A cedar branch.
image by Photo By Mary R. Vogt for Morguefile
A cedar tree is a low-maintenance plant that requires little pruning. Cedar trees should only be pruned to remove dead or damaged limbs and foliage. You may also need to shorten or remove a limb that is blocking pedestrian traffic or endangering a structure. Unless a storm or pest has caused major damage to your tree, pruning it should be a simple job.
Determine the best time of year to prune your tree. In some areas, certain diseases and harsh weather conditions can be dangerous to a freshly-pruned tree. Check with a local expert at the Arbor Day Foundation, or in a local university's horticulture department, to find out the best time to prune in your area. If you can't access one of these resources, it is probably safe to prune your tree in late winter, after the worst weather in your area has passed, but before spring growth begins. If your tree has been damaged, prune it as soon as possible, regardless of the season.
Clean your cedar tree. Hose the tree down a few days before you plan to prune it (unless there is a freeze danger). Most cedar trees have thick foliage that accumulates dust, old foliage and spiders. If you rinse your tree off a few days before you work on it, these messy items will not fall on you.
Rake around the base of your cedar tree to remove any debris and reveal any roots or other obstacles. Since you will be working with sharp tools, and possibly a ladder, avoid obstacles and work on level ground.
Remove any dead or damaged foliage and limbs. If there is dead foliage on what appears to be a healthy branch, prune it away with pruning shears. For dead limbs, cut the branch away with a pruning saw beyond the "branch collar," which is like the short sleeve of a shirt. It extends a bit past the trunk onto the limb. The branch collar is part of the trunk, and should not be cut when pruning, as it can damage the "heart" of the tree. If you cannot visually determine where the branch collar ends, make your cut at least 3 inches away from the tree's trunk. If you can locate the branch collar, cut as close to it as possible. If you need to cut a branch back that is in the way, beware of balancing the weight of the tree's branches. Removing or shortening a branch on one side may require you to make a similar cut on the other side of the tree. A tree whose weight is out of balance can eventually fall over or split under the strain.
Remove and dispose of your tree trimmings. Do not add pruning paint or other "tree bandage" to your tree's pruning wounds. Experts now believe that a tree will heal faster without them.