Why Prune or Trim Trees?

Trees in the landscape require a little TLC to maintain health, safety, and beauty. Pruning or trimming is a common tree care practice. However, bad pruning hurts trees instead of helping them, and wastes your precious dollars! Read on to know what to do and what to avoid!


1. Prune to Establish Good Structure

Good structure helps prevent tree failure, limb breakage, and poor health. Prune young trees to establish good structure for the rest of their lifespan. Plus, it's easier and cheaper to prune a young tree than it is to "fix" an old tree!

2. Prune to Reduce Risk

Trees can be both an asset and a liability. You definitely want your tree to be just the former! Proper pruning reduces risk by removing weak and hazardous parts, such as:

  • dead, diseased, and damaged branches
  • heavy branch end weight
  • crowded, competing branches
  • watersprouts and suckers

3. Prune to Maintain Clearance

Over time, some trees grow into buildings, signs, parking spots, and other areas. Good pruning provides clearance and directs new growth away from structures, minimizing need for future pruning. Standard tree clearance guidelines are:

  • 3 ft from buildings
  • 8 ft from roofs
  • 10 ft from chimneys
  • 8 ft over sidewalks
  • 14 ft over roads

Remove weak and competing branches to establish good structure. Reduce end weight on heavy branches to minimize risk of branch failure.

Example of properly pruned young tree.



Topping is the severe removal of large branches, leaving stubs or a naked tree trunk. Tree owners sometimes believe this will reduce tree size, minimize pruning needs, and save money. But, topping shocks trees into rapid regrowth and results in many other problems down the road, such as:

  • Tree starvation.
  • Rapid regrowth in the tree's attempt to feed itself and survive.
  • Weak branches, which increase risk and liabilities.
  • Fast-growing, weak branches that need even more pruning!
  • Large pruning wounds that invite decay.
  • Ugly trees, lowering property value and aesthetic appeal.
  • Plus, it's illegal in some cities!

2. DON'T Lions Tail

Lions tailing strips away the tree’s inner branches and leaves. This creates bald branches with tufted ends that resemble lion’s tails. These branches now have heavier end weight and are more likely to break. Plus, the naked branches are more prone to sunscald and bark damage, inviting pests and disease to enter.

3. DON'T Over Prune

As a rule of thumb, don’t remove more than 25% of a tree’s living canopy in one season. Leaves are the tree's sugar factory, so removing too many at once starves the tree and increases vulnerability to pest attacks.

Examples of bad pruning: topping, severe thinning, severe lions tailing.

A Plus is here to help care for your trees! We are licensed, insured, and follow ANSI A300 and International Society of Arboriculture pruning standards. Our certified arborists can create customized, multi-year proposals to match your needs and budget. Reach out to us for healthy, happy trees!