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How to Prune an English Walnut Tree

By Barbara Fahs ; Updated September 21, 2017

The English walnut tree has two claims to fame: It produces an edible nut, and it serves as a good shade tree. The tree is easy to grow because it is adapted to many environmental conditions and types of soil. Because it quickly grows to its mature 60-foot height, it’s wise to begin pruning it to a shape you desire while it is small. Pruning this tree can also benefit its overall health.

Examine your tree from a distance and determine what shape you'd like it to take. If you prune to the tree’s natural spherical growth, it will respond better and mean less work for you in the future than if you try to force it into a topiary.

Cut lower branches back to the main trunk to encourage a strong trunk and open up the area under the tree so you can walk, mow or sit beneath it.

Open up the crown, or growing region at the top of the tree, by cutting branches near the top. Focus on smaller, narrow branches and leave healthy, larger branches. If you want to cut these larger branches back partway to maintain a spherical shape, this is an acceptable practice.

Prune any dead, dying or diseased branches every winter after the tree has dropped all of its leaves. At this time, you can also prune branches to maintain the tree's spherical shape.


Things You Will Need

  • Large pruning loppers
  • Tree saw
  • Chainsaw (optional)
  • Ladder (optional)


  • Always cut branches on the outside edge of their branch collar, the slightly swollen area where the branch connects to the trunk.
  • English walnut trees are fairly carefree and do not require extensive yearly pruning unless you want to keep them small to make harvesting nuts easier.


  • Never allow your saw to cut into the collar or the trunk; doing so can cause disease or rot to enter the tree.
  • Use caution when you work with power saws, especially if you must climb a ladder to use one.

About the Author


Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs 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 various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.