How to Prune Damaged Trees

And Who Should Do the Job


By nature, trees are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions year-round. However, there are certain circumstances when they can become damaged and need our help. Regular pruning and maintenance are necessary for most trees in your yard. But there are times when you need to do more than just water and trim. Learn how to prune damaged trees the right way. Depending on the damage, it may be best to call a certified arborist to help your tree heal.

Assessing the Damage

Before you tackle any tree project, assess the situation. How extensive is the damage? Are repairs needed on branches you can’t reach from the ground? What’s your level of knowledge on proper pruning techniques? A pair of pruning shears may work for quick fixes on easy-to-reach branches. Any larger jobs should be reserved for a professional tree company. It may cost you a little more than trying to do it yourself, but you could end up with more to pay for if you hurt yourself or do further damage to the tree.

When it comes to damaged trees, who you call also matters. Some companies specialize in tree removal, but not all can help diagnose issues and how to fix them. Look for a certified arborist in your area who will focus on saving the tree instead of cutting it down.

Depending on the time of year, you may not notice the damage right away. Even in the winter when the branches are bare, the full impact of any storm damage may have long-term effects you don’t notice until it’s too late.

Trees are resilient and can heal from certain damage on their own. However, there are some circumstances when you don’t want to wait and see if a tree will survive on its own. If the tree in question is close to your house, utility lines, or other structures, it’s best to assess as soon as possible to prevent any accidents.

How to Prune Damaged Trees

If you’ve decided you want to take on the task of pruning a damaged tree, make sure you have the right tools to do so. Wounded trees are more prone to disease and further damage. You don’t want to add to the issue by using the wrong tool that ends up tearing a branch. Shears should be sharp, clean, and large enough to cut the desired branch. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Pruning Shears. For branches up to 1/4″ thick.
  • Loppers. Branches up to 2″ thick.
  • Pruning Saw. For branches with diameters equal to or less than half the length of the saw blade.
  • Pole Pruners. For high branches up to 1-1/4″ thick. Poles range from 6′ to 18′ high.

You may also want to use a pocket knife to clean and shape the cut so it can heal faster. A chain saw is also handy for cutting large branches into more manageable pieces for disposal. Also, use protection for your ears, eyes, and hands when working with heavier machinery.

When it comes time to start cutting, keep the following in mind:

  1. Trim back to the lateral branch or bud.
  2. Don’t cut into the branch collar.
  3. Don’t let a branch rip from the trunk.
  4. Cut back any stubs as close to the branch as possible.
  5. Cut smaller branches back to reduce the chance of overcrowding and crossing branches.
  6. For trees that produce sap, don’t prune during the flow period or the wound will bleed.
  7. Wait until branches have thawed from ice and snow to try and repair any bent or broken branches.
  8. A healthy tree with less than 25 percent of the crown damaged should be pruned. A weak tree with more than 25 percent of its crown damaged should be considered for removal.

Professional Tree Pruning

If you think the tree is damaged beyond repair, but the plant holds sentimental value, speak to a tree specialist about grafting. Depending on the tree, this may be an option to help revitalize bark and save your favorite tree.

Any other major pruning or repair should be assessed by a professional tree company. It may not be the cheapest way to solve the problem, but it will be the most thorough and efficient way to help save your tree. Do yourself and your tree a favor by contacting Elite Tree Care for more information about how to repair and prune damaged trees.

Tree Pruning Guide

Download Your FREE Tree Pruning Guide

Learn how, when, and how much to trim or prune your trees to maximize their health and beauty. This guide covers the factors that go into tree trimming (pruning) and will help you make a more informed decision about hiring a professional tree service.