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Whether cutting storm-damaged branches and dead limbs, regulating growth or shaping a tree for aesthetic purposes, regular trimming is important to promoting a healthy, good-looking tree.


Always work from the ground when trimming or pruning trees. Never prune trees from a ladder. When cutting, always stand to the side and away from an overhead branch. If a tree requires heavy trimming or working up in a tree, a tree service professional is strongly recommended.


– Bow saw
– Hand saw, folding
– Loppers
– Pole saw
– Pruning shears

Step 1: Prune small shoots.

This apple tree has shoots growing along the branches that are robbing energy from forming buds and, in turn, fruit. The best tool for nipping off small shoots is pruning shears. Remove shoots that are growing straight up, and cut back the shoots that are growing on the insides of the branches.

Use shears to remove shoots growing straight up.

Step 2: Leave a collar when pruning and trimming.

When you cut the shoot, make an angled cut just above the collar, which is the swollen area where the branch meets the trunk. Leaving a short stem protects the tree against disease.
Leave a collar to protect the tree against disease.

Step 3: Clear the trunk area of trees growing in fields.

For trees growing in fields, keep the foot of the trunk free from brush and weeds. If the tree is in a landscaped area, don’t use a weed wacker to clear undergrowth for the plastic cord will damage the trunk. Either pull the weeds by hand or wrap the foot of the trunk to protect it.
Pull the weeds by hand.

Step 4: Cut away unproductive shoots.

Using pruning shears, cut away unproductive shoots. This cherry tree has shoots growing from the trunk between productive branches that need to be removing. Moving to the branches, remove any shoots either growing toward the trunk of the tree or along the inner parts of the branches. Cut at an angle just above the collar of the joint. Regular pruning of excess shoots along the trunk and branches creates evenly spaced branches and a strong, symmetrical tree ready for next year’s fruit.

Remove unproductive shoots and shoots growing toward the trunk.

Step 5: Use a pole saw to trim large trees.

The best tool for trimming a tall tree from a safe position on the ground is a pole saw. The length of the pole saw can be adjusted to comfortably and safely reach high branches from the ground. Many pole saws also feature a lopper or shears. You pull a rope from below and this, in turn, pulls down on the cutting blade to shear off the branch.

Use a pole saw for higher branches. This pole saw also has a lopper feature.

Step 6: Trim dead branches from taller trees with the pole saw.

This older maple tree has branches that have died from either damage or disease. Position yourself safely back from—and to the side of—the dead branch. Rest the blade of the pole saw outside the collar of the branch. Using a sawing motion, carefully cut through the branch. You should remove all diseased and damaged branches as well as branches that have distressed leaves from the tree. If the branches in question are too high to reach from the ground, consider hiring a professional. It is never a good idea to trim branches from a ladder.

Stand back and to the side of the branch you are cutting.

Step 7: Use the loppers to remove smaller, high branches.

The pole saw loppers can be used to remove branches up to about an inch-and-a-half. Place the loppers over the branch and pull on the cord. With the loppers, you can move quickly through the tree removing shoots that are growing toward the branches.

Place the loppers over the branch and pull the cord.

Step 8: Consider a bow saw for dead branches.

A buck or bow saw is a good tool for cutting away dead branches. These fast-cutting saws make quick work of slash-cutting or removal of deadwood from trees. Make sure you stand to one side of the branch when cutting.

Use a bow saw or a buck saw on dead branches that you can reach.

Step 9: Use a folding hand-saw for mid-sized branches.

A more maneuverable saw for mid-sized branches that can be reached from the ground is the folding hand saw. Make two cuts with the hand saw: first, one horizontal cut from the bottom to stop the tearing of the bark when the branch breaks off, and then one horizontal cut just above it from the top to cut the branch. These folding hand saws make short work of trimming mid-sized limbs from the ground.

Make two cuts with the hand saw—one from below, then one from above.

Step 10: Continue using the correct pruning tools to trim trees.

Working with the correct tools to prune away excess shoots and dead or diseased branches will result in trees that maintain a strong and healthy appearance, ready to flourish in the years ahead.
Use the correct tools for the job.