Pecan trees require the most cutting and pruning during their first five years. The shaping done during this time enhances their appearance and ensures the trees are growing in a way best-suited for optimal nut production. Heavy cutting during the first five years will slow down nut production, yet over the long-term the trees will be stronger and healthier. Mature pecan trees can reach heights of 130 feet and have spreads of 80 feet. These trees only require cutting of diseased or dead wood, work best left to a professional.
Prepare a bucket of 10 parts water and one part bleach. Plan to dip your pruning scissors or loppers into the water between each cut that you make on your pecan trees. This will prevent the spread of pests and disease.
Cut and remove the top one-third of the tree during its first growing season. This will encourage a strong central leader or branch.
Cut and remove the top one-third of the central leader again during late fall or early winter. Locate the two strongest branches, or shoots, near the central leader. Determine the strongest one and cut it off completely at the trunk of the tree. Snip the tip off of the second one. Cut and remove 2 inches off any side shoots or branches. Repeat this cutting pattern annually during the late fall or winter during years two through five. Tip pruning the side branches will result in the tree growing two new shoots to fill in the cut.
Cut and remove any diseased or dead branches at any time.
Make additional cuts as needed to the pecan tree during annual pruning in the dormant season. Additional cuts include cutting and removing any branches that cross or rub against each other.