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How to Prune Ponderosa Pine Trees

By Kelly Shetsky ; Updated September 21, 2017

Ponderosa pine trees (Pinus ponderosa) are stately trees that prefer locations on the edge of forests and wide-open spaces. They do well in cooler, moister conditions, growing among western larch, Douglas fir, lodgepole pine and quaking aspen. The hardy tree also tolerates drought. Ponderosa pines grow needles that are bundled in groups of three and long pine cones. The needles are 5 to 10 inches in length, whereas the pine cones are 3 to 6 inches long. Mature trees can achieve heights of 180 feet. Prune Ponderosa pines to keep them healthy and improve their appearance.

Prune Ponderosa pine trees in the late fall or winter time, when the growth period has slowed down. Pruning during the spring or summer may damage the tree and invite diplodia, a conifer disease, to infect the tree.

Climb the ladder to get a full look at the shape of the Ponderosa pine tree. Look for dead, diseased or damaged branches.

Cut off dead wood with shears or a pruning saw, depending on the thickness of the branches. This will not affect the tree's photosynthesis process.

Place all cuts just outside the collar, which is the swollen section at the base of the unwanted branches. The tree will heal faster and you will minimize the risk of pest or disease infestation.

Remove crossing branches, along with those that rub up against each other. The goal is to open up the tree's canopy to allow sunlight and air circulation. These branches are blocking the nutrients from getting to other parts of the Ponderosa pine tree.

Trim off shoots that are growing along the tree trunk. Pinch back the ends of new growth by hand to promote the tree to grow in a bushier fashion.


Things You Will Need

  • Ladder
  • Pruning shears
  • Pruning saw


  • Wear gloves to protect your hands.
  • Wear eye protection when using a saw of any kind.


  • Don't attempt to prune very large and tall Ponderosa pine trees alone. Get a professional tree company to tackle the project.

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.