Lone large trees

Reasons to or not to prune trees

Toso Bozic

Toso Bozic

Tree/Forestry Expert

I will start with a simple rule when it comes to pruning trees: “don’t prune it unless you have a good reason for it”. Each tree has its own natural shape, form and growth habit that has been developed through the process of natural selection. Pruning is the process where we can change natural shape, form and growth habits for our own reasons.   

Let’s face it from tree’s perspective: pruning a healthy tree is always stressful; leaving tree with scars, reducing food factory production, and creating a hormonal imbalance. Changing and reducing a tree’s internal hormonal flows ( growth hormones are auxin’s in apical buds and cytokinin in root buds) will create “wreck” to its hormonal balances. As results of these hormonal imbalances, the tree is adapting to survival mood and starts producing new growth ( twigs, water sprouts or suckers) just to get necessary food sources for survival.  

What are the reasons to prune from a tree’s perspective ?

A tree has a great ability to store energy produced during growing season to help it survive during wintertime.  In spring that energy is channeled to develop a new growth ( leaves, flowers and twigs). Pruning reduces the number of leaves ( food factory) which enables more nutrients and water availability for the remaining branches. The other critical component beside the food factory ( leaves)  is to have a healthy root system.  Having a healthy and strong root system ( no soil compaction, no root damage, good watering, and mulching) will help a part of the tree above the ground by supplying necessary water and nutrients to grow and recover. There is time when pruning is greatly beneficial from a tree’s perspective. Pruning of dead, diseased and damaged (3D) parts is a way to help the tree survive and recover. A tree does natural pruning itself every year. Small branches or twigs that do not get sunlight die and eventually fall off from trees

What are the reasons to prune trees from human perspective?

Human perspective is the same as from tree perspective – remove dead, disease and damaged tree parts that are detrimental to overall tree health and survival. There are several more reasons why we prune trees:

  1. Safety – as trees are part of places where we live, work and enjoy recreation or spiritual needs, there are always chances that the tree or part of it can fail and become hazardous to humans, properties, or other infrastructure. Pruning is one way to reduce safety hazards.
  2. Maintain overall health and well being of trees  – as mentioned above pruning does help to reduce a stress created by insects, diseases, and other environmental issues. Removing and eliminating an infected part will help tree to recover, survive and most importantly stop spreading the disease. Also, pruning will help the tree to rejuvenate and improve air circulation.
  3. Increase flowering and fruit production –pruning will stimulate better fruit production.
  4. Train young tree –pruning young tree helps to develop a strong framework for itself and avoid possible problems in future.
  5. Increase aesthetics –this type of pruning does not benefit the tree but it is visually pleasing to humans.
  6. Root pruning – sometimes you need to prune roots of young trees prior to planting to avoid        “ root circling” and develop better root structures.

Always keep in mind, you must perform proper pruning. Improper pruning will create more damage and reduce the health of the trees.


It is important to understand how trees grow, their forms, structures, and natural abilities to survive. You need to have clear goals and reasons to prune trees. Pruning always creates stress to trees and they are just responding in their best way to survive. Improper pruning creates more damage and stress which overall reduces the life span of the trees. Never cut more than 25 % of live parts of the tree. Lastly, when it comes to tree pruning; sometimes we should think what is best for the tree; not what is the best for us.

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