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How to Prune My Empress Tree

By Kelly Shetsky ; Updated September 21, 2017

Royal empress trees grow to 40 feet tall. They tolerate many soil conditions and drought, and they can handle full to partial sun. In the winter, the trees are covered in small buds that burst into purple flowers when spring arrives. The trees' huge leaves--about 1 foot in width--provide plentiful shade. Pruning empress trees improves their health and productivity.

Climb the ladder and inspect the interior canopy of the empress tree. Look for weak, diseased or damaged limbs.

Cut lightly into the limbs in question with hand pruners. If the flesh inside is green, the limb is alive. If it's brown inside, the limb needs to be removed.

Cut at the V-shaped joint where the dead or damaged limb meets a healthy limb. Pull the branches from the tree and set them aside.

Saw the empress tree to the ground in the spring if it's gotten too large or is severely damaged by a storm. These trees grow very fast--they'll 10 feet tall again within a year.

Thin the crown with hand pruners if it's too thick to allow a sufficient amount of light and air to circulate. Cut lateral branches where they meet upward-facing branches. Do not remove more than 1/4 of the crown at one time or the tree may become stressed.


Things You Will Need

  • Ladder
  • Gloves
  • Hand pruner
  • Pruning saw


  • Have someone help you if you'll be attempting to lift or carry large limbs.
  • Wear gloves for safety.

About the 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.