determine if your tree is still alive and maybe feeling a little under-the-weather.

Remember, sick trees can always be saved through a little care, but a dead tree is beyond repair and will need to be removed. That way it doesn’t do any potential damage to either you or your property.


How to Take a Health Assessment of Your Tree

While it’s always important to call professional to make an assessment, you can always use this quick trick to determine the health of your tree. First, using either your fingernail or a sharp knife, scratch the surface of one of the tree branches or twigs. If you peel away some of the surface, you should reveal a moist green layer underneath. If it looks dry, brittle or brown that is a good indication that your tree is dead.

After you’ve finished inspecting the first branch, move on to other areas. Scratch a few other surfaces on twigs or branches to look for signs of a healthy tree (moist and green). Also, look for other signs that can indicate a tree’s health. 

  • Do you see mold and fungus growing on one side of the tree or near the base?
  • Is the trunk peeling its bark or have cracks/splits down it?
  • If you look at the canopy, are there dead leaves, missing leaves, or dead hanging branches?
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If your tree fails to pass any of these tests, you should reach out to one of our tree care professionals to determine if your tree is sick (and can be saved) or if its time to remove your tree and avoid damage to your home (or the neighbor’s home!). Our certified tree service professionals can inspect your tree in person and provide a diagnosis along with a treatment plan. 

Signs Your Tree is Dying

When you’re going on a hike out in the Colorado woods, you may notice trees that are dying around you. In nature, a dying tree is a perfectly natural part of the our eco-system’s lifecycle. A dying tree in a forest helps contribute to wildlife habitat, cycling nutrients, helping with plant regeneration, limiting erosion, and assisting with drainage/soil moisture, and carbon storage. There are so many ways that a dead tree gives back to nature.

Photo by Daniel Frank on Pexels.com

A tree that dies in your backyard, however, it poses several problems for your property and the surrounding area. It’s important to determine if your tree is dying or just sick. This is where a tree care professional can come in and assess your tree properly.

Below are a few warning signs to help you understand whether your tree is merely sick or that it’s dead. Of course, it’s always helpful to reach out to a certified and licensed tree service expert for further examination to help you make the best assessment!

Bare branches

A common sign that your tree might be dying is when you start to see several dead branches. If your tree is not budding new leaves in the Spring or it’s bare in the Summer months, this is a good indication that there is a problem. A healthy tree will have leaf coverage on all the branches during specific seasons, like Summer. If you have dead branches on only one side of your tree, it’s often a sign that there is serious root damage or something wrong with the trunk that might be unseen by an untrained eye. Having an arborist come out to inspect the tree can help give you guidance on what might be happening!

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Fungus

When you see a lot of fungus growing on the trunk of a tree, it’s another sign that your tree could be dying. Foliar/shoot type fungusis the most common type of fungus that you might see sprouting on one side of your tree. These might resemble large mushrooms that are clustered together. Not only do these cause cosmetic damage, but they also are a sign that your tree is experiencing internal rot. 

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Leaning Tree

When your tree starts to die, it will begin lean due to the roots losing their structure and their ability to hold the tree upright in the soil. When you see a tree start to lean suddenly vs. a tree having a more natural bend, it can be a sign of structural issues. You can tell if the lean is about structural issues by looking at the soil around the tree to see if there are cracks or heaving. We recommend that you keep a close eye on the tree to see if the leaning gets worse.  Trees leaning 15 degrees away from their original vertical position aren’t doing so well. 

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Dead Bark

Areas of dead bark or cankers that show up on trees are signs of fungal or bacterial infections. These infections can get beneath the tree’s surface and can open wounds. This can cause the bark to become sunken or for it all to fall off the tree resulting in exposure to the elements. A tree with several cankers can easily cause the tree to break or fall apart. 

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Finding Resources

If you don’t feel comfortable identifying your tree’s health, consult on of our tree care professionals. Oftentimes, agricultural extensions provided by universities can help you determine your tree’s health.

What To Do Next

You can also reach out to an arborist, like one of our tree care specialists! These individuals can help you determine the health of your tree and if tree removal is necessary. If it is, many arborists can help you with that as well!

For more information on caring for your tree, visit a few of our other posts:

Preparing Your Soil For Tree Care

Successfully Planting Your Trees and Shrubs