How to Prune Tanoak


Tanoak, or Lithocarpus densiflorus, is an evergreen tree that grows up to 80 feet in the wild. In gardens, however, the conical tree tends to stay under a height of 30 feet. The tree has a central trunk and crown. It can either be narrow and cone-like or rounded and broad, like a shrub. The acorns look like those of true oaks but the flowers resemble those of chestnuts and chinkapins. Pruning the tanoak trees when they are young will help produce a strong structure. As they mature, the purpose of pruning is to maintain the tree structure, health, form and appearance.

Step 1

Decide whether to prune the tanoak in its natural pyramidal form or in an ornamental fashion. If you make the tree into an unnatural form, you'll have to do continual maintenance.

Step 2

Use a hand pruner to cut small, thin branches. Use lopping shears or small pruning saws for branches up to 3 inches in diameter. Opt for a pruning saw if you're dealing with branches that are larger, up to 4 inches in diameter. Chain saws will work on branches and limbs larger than 4 inches thick.

Step 3

Identify the nodes, which is the point where one twig or branch meets another. This is where you will cut the branch. Each spring, growth will start with buds and twigs until there is a new node.

Step 4

Keep all branches that are attached with strong U-shaped joints. Remove those branches with narrow, V-shaped connections because they are weaker and are likely already cracked.

Step 5

Remove dead or diseased limbs by cutting just outside of the ring of woundwood tissue that has formed. Support large dead branches with one hand or make three cuts to remove small sections at a time. Don't cause unnecessary injury to the tanoak.

Step 6

Raise the tanoak's crown by removing the branches that are at the base of the tree. This will create a neater appearance and provide space between the bottom of the tree and the ground.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never prune trees that are near or touching utility lines. Consult the local utility company instead of attempting it yourself.

Things You'll Need

  • Goggles
  • Gloves
  • Ladder
  • Hand pruner
  • Lopping shears
  • Pruning saw
  • Chainsaw
  • Shears


  • The University of Texas at Austin
  • Forest Resources Extension
Keywords: tanoak tree, Tan Oak, Prune

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.