How to Prune Crimson King Maple Trees

Overview

Acer, or maple trees, are some of the most popular shade and specimen trees available to homeowners. A. platanoides is the Norway maple, and crimson king maples are a cultivar of Norway maples. Crimson king maple trees are planted for their burgundy-to-purplish summer foliage, their aggressive growth and their tolerance of air pollution and neglect. For the most part, crimson king maples don't require a lot of pruning. Prune the trees once or twice while they are young to develop a strong structure and shape, or for their health when they have broken or damaged branches.

Pruning Young Crimson King Maple Trees

Step 1

Plant crimson king maples in early-to-mid spring. Consider the mature height and width of the tree when choosing the planting site. Plant trees where they will not eventually grow to interfere with electrical wires or overhang houses to avoid pruning. Complete the initial pruning the day that the tree is planted.

Step 2

Prune crimson king maples that are between 1 and 6 years old in early spring just before bud break. This will allow you to see the tree's structure without obscuring leaves. Pruning before growth starts also allows your tree to seal pruning cuts faster due to the aggressive growth of spring.

Step 3

Make cuts just outside the branch collar (the raised area of bark where the branch connects to the tree). This allows the tree to grow bark over the pruning cut; cutting inside the branch collar can leave an open wound that heals poorly, leaving the tree susceptible to insect damage and disease. The pruning cut will usually seal over in one growing season.

Step 4

Stand on a ladder or use an extendable pruning saw if branches are higher than your chest. It is easier, and safer, to cut branches with saws that are chest high or lower. Doing this also puts less stress on your chest, arms and back.

Step 5

Use hand or pruning saws for branches that are thicker than 1 1/4 inches. Use a chain saw for branches that are thicker than 5 inches.

Step 6

Remove branches that cross or rub against other branches. These branches typically grow in towards the crown and need to be removed to give your tree a symmetrical shape.

Step 7

Remove branches that have a narrow or weak crotch (emerge from the trunk at an angle 30 degrees or less).

Step 8

Remove broken, diseased and dead branches as soon as you see them.

Pruning Mature Crimson King Maples

Step 1

Prune your crimson king maple minimally to keep it healthy after it is 6 years old. Pruning for aesthetics (the shape and symmetry) should be complete once the tree is 6 years old.

Step 2

Hire a professional arborist to remove branches that are more than 24 feet high. Professionals have access to cherry pickers and safety equipment, and can prune mature trees without causing irreversible damage.

Step 3

Remove broken and diseased branches as soon as you see them.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never rest your ladder against the branch you are removing, even if you are removing the branch in pieces. Never use equipment that is too big or heavy for you to operate safely. Ask for a salesperson's help to find appropriately-sized equipment. Many companies now make equipment sized for women. Never remove more than 15 percent of the tree's living wood in one year. Doing so can lead to tree stress and eventually death.

Things You'll Need

  • Heavy gloves
  • Protective helmet
  • Protective goggles
  • Pruning saw
  • Chain saw
  • Extendable pruning saw
  • Ladder
  • Safety harness

References

  • United States department of Agriculture: How To Prune Trees
  • Colorado State University Extension: Pruning Shade Trees
  • Prudue Extension: Planting and Care of Hardwood Seedlings

Who Can Help

  • University of Missouri Extension: Tree Pruning Basics
Keywords: Pruning crimson king maples, Pruning maples, Pruning shade trees, Crimson king maples