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  • Writer's pictureShelby Pietersen

The Beginner’s Guide to Pruning Techniques

With having a property with multiple trees as well as different variants of trees you will be

surprised by how much information there is when it comes to the pruning of a tree and then not to mention the different types of pruning shapes there is to choose from.

The following are just a few pruning shapes you get for trees:

Standard Pruning

Pruning is a standard practice among many homeowners to encourage healthy and desired growth and remove dead or diseased branches from the tree. Pruning involves removing or cutting back dead branches and removing any branch that is too close to another branch or

rubbing against it. Removing problematic or undesired tree growth promotes healthy growth of the tree.

Crown Reduction

Crown reduction entails reducing the height of a tree by cutting back the top branches. Crown reduction can cause disease or rot and may compromise the structural integrity of the tree. As a result, it should be done only if it's truly necessary, as in the case of a tree whose growth is interfering with power lines.

Crown Raising

Crown raising elevates the beginning point of the crown on the tree. Once a branch has sprouted from a tree, its position on the trunk is stationary and does not rise with the tree's growth. Low branches can be a hazard if they are hanging over a sidewalk, driveway or street. Low branches also prevent easy access to the trunk and may prevent the homeowner from mowing. By trimming the bottom branches of a crown, the crown is raised to a higher point on the trunk.

Crown Thinning

Crown thinning is the practice of removing some branches throughout the crown of the tree to promote light and circulation. Crown thinning must sometimes be accomplished over the course of several years, as no more than 25% of the living branches must be removed in a year.


Pleaching is the ancient practice of sculpting with living trees. This technique was developed by the Romans and is still seen today. With creative grafting and pruning, trees are encouraged to grow as woven screens and braided ropes. Trees shaped by pleaching may take on unusual geometric shapes, with rigidly straight branches or circular ones, all planned in advance by the gardener. Pleaching is best done on trees with pliable branches, such as pear, certain acacia species, hawthorn, ficus trees and the list goes on.


Topping is the practice of dramatically and indiscriminately cutting back all major leading branches of the tree, allowing the tree to sprout new growth in the form of suckers that emerge from the stumps of the old branches. Tree topping is known to damage and disfigures trees, yet it remains a common practice. Some homeowners pay for tree topping services to cut back the size of a tree that may be growing too close to a house or garage; others do so to stimulate growth on old trees. Topping is known to weaken a tree and may ultimately cause the early death of the tree.


Topiary is another ancient art form that involves severe pruning of a tree into the desired shape, such as a sphere or cone. Once the desired shape has been established, the topiary requires regular maintenance pruning to retain the shape. Done well, a topiary can transform a garden. Done incorrectly, the topiary may kill the tree. Topiary should only be done by an experienced professional arborist.



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