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How to Replace a Leader on Spruce Trees

By Darin McGilvra

The leader is the top branch on a spruce tree. It provides the vertical growth for the spruce tree, which is generally a fast-growing tree. When the leader is damaged or threatened from weather or insects, a new leader can be established. This will help the tree to continue to grow well.

Step 1

Cut off the damaged leader if it remains attached to the tree. Use the saw or branch trimmers and cut off any other dead branches at the top, as well. Wearing work gloves, hold onto the branches as you are cutting them. Cut just below the dead part of the branches. If you are using a ladder, make sure the ladder isn't resting against the part of the tree you will be cutting off.

Step 2

Choose a strong, healthy branch near the top of the tree to be the new leader. Tie the end of your string near the end of the branch using a double knot as you would when tying shoes.

Step 3

Let the string drop to the ground, and make sure its length is at least twice the height of the new leader before cutting it.

Step 4

Tie the other end of the string to the wooden stake using the same type of knot as before. The stake should be at least 2 inches thick and 2 feet long.

Step 5

Pull the string tight so that the branch becomes as close to upright as possible. The tree should only be leaning slightly toward you.

Step 6

Keeping the string tight, pound the wooden stake into the ground to keep the branch in the upright position.


Things You Will Need

  • Saw or large branch trimmers
  • Work gloves
  • Ladder (if needed)
  • Wooden stake
  • String
  • Rubber mallet or hammer


  • If the tree is at least 20 feet tall, it should be fine without the damaged leader and doesn't need replacement.


  • If the leader was damaged by insects, such as the white pine weevil, the leader should be burned as soon as it is cut down to prevent the insects from breeding. Also, the leader needs to be cut down before the adult weevils come out from under the bark, which is usually in July.