Tree Cutting Advice


When you first plant a young tree of any kind, it can be difficult to imagine that in a few years it can grow into a very large plant. When that happens, you might want to cut it to keep it a manageable size, to remove dead or diseased branches or to encourage it to produce more fruit or flowers. Tree trimming can be hard work and using tools such as chain saws can be dangerous, so be prepared before you begin and consider hiring a professional arborist if your tree is large.

Step 1

Determine if your tree needs cutting. If it's a native species, it will do fine without your help, unless you planted it too close to your house or it's shedding too much shade. Most fruit trees need pruning every other year to encourage new growth on which fruit will form the following summer. Do some research about the tree you think needs trimming before you begin.

Step 2

Use the correct tool. For smaller branches, cut them with large loppers or a hand-operated tree saw. For large branches, use a chain saw. Always wear protective goggles and be especially careful if you use a ladder, no matter which tool you use.

Step 3

Make your cuts on the outside edge of the branch collar of all branches to avoid cutting into the trunk. The branch collar is usually a slightly mounded area on the trunk out of which the branch grows.

Step 4

Cut lower branches of young, small trees back to the main trunk to encourage a strong support system. On all trees, cut off suckers and water sprouts that grow from the base of the tree.

Step 5

Cut off all dead or diseased branches and those that rub against each other.

Step 6

Grind your cut branches into a sawdust or mulch type of substance and use this to mulch both your tree and other plants if you wish. Or take your cut branches to your municipal green waste recycling center.

Tips and Warnings

  • Differing opinions exist about the use of pruning tar: many arborists choose not to use it because they believe it can seal in diseases or even insect pests. Burglars love the cover that trees provide, so be sure to keep the trees around your home trimmed back to prevent hiding places where someone might enter your home without being seen from the street.

Things You'll Need

  • Large loppers
  • Tree saw
  • Ladder
  • Chain saw
  • Protective goggles
  • Chipper/shredder (optional)


  • Tree Boss advice
  • University of Minnesota Extension
  • Pruning tar

Who Can Help

  • Water sprouts definition
  • Branch collar definition
Keywords: trees growing, pruning safety, cutting trimming

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hiā€˜iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Barbara wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, and She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.