How to cut branches off a pine tree


7 Tips for How to Trim a Pine Tree Without Killing It

To trim a pine tree without killing it, perform pruning in spring. Use a pair of loppers to trim branches under 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. Cut larger branches with a reciprocating saw fitted with a pruning blade. When trimming your pine tree, focus on removing diseased branches before removing unwanted branches. Where possible, thin out undesirable branches without cutting off the entire limb. Never cut off the top of a pine tree, as this results in poor growth and invites disease.

Table of Contents

7 Tricks of the Trade for Trimming a Pine Tree Safely

When trimming a pine tree, it’s essential to follow procedures that will result in a healthy, attractive tree that will thrive in your yard for years to come. Mistakes made when pruning a pine are irreversible and can result in the death of your tree. For best results, follow these tips:

Prune in Spring

The best time to trim a pine tree is just as winter transitions to spring. So, plan your pruning for late-February through March. If possible, do not prune your pine tree from late summer through winter. Pine growth slows starting in September and your tree will struggle to heal the wounds of pruning if it is trimmed after this point.

  • Prune between late February and late March.
  • Avoid pruning in late summer, fall, and winter.
  • As an exception, it’s advisable to remove dead or diseased branches at any time of year.

If your pine has dead, dying, or broken branches, it’s acceptable to prune these off at any time. It’s best to get rid of the dead wood as soon as possible, to prevent any disease from moving in.

Use the Proper Tools

The best tools for pruning a pine tree are a pair of loppers and a reciprocating saw fitted with a pruning blade. Loppers are best used on branches less than 2 inches (5 cm) thick. For large branches, use the reciprocating saw. This will quickly and safely trim branches.

  • Use loppers to trim branches less than 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter.
  • Use this reciprocating saw with a pruning blade to trim larger branches.
  • Clean all pruning tools thoroughly with rubbing alcohol after use, to prevent transmitting diseases from tree to tree.
  • Do not use a pruning seal after trimming branches. This compound is actually harmful to trees and interrupts the natural healing process.

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Remove Dead or Dying Branches

The first order of business when trimming a pine tree is to prune dead, dying, broken, and diseased branches. If a particular branch of your pine tree is turning brown and dropping needles excessively, it’s probably diseased and should be removed.

  • Prioritize trimming dead and diseased branches.
  • Search your tree for bare branches and ones with brown needles.
  • If two branches are rubbing against each other, remove one branch. Where one branch rubs against another, bark can be damaged. This invites disease and pests.
  • Removing dead branches reduces the risk of tree rot, invasive pest insects, and spreading tree diseases.

Dead, broken, and diseased branches represent a risk to your entire tree. If not removed, they can attract burrowing insects or invite disease that kills your entire pine from root to crown. Get rid of these branches first and foremost.

Cut Off Dangerous or Unwanted Branches

There are several valid reasons you may want to trim your pine tree. A branch that hangs over your roof or driveway can fall during a storm, causing damage to your home or vehicles. Overhanging branches can also scrape against shingles, clog gutters with pine needles, and provide a highway for raccoons and other animals to gain access to your roof. Feel free to trim these branches back.

  • Trim overhanging branches to prevent them from falling on your roof, tangling with power lines, dropping pine needles, and allowing animals to climb onto your roof.
  • Trim low branches to allow you to perform lawn maintenance more easily, or to create usable shade beneath a large pine.
  • It is safe to remove the lower one-third of branches from a pine without killing the tree.

Low branches on pine trees can make mowing and edging around the base of the tree difficult or impossible. It is safe to remove low branches on your pine tree, but keep in mind these branches won’t grow back. You can ruin the look of your tree by over-pruning.

Remove Suckers

Suckers are pine tree sprouts that come up from the roots of a mature tree. These small sprouts steal nutrients, water, and vigor from the main tree. They should be pruned.

  • Cut pine suckers off at soil level using pruning shears.
  • Do not use herbicide on suckers—any chemical that enters the sucker plant can travel back to the parent tree.

Although you may not see the connection between the sucker and mature pine tree, the suckers may have sprouted from the main tree’s roots. Because of this, it’s important not to treat suckers with systemic weed killers. These can travel through the tree roots back to the main pine and harm it.

Thin Out Branches Without Removing Them

Pine trees grow from the top and will not replace low limbs that are cut off. Because of this, it’s important to be careful when trimming your pine. Where possible, thin out or shorten undesirable healthy branches rather than removing them entirely.

  • Pine trees will not replace low limbs that are trimmed, so choose carefully when pruning.
  • Instead of removing an entire branch, thin it by removing half the branching twigs.
  • Do not remove the tip of the pine branch. This is where new growth comes from. A branch that has been shortened from the tip will die.

When trimming a pine tree, it’s best to start small and work from there. Remember, you can always go back and trim more, but your pine won’t replace low limbs once they are removed.

Never Cut the Top Off a Pine

“Topping” or cutting the upper section of a pine tree off completely should be avoided at all times. You may be tempted to do this to shorten a pine tree that you deem too tall, but this is an ill-advised solution. A pine tree that has had the top cut off will experience ragged growth and is extremely susceptible to rot and disease.

  • Never cut off the entire upper portion or “point” of a pine tree.
  • Cutting the top off a pine tree invites disease and causes poor growth.
  • If your pine is too tall and is interfering with your home or power lines, it’s best to consider transplant or removal.

A pine that is too tall is a good candidate for removal. As unfortunate as this may seem, it is preferable to an unsightly and diseased pine tree that has been “topped.”

How to Safely Trim a Pine Tree

To trim a pine tree without causing harm, it’s essential to follow these tips:

  • Prune your pine in early late winter through spring.
  • Use loppers and a reciprocating saw for tree pruning.
  • Prioritize the removal of dead and damaged branches.
  • Remove branches that overhang your roof, or prune branches at the base of the pine that interferes with lawn and garden maintenance.
  • Cut off pine tree suckers at soil level.
  • Consider thinning out branches rather than removing them entirely.
  • Never cut the entire top section off your pine in an attempt to shorten it.

With these guidelines, you can keep your pine tree healthy through pruning. By carefully pruning with the right tools at the right time, your pine will recover from pruning wounds and bounce back to full health in a single season.

Top Tips on How to Prune and Care for Evergreens

Last updated: March 29, 2021  by Rootwell Products Inc.

Pine trees are one of the hardiest types of trees. They have a naturally beautiful shape that rarely needs pruning.

There are some considerations if you have a few pine trees on your land, or want to do more to influence the shape, size, and health of your trees.

When And How to Prune Pine Trees

Pine trees are nature’s answer to green even in some of the earth’s coldest climates. Do you know there is a ring of evergreen trees around the whole earth, like a crown? They grow on every continent at high altitudes and cool climates. If you live in a cool climate, you appreciate your evergreen trees even more in the winter.

If you have a large yard or acreage where it doesn’t matter how big or tall your pine trees get, you may never need to prune. Pine trees naturally grow in a pleasing shape.

However, there are some reasons to prune a pine tree.

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Storm or Human Damage

Pine trees can sustain damage after storms just like any other tree. You will want to safely remove any broken limbs that occur as soon as you can after the damage. It is best if this can be avoided in the late summer or early fall to give your tree a chance to scab over before cold weather hits. However, sometimes it can’t be avoided.

Sadly, people can also treat trees like it won’t hurt them to tear off limbs and sticks. It is best to remove a wounded branch at the collar. The collar is the place where a branch joins the main trunk of the tree. It is slightly wider than the rest of the branch.

This is preferable to merely trimming the length of branches, as that will result in a stunted-looking tree over time.

There is another method to control the growth of the branches and make it more compact. First, the right way to cut a branch off at the collar is to first make a cut up from the bottom of the branch about a foot away from the trunk, then move out another inch or so and cut all the way through from top to bottom.

After the rest of the limb has been removed, cut the stub flush with the collar. This method prevents you from peeling bark from the trunk along with the wounded limb.

Branch Rubbing

Pine trees rarely have branches that rub each other, but when they do, one of the branches should be removed. Constant rubbing makes way for pests and diseases when the protective layer of bark is rubbed away.

Candling

You can make a pine look more dense and lush over time as it grows by pinching back the new growth tips – or candles – in the spring. Just break them off in the middle by hand instead of with shears. Shears can cut needles making them turn brown.

Diseased Pine Trees

The one thing we don’t expect is to see brown, dry needles on our pine trees at any time of year. If you are seeing brown needles, you need to diagnose the problem.

What season is it? What part of the tree is affected?

All pine trees have a shedding period. If it is fall, this is normal. All pines have an annual drop.

If, however, it is not the fall and you have a dead lower half, it is not normal and something probably needs to be done for the tree.

Here are some common things that can cause pine trees to do this:

  • Need for more sun – If there are lower branches that aren’t getting enough sunlight, they might react this way. You may want to trim nearby shade trees or anything surrounding the bottom of the pine so the lower branches can have access to sunlight.
  • Lack of water – The tree could be prioritizing the life of the tree over the life of the lower branches because it isn’t getting enough water. If you suspect this is the case, consider installing a deep root watering system.
  • Salt de-icer – Salt as a de-icer on your driveway can kill your trees. The bottom branches can be harmed by your salty driveway, where they are exposed to it all winter. Stop using salt on your driveway if you suspect this is the cause.
  • Disease – Lower branches dying might also be a fungal disease. Sphaeropsis tip blight starts at the tips, but eventually, the lower branches die. Clip out diseased sections when this happens and spray a fungicide in spring. Keep spraying until the new needles are fully grown.

Pine tree on left had Rootwell Pro-318s installed.

When to Fell Pine Trees

It is never easy to decide to cut down a tree. After all, they have been around for so many years by the time you have to consider cutting one down.

But they do, sometimes, need to be felled for the safety of people and buildings.

There are also a few other things to consider as you’re wondering if your tree can be saved, or if you want to keep it:

Is your tree healthy?

If you have a tree that is damaged over 50% of its body, it should probably be cut down. It would continue to survive, but it won’t ever come back to health.

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Is the trunk damaged?

If you see vertical cracks, seams, dead branch stubs, large old wounds or anything like that, it probably means the tree is suffering internally as well. Severe enough damage to the trunk – over 25% of the circumference of the trunk – probably means the tree should be cut down. If it’s less than that, the tree will eventually heal itself.

Is it hollow?

Hollow trees can actually live for a long time. The living tissue of the tree is actually just below the bark, not in the middle. However, a hollow trunk can make a tree weak and dangerous in storms. If ⅓ of the interior is hollow or rotten, the tree should come down.

Are there dead branches?

Trees with their tops broken, who have large damaged limbs, or have dead branches all on one side, causing them to be lopsided, are all a hazard to people. If over 25% of the branches are damaged, it needs to be removed.

Does your tree have sprouts coming from the base or small branches coming from the trunk?

Trees do not normally grow this way. It is a sign of severe stress. Trees that do this have probably experienced injury – usually related to home construction – or have been over-exposed to sunlight due to forest thinning.

Sometimes soil compaction can cause this. A professional arborist needs to evaluate this tree to see if it can be brought back to health. Otherwise, it is a danger and needs to come down. If over 50% of a tree’s root system has been damaged due to construction, it needs to come down.

Is there trunk rot or large fungus near the base?

Sometimes mushrooms and trees go hand in hand. However, if a fungus is growing on the tree itself, it could be an indication of internal rot.

Is the tree leaning?

Sudden leaning means the tree has had a breakage or weakening of its roots. A tree that has grown leaning – more than 15% off from vertical – has a higher chance of falling and should probably be taken down.

Special considerations:

Takeaway

Pine trees are some of nature’s most beautiful giants. Care for yours well and it will bring your winter days cheer for years to come.

Rootwell Pro-318s are porous cylinders that are installed around a tree. This deep root watering system allows water, air, and nutrients to penetrate deep into the root zone. They have been scientifically proven to help trees thrive.

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Pine pruning

Many people think that pine is not the most suitable tree for a suburban area, because, growing up, it creates a continuous shadow over a large area. Under it, only a few of the ornamental plants survive. However, with proper pruning, pine can become a worthy decoration of the site, and both young and adult specimens can be pruned.

Types of pruning pine

Coniferous trees, like any other, need care, one of the elements of which is the removal of part of the shoots or branches. Depending on the purpose, there are four main types of pruning of Scots pine:

  • rejuvenating
  • forming
  • healing
  • combined.

Healing pruning

This procedure is performed if there is already an adult tree on the territory, which is decided to be left on the site. At the same time, old dry branches, shoots affected by various diseases are removed. It often happens that skeletal branches are also cut if the crown is too thick, and the owners want to make it more openwork and visually lighter, or to give symmetry.

Sanitary pruning of pine is also carried out to balance the trunk growing at an angle. In the latter case, the procedure acts not so much as a therapeutic, but as a preventive measure.

Pruning that defines the shape of the pine crown

This type of plant care is conditionally divided into two types - shaping and decorative pruning. We say "conditionally" because both options allow you to give the tree the intended shape. Only in the case of molding pruning of Scotch pine, the crown grows as naturally as possible, and with decorative pruning, it is given the shape that best suits the landscape design. For example, when they want to introduce elements of the Japanese style into landscape design, in particular, garden bonsai - niwaki.

Rejuvenation pruning

Healthy trees and shrubs with a well-developed root system actively grow new branches when they experience a lack of sunlight. This property is used to rejuvenate old plants. Thanks to this kronirovanie all useful microelements are used to build new greenery, and not to maintain the vital activity of old branches.

Combined pruning - trimming that solves not one, but two or more tasks, for example, rejuvenation and healing.

You don't know how or don't know how to carry out this procedure correctly? You do not have enough time, strength and health to independently perform the removal of old branches? No experience of working at high altitude, and the pine has already grown quite tall? Call our landscape studio M. Art. Our arborists will professionally and quickly perform all the necessary work.

When to prune Scots pine?

Pine crowning can be carried out in spring and autumn. The choice of season depends on what goals you need to achieve.

Formation of Scotch pine in spring by pruning is done if it is necessary to obtain a decorative crown or treat the tree. It should be remembered that it is possible to make a “haircut” for Scotch pine only when the frosts have ended and the active growing season has not yet begun. In other words, from March to June. In autumn, pruning is done only in order to slow down the growth of the plant, and it is undesirable to touch adult plants. It should be remembered that you can not do kronirovanie if the temperature drops below 3-5°C. Dead branches can be removed all year round.

In autumn, the ends of old branches are cut off, and those branches on which there are no growth points are removed. At the end of spring, the so-called candles are removed by a third - shoots on which the needles are still soft, unfluffed. In the first years after transplantation, the plant should not be crowned, since the thickness of the trunk depends on the number of branches.

M.Art Landscape Studio will help you trim young and old trees. To do this, we have modern equipment and experienced arborists who know the techniques of industrial mountaineering.

Pruning pine and spruce in spring and autumn in 2022 at GoodGrunt

Contents

  • Why are pine and spruce pruned?
  • When is the work done?
  • Features of crown formation
  • How to trim?
  • Post procedure care


Cultural cultivation of coniferous plants requires constant care for their health and beauty. Pruning pine and spruce is a useful operation that has a positive effect on the condition of the tree.

Why are pine and spruce pruned?

There are several types of pruning of popular conifers.

  • Sanitary pruning.

This is the most common way to help the plant. Broken, weak and damaged branches are regularly removed. They pose a danger to the plant itself, as they sometimes cause fungal diseases. Such branches can break off and damage surrounding objects or people nearby, especially in strong winds or other adverse natural phenomena. Sanitary pruning can be done on a large specimen if the tree will shade the area too much. In this case, the lower branches are completely removed - after that, other plants can be planted with pine.

  • Rejuvenating haircut.

Carry out on mature pine and spruce with a lot of bare and dry branches to stimulate the growth of new shoots.

  • Decorative trim.

The most popular type. The procedure is carried out on coniferous trees, which act as a hedge, and when grown using the bonsai technique. When cultivating pine and spruce in their usual form, regular pruning is also carried out. The procedure improves the shape of the crown, and, if necessary, inhibits the growth of the tree, which is especially important for tall varieties.

When is the work done?

Sanitary pruning is carried out at any time of the year. Work is carried out urgently if an emergency occurs, for example, a large branch is broken and poses a threat to surrounding people, animals or buildings.

In spring, they form a crown, create a compact top and give the pine and spruce a decorative look. The time of spring pruning depends on climatic and weather conditions.

Tip

Young shoots of the current year are called candles. Work is carried out when they reach their maximum size, but the needles have not yet begun to bloom. This usually happens in June.

In summer it is appropriate to prune young shoots that extend beyond the crown. In young plants, extra branches can be removed until the end of summer. It is not recommended to do this later: before the cold weather, the cambium does not have time to stand out, which “heals” fresh wounds.

Rejuvenating haircut is carried out in autumn. The main growth zone is located at the ends of pine and spruce shoots, so over time, old trees lose their lower leaves and lose their attractiveness. They cut off the ends on the bare old shoots, leaving part of the needles on them. In spring, dormant buds will wake up on shortened shoots and new young branches will grow.

Pruning in late autumn and in winter is not recommended: cuts become vulnerable, freezing of wood is possible.

Tip

The result of pruning depends on the condition of the tree. A healthy and vigorous plant will tolerate the procedure easily. In a very weakened pine or spruce, dormant buds may not wake up, so work is not carried out on such a plant.

Features of crown formation

Coniferous tree is a wonderful decoration for any garden. Along with Scotch pine (green), varieties with a grayish, silvery and even yellowish tint of needles have become widespread. With regular pruning, the decorativeness of the tree increases without worsening its general condition.

Pine and spruce pruning tactics depend on the cultivation method. The work required differs depending on whether the plant has the traditional form of a common downy tree, is used for hedges, or is cultivated in the Japanese style. Each pruning has its own goal, the main task is to imagine in advance what result should be obtained.

  • Traditional shape.

Many coniferous trees form beautiful crowns on their own. For example, blue spruce usually does not need pruning, acquiring a dense evergreen cap with age.

Decorative pruning can give a tree its original shape. A beautiful pyramid, a flat hemisphere, a cone or a cylinder - the option depends on the skill and imagination of the author, as well as on the type of wood. You can create coniferous masterpieces in the form of animals and people, but only very skilled craftsmen can do such work on spruce and pine trees.

Regular scheduled pruning is carried out more often, its scheme depends on the desired shape and condition of the plant. Only trees older than two years can be subjected to such a procedure.

  • Hedge.

When growing pine as a hedge, pruning is carried out annually. The top is removed for the first time when the plant reaches the required height. This will stimulate the growth of side shoots and reduce the gaps between adjacent specimens.

  • Nivaki style.

This is the Japanese art of orchard tree cultivation, often used in pine and spruce cultivation. It differs from the bonsai style known to many in the way it is grown. "Bonsai" - "a tree on a tray", and the roots of nivaki are not limited to a small pot, but develop in freedom, directly in the garden. Depending on the style of nivaki, pine or spruce is formed in different ways. For example, as a straight tree with a triangular crown shape or at an angle to the ground. Monkaburi is an original way of shaping pine. At such a tree, one very long horizontal branch is left, which is located above the entrance to the garden. In Japanese monasteries and temples, old niwaki-style pine trees are especially revered.

It will take a lot of time and effort to create a tree using this technique, it is a long and painstaking process. They are determined with the desired height of the plant, regularly remove the "extra" branches and form a crown. New shoots annually need to be shortened by more than half their length. Creating a pine or spruce in the style of nivaki consists of pinching candles, removing some of the needles and cutting. This is a creative process, each plant needs an individual approach.

Tip

Pine gives off a lot of fragrant amber resin. After pruning, the tree heals its wounds on its own with this bactericidal substance. All work should be carried out with gloves, because the resin is difficult to wash. The cut does not need additional processing with preparations.

How to cut correctly?

Disinfected tools are used for work. Depending on the age of the tree and the thickness of the branches, a pruner, garden shears, a small hacksaw or a file are used.

There are several types of cutting.

  • Thinning.

Remove badly placed branches that spoil the appearance of pine or spruce. In a too dense crown, over time, some of the shoots die off due to insufficient sunlight. Too close neighboring branches can damage each other. Timely thinning helps prevent such problems.

Before work, the tree is inspected, the unnecessary branch is completely removed. The cut point is made short. They try to process it with a knife so that there is no hemp left.

  • Pinching.

This method helps to form a denser and fluffier crown of the plant. It is carried out when young shoots stop growing at the beginning of summer, and the needles are already beginning to separate from the stem. During pinching, part of the candle is partially or completely broken out.

Smaller branches can be trimmed with sharp pruning shears, larger ones with a garden saw or hacksaw. Remove parts of the shoots carefully so as not to damage the dormant buds, from which new shoots will appear in the future. At the base of a truncated branch, 3-4 new strong shoots usually appear, on weak plants there may be fewer of them. The crown becomes fluffy, acquires a rounded shape.

With late pinching (end of July - August), the buds do not have time to form in the current season. They will appear only next spring.

  • Cutting.

This is the most common way to change the appearance of a pine or spruce. When pruning, part of the tree trunk is removed. The operation is performed on both young and adult specimens.

The young tree quickly stretches, adding about 15 cm annually. If desired, an adult Scots pine over thirty years old can be formed up to two meters high with the help of proper pruning. In nature, such plants grow above 10 meters.

Pine and spruce pruning scheme is due to the apical type of growth of these plants. After removing the upper part, it will periodically be necessary to remove the remaining neighboring shoots: they tend to replace the removed top over time, tend to take up a vertical position.


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