How to Prune California Black Oak


California black oak (Quercus kelloggii) is a deciduous hardwood that grows throughout California and parts of Oregon. The hardy shade tree does well in dry soil. It's slow growing and lives a long time but can grow to heights of 80 feet tall. The leaves have seven lobes that are a shiny, dark green. Prune black oak in order to promote growth, create a good shape and keep the tree healthy.

Step 1

Prune California black oak at the time of planting. Choose the strongest branches for the first scaffold, a group of three to four branches that create the first layer of branches. Those branches will form the main structure of the mature tree.

Step 2

Remove all other side branches that are competing with the scaffold with the shears. Cut them where they meet the main, center branch.

Step 3

Allow new tree seedlings to grow to the desired height if there are no branches. Once it gets to that height, pinch back the top of it to promote the lower buds to create branches.

Step 4

Wait until it is a few years old before you start to train it into a certain shape. Leave shoots that sprout from the center trunk in place because they will encourage faster growth and protect the trunk from the sun.

Step 5

Climb a ladder and check out the tree's canopy. Cut off diseased, weak and dead branches as soon as they appear with a pruning saw. Make the cut where they meet healthy limbs.

Step 6

Saw off crossing branches along with those that grow laterally up the sides of the center tree trunk. These are clogging up the canopy of the tree, which prevents air and light from getting inside.

Step 7

Raise the crown once the tree is a few years old. Prune branches that are growing from the bottom toward the ground.

Tips and Warnings

  • Wear gloves for protection. Wear eye goggles when using a pruning saw.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Pruning saw
  • Ladder
  • Gloves


  • USDA Forest Service
Keywords: California black oak, prune black oak, pruning shears

About this Author

Kelly Shetsky has been a broadcast journalist for more than ten years, researching, writing, producing and reporting daily on many topics. In addition, she writes for several websites, specializing in medical, health and fitness, arts and entertainment, travel and business-related topics. Shetsky has a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from Marist College.