Tree Pruning with a Purpose

Summer is a great time to be outside admiring the trees in our landscapes. We can take stock of which trees are looking good and which seem to need a little help. If we discover trees that look like they’ve seen better days, we instantly want to solve the problem. It is natural to want to do something to help a plant – prune it, fertilize it, polish it – we can’t help wanting to touch it in some way.

One basic housekeeping chore that might help a struggling tree would be pruning. Pruning is an oft-needed maintenance treatment for good tree health and safety, but pruning without a good reason is not good tree care practice. Pruning just because your neighbor is doing it may not be beneficial for the tree, and could result in too much live tree tissue being removed. This can cause the tree to become stressed, and perhaps decline.

There should be a clearly defined objective when pruning your trees. A qualified arborist will work with you to set an objective for the pruning job. They will help you establish what you want to be accomplished when the work is done.

Pruning objectives usually include one or more of the following:

  • reduce risk of damage to people or property
  • manage tree health and direction of growth
  • provide clearance for vehicles or roadways
  • improve tree structure
  • increase or improve aesthetics
  • restore shape

“Once tree pruning objectives are established, the arborist can provide specific details on how your trees could be pruned to get the desired result,” says Tchukki Andersen, BCMA, CTSP* and staff arborist with the Tree Care Industry Association. A simple pruning objective could be to limit the amount of live tissue being removed and focus mainly on removing dead or broken branches.

Removing too much live tissue can expose the tree to undue stress from lack of water and nutrient uptake as well as sunscald or other environmental stressors.

When pruning, a qualified arborist may consider if the tree:

  • is healthy;
  • is still growing rapidly or has matured and slowed its growth;
  • has had its roots severed or damaged recently or in the past;
  •  suffers from disease; and
  •  is a species tolerant of heavy pruning?

“All that said, summer is a good time to evaluate a tree to plan future pruning that may be needed to meet certain tree health goals,” says Andersen.

The pruning process can be overwhelming to those not familiar with the pruning of shade and ornamental trees. A qualified tree care expert trained in tree and woody-plant health care can answer your questions, as well as help you with your tree-pruning goals. Make sure to ask for tree pruning to be done according to ANSI A300 standards, the generally accepted industry standards for tree care practices.

Find a professional

A professional arborist can assess your landscape and work with you to determine the best trees and shrubs to plant for your existing landscape. Contact the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), a public and professional resource on trees and arboriculture since 1938. TCIA has more than 2,300 member tree care firms and affiliated companies. All tree care company members recognize stringent safety and performance standards and are required to carry liability and workers’ compensation insurance, where applicable. It has the nation’s only Accreditation program that helps consumers find tree care companies that have been inspected and accredited based on: adherence to industry standards for quality and safety; maintenance of trained, professional staff; and dedication to ethics and quality in business practices. For more information, visit

An easy way to find a tree care service provider in your area is to use the “Find a Tree Care Company” program. You can use this service by doing a ZIP Code search on

*Board Certified Master Arborist, Certified Treecare Safety Professional

8 thoughts on “Tree Pruning with a Purpose

  • Solid information on proper tree pruning . Am always on the look out to learn something new. Thanks for sharing!

  • That’s a great article. Thanks for sharing! It’s super important to get trees trimmed in a regular basis

  • I’ve never thought that tree pruning needs to be done with a purpose but after ready your article, it makes sense. thanks! steam cleaning

  • There are many benefits to cutting trees. A dead branch can fall from a tree at any time, threatening nearby people, buildings, and power lines. Removing dangerous limbs and maintaining a safe tree is always the best course of action.


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