How to Prune California Live Oak


California live oak or quercus agrifolia is a tree found along the West Coast. It grows up to 85 feet high in the full sun. It is important in several California plant communities and usually grows with blue, valley and black oaks, ceanothus, chamise, California bay, manzanita and Western sycamore trees. This species can tolerate drought and is hardy. Pruning it helps maintain its health and appearance.

Step 1

Consider the spherical form of the California live oak. It has lateral branches that may compete for dominance. Take this into account because if you try to make the tree into an unnatural form, you'll have to do continual maintenance.

Step 2

Prune the tree when it's young in order to produce a strong structure. As it gets older, the purpose of pruning is to maintain the tree structure, form, health and appearance.

Step 3

Plan to make cuts at the node--where one twig or branch meets another. Each spring, growth will start with buds, and twigs grow until there is a new node.

Step 4

Prune the branches with narrow, V-shaped connections because they are weaker and are likely already cracked. Make the cuts right where the branches meet at the V. Keep all branches that are attached with strong U-shaped joints.

Step 5

Thin the crown enough to allow more light and air to get to the tree. During this process, you will develop and maintain the tree's form and structure. However, do not remove more than 1/4 of the crown at a time or you may cause stress and excessive production of sprouts.

Step 6

Achieve crown raising by removing all the branches that are facing downward at the bottom of the California live oak. This will improve the tree's appearance and provide clearance for pedestrians, traffic and lines of site.

Things You'll Need

  • Goggles
  • Gloves
  • Ladder
  • Chain saw or other pruning equipment
  • Shears


  • USDA
  • Forest Resources Extension
Keywords: California live oak, tree maintenance, pruning tips

About this Author

Based in New York State, Kelly Shetsky started writing in 1999. She is a broadcast journalist-turned Director of Marketing and Public Relations and has experience researching, writing, producing and reporting. She writes for several websites, specializing in gardening, medical, health and fitness, entertainment and travel. Shetsky has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Marist College.