How to Top & Prune Elm Trees


At one time elm trees were common in many places in America, but in recent years the elm bark beetle and Dutch elm disease have virtually wiped out many of them. This makes it more important than ever that homeowners top and prune their elm trees with care. Elms should be pruned only in late winter or early spring before the elm bark beetle is active.

Step 1

Cut out all dead, broken and diseased branches. Make all cuts about 1 inch from the branch collar (the point at which the branch grows out of the trunk or out of a larger branch).

Step 2

Cut all branches that are growing sideways through the canopy or at a downward angle.

Step 3

Cut all branches that are rubbing against one another because the rubbing can break the bark and allow the elm bark beetle an easy entry point.

Step 4

Top the tree, if necessary, by cutting vertical branches 1 inch from the branch collar. The pain trunk can be topped as long as you do not cut more than a third of the tree's height.

Step 5

Paint all cuts immediately with a tree wound compound or latex paint. This will help prevent elm bark beetle from gaining access to the tree.

Tips and Warnings

  • Dutch elm disease starts as a white powdery look on elm branches. Remove any branches that appear white or powdery. Wipe your tools with a 50 percent bleach solution between cuts if Dutch elm disease is suspected.

Things You'll Need

  • Loppers
  • Pruning saw
  • Tree wound product or latex paint
  • Paintbrush


  • Tree Help: Pruning Elm Trees
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service: How to Save Dutch Elm Diseased Trees by Pruning
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service: How to Prune Trees
Keywords: prune elm trees, trim elm trees, top elm trees, pruning elms

About this Author

Larry Parr has been a full-time professional freelance writer for more than 30 years. For 25 years he wrote cartoons for TV, everything from SMURFS to SPIDER-MAN.