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How to Prune Spruce Trees

snow covered tree image by Barbara Helgason from

The spruce is an evergreen tree and needs to be pruned either just before or just after new growth appears. If pruning just after new growth appears, try to prune before the new needles have fully developed. Because of the sticky nature of evergreen pitch, no painting is required on cut branches. Always cut evergreen branches back to the node on the trunk or on the branch from which the cutting is growing. Leave the node when cutting. Always be mindful of the shape of the tree you are cutting and cut as much for shape as for thinning reasons.

Cut all dead or diseased branches or any which have broken. If a branch is larger than 1 1/2 inches in diameter, use the three-cut method of removing the branch. Start by making a cut on the underside of the branch about 3 inches farther out on the branch than you wish the final cut to be. This underside cut should be no more than halfway through the branch. Choose a top-side spot approximately 3 inches farther out than your underside cut and cut straight down from the top of the branch all the way through. Just before you have cut all the way through the branch will probably break off, just at the point of your underside cut. The underside cut prevented the bark from ripping down the tree. Now simply cut off the 6-inch stump flush with a branch node.

Cut off all branches which are growing downward.

Cut all branches which are growing sideways through the canopy. This will open the canopy to light and air. Cut branches that are rubbing together.

Cut the tips of branches which are growing so long that they are interfering with a pleasing shape for the spruce tree. Your spruce should look like a pyramid, with longer branches on the bottom and with shorter branches as the tree tapers upward.

Top your spruce tree (cut the tip of the main trunk) only if you wish to prevent your tree from getting any taller and wish it to bush out. Never cut more than 1/3 of the total height of the tree off the top. Cut just above a branching node.


Wear old clothing when cutting any spruce as the sap from the spruce can be difficult to remove from clothing.


Wear gloves and eye goggles whenever cutting a spruce as the needles can easily puncture an eye.

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