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How to Trim Pine Trees

By Elizabeth Knoll ; Updated September 21, 2017
Occasional trimming maintains a pine tree's conical shape.
pine trees image by Radoslav Lazarov from Fotolia.com

Pine trees thrive throughout the United States. Some species of pine trees grow exclusively in the northern parts of the United States, while others need the warmer temperatures of the southern United States. Neglect or improper treatment of pine trees causes them to become unsightly and sickly. While pine trees normally do not need pruning, trim pine trees occasionally as part of a regular tree maintenance program.

Prune off all dead, diseased and damaged limbs with your pruning saw. These limbs are of no benefit to the tree any longer and can cause damage to the tree and nearby structures.

Prune the new central leader, or "candle" of the pine tree with your pruning shears. The central leader is the vertical branch that grows straight up off the top of the pine tree. Cut it back to a 8- to 14-inch long stub.

Prune the side branches around the central leader. These should be pruned 4 to 6 inches shorter than the central leader.

Prune down the rest of the pine tree. Each branch should be pruned longer than the one above it to form a uniform pyramid shape in the pine tree.


Things You Will Need

  • Pruning saw
  • Pruning shears
  • Step ladder


  • Prune the bottom branches off of large pine trees to allow access around the tree. You can successfully prune up to one-third of the crown of large pine trees without compromising the health of the tree.


  • Do not top pine trees. Topping--when you cut all branches of a pine tree off above a certain height--exposes the tree to disease, decay and damaging insects.
  • Avoid pruning pine trees in wet weather. This allows disease to penetrate into the pine tree. Dry summer weather is the ideal time to prune pine trees.