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How to Prune Common Hackberry

The common hackberry tree typically grows between 40 and 50 feet tall and wide. The tree requires regular pruning during the first 15 years of growth to avoid weak branches and multiple trunks. Because the common hackberry is prone to damage from storms, particularly ice storms, you must promote strong limbs through the regular pruning of weaker branches.

Prune small, low-hanging, misshapen or broken branches that measure less than one inch in diameter. You should perform this type of pruning year-round. Make one clean cut outside of the swollen area where the branch meets the tree trunk, known as the branch collar.

Remove large branches during the dormant period of late fall to early spring.

Make an undercut on the branch 8 to 12 inches from the tree trunk. This cut ensures the bark does not rip down the tree trunk when you remove the branch.

Create an overcut above the undercut and sever the branch, leaving an 8- to 12-inch stub.

Repeat the undercut and overcut process to remove the remaining branch stub. The final cut should occur at the branch collar.

Plant A Hackberry

Plant hackberry trees in full sun near the coast and under partial shade inland. Choose a bed with moderately fertile, well-draining soil. Weed the planting area thoroughly to eliminate competition for moisture and nutrient resources. Move any large stones, sticks or other debris. Form a 1-inch-tall mound of soil in the center of the planting hole. Do not firm or pack the mound of soil since it needs to be loose and free to settle. Add small amounts of soil. Water the hackberry tree to a depth of 6 inches immediately after planting it. Withhold water during rainy weather or if the top 2 inches of soil still feel wet when probed.


Pruning branches at the branch collar ensures quick healing.


If bleeding of sap occurs after you prune, do not bandage the tree wounds. Doing so will only slow the healing process.

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