Whether you’re looking to scale down a large-growing species or give a shaggy tree a bit of a haircut, smart trimming can improve any tree’s appearance. Some trees can even show off their beautiful flowers or attractive bark better when effectively pruned. Take the time to learn how to trim a tree to give your landscaping a refresher.

Trimming Small Branches

Follow these steps to learn how to trim a tree by a single branch.

  • You’ll need to start with a sharp and clean pruning tool.
  • Acquaint yourself with the parts of each tree: The branch bark ridge is the area between the trunk and branch that is raised just a bit higher than the branch. The branch collar is the portion of swelled-up area under your branch that connects it to the tree.
  • Locate where you want to cut, you want to aim a bit beyond the branch collar so you’re not cutting the collar itself but are close enough to not leave a stub.
  • For slim branches — about 1-inch or smaller in diameter — you want to locate the spot slightly past the branch collar and cut there at a 45 to 60-degree angle to the bark ridge.
  • If your branch is thicker, follow the three-cut rule: start about 10-15 inches above the branch collar and cut halfway into the bottom of the branch. Then, move just a couple inches past your first cut and cut into the top side of the branch letting the branch fall. Finally, make your final cut just past the branch collar.

Trimming Small Trees

Knowing how to trim a tree can come in handy if you have small or young trees where you can easily reach each branch. The process is similar to trimming a single branch, with just a few key differences.

  • Before picking which branches you’ll be cutting, take note of the clock trick: Keep the branches that grow at 2 and 10 o’clock angles from the trunk and trim any branches that grow at a funky angle. Trim branches that grow across the interior of the tree from side to side.
  • When trimming a tree, experts recommend that you don’t remove more than a quarter of the tree’s canopy at one time.
  • Start by trimming away any growth around the roots or base of the trunk. Prune twigs and dead branches and cut out any weak, stringy branches that are growing in clusters.
  • Lastly, trim your branches following the steps above.

When to Call a Pro

If you’re wondering how to trim a tree, recognize that it can be a labor-intensive job that also requires a bit of know-how. You can definitely teach yourself how to trim a tree if the branches are eye-level and in close range, but if you need to climb a ladder, you may want to hire a professional, because they generally come with the right equipment to keep themselves safe reaching such high branches. Trimming a tree should also be avoided if branches are near power lines or are too heavy to let fall straight to the ground. Large branches may require a chainsaw or another power tool which could require some extra precaution and a more difficult learning curve.

How much does it cost to trim a tree? On average, a tree trimming service could cost between $80 to $350 per tree. A medium-sized tree may cost around $150 , with more difficult jobs coming in closer to $250. For larger trees such as oak or pine, you should plan on spending between $300 to $1,000 per tree.

Winter Trimming

Some trimming or pruning should be done on a seasonal basis, but this will depend on why you are pruning. For instance, light pruning and removal of dead wood can be done any time of the year. However, major pruning is generally done during the winter after the coldest part has passed when trees are dormant. This pruning will result in a fantastic burst of new growth come spring.

Summer Trimming

Summer trimming is meant to help direct growth through slowing down branches you don’t want. It can also be done to dwarf the development of a branch or tree. This kind of seasonal pruning should be done soon after summer growth is complete. Summer pruning and trimming can also help to correct defective limbs a bit more easily.

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