How to Trim Oak Trees


Three groups of oak trees exist: white oaks, red oaks and live oaks. Just as with other deciduous trees, oaks must be trimmed to remove dead, diseased or damaged branches, to maintain/control the size of the tree within your landscape design, and to thin out the crown of the tree. Take caution as to when you trim your oak tree, due to oak wilt disease, which kills thousands of oak trees in a single year. Due to how this disease is spread, only trim and prune oak trees during the "safe period," which is from November through March.

Step 1

Trim away damaged or diseased branches immediately. Make a clean cut (so that the tree can heal properly) at the point of the break. (You can also choose to remove the entire branch.) Dead or diseased branches should be removed completely. Remember, do not put diseased plant material in your compost bin.

Step 2

View your tree from all angles to determine if it is rubbing on a roof, structure, or if it is imposing near a walk way. Remove the branches by locating the branch collar (this is on the underside of the branch where it connects to the trunk) and the branch bark ridge (this is on the topside of the branch where it connects to the trunk). Make your cut right in front of the branch bark ridge and the branch collar--do not leave a stub, and do not cut into the branch collar or the branch bark ridge.

Step 3

Visually examine the crown of your tree, looking for deadwood and cross-over branches. The removal of dead twigs and branches is known as "thinning of the crown." When your tree is young, you will be able to do the thinning yourself. However, as the tree matures you will likely need to have a professional tree service do the thinning for you. Professional tree services know what branches/limbs to trim to maintain the appearance and integrity of the tree. They also have the equipment required, and they are used to working at the heights involved.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not prune or trim branches that are near electric wires as this is extremely dangerous. Do not try to remove large heavy branches as they can cause property damage or personal injury when they fall. If you are ever in doubt -- call a professional.

Things You'll Need

  • Hand pruning shears
  • Lopping shears
  • Pole pruner
  • Tree saw


  • United States Department of Agriculture: How to Prune Trees
  • United States Department of Agriculture: How to Identify, Prevent, and Control Oak Wilt
  • City of Eagan: Help Prevent the Spread of Oak Wilt
Keywords: trimming oak tree, pruning branches, cutting limbs

About this Author

Paula M. Ezop’s inspirational columns "Following the Spiritual Soul" appeared in Oconee Today, a Scripps Howard publication. She has published her first book, "SPIRITUALITY for Mommies." "From Death to Living in the Light" and "Spiritual Intelligence" will be released by Ezop has a BA degree from Northeastern Illinois University and has been writing for 10 years.