How To Trim A Tree Properly

How To Trim A Tree - Large or Small

If you’re Googling “How To Trim A Tree“, “How To Trim A Large Tree“ or “How To Trim A Small Tree”, this article should help!

Whenever you understand the basics of tree trimming and pruning, then you will be able to handle a lot of the work on your own. There are plenty of tips for trimming and pruning techniques that will help you to keep your tree looking awesome. The right knowledge and equipment will let you prune your tree whenever you need to maintain the look and health of your tree as well as remove common issues and dead branches that may be dangerous.

There are plenty of tree trimming techniques out there, but if you want to do it yourself, then you will need to know the basics to keep things in order. You have the option to hire a professional and not worry about it. Keep reading on for our guide to tree pruning and trimming.

Reasons To Prune or Trim Your Trees

Trees should be trimmed for 3 reasons: Aesthetics, health and Safety. Take for instance:

  • Safety: Broken or dead limbs and branches may fall at any point, which is a safety issue. If the tree branches are obstructing your line of vision when you are in a car, then they need to be trimmed. If the tree branches or limbs are growing too close to a utility line, then contact your local utility company who will take care of it for you.
  • Aesthetics: Pruning your tree will help to maintain the look and shape of your tree. You should never give your tree and unnatural size or shape. The amount that you prune, or trim could damage it.
  • Health: It can sometimes be possible to save infected trees by pruning the affected limbs and branches. Thinning the tree’s crown improves airflow, which is beneficial. If the branches are rubbing together or crossing, then need to be trimmed so that they don’t fall unexpectedly.” [2]

Small & Large Tree Trimming Tips

  • The best time to trim or prune a tree will be during the dormant season. However, you can prune during anytime, it is better when the tree is dormant. The only exception is if there is a hazard.
  • Only trim the branches that are weak, narrow V-shaped angles. You will want to keep the branches that have a strong U-shaped angle.
  • You will want to be conscientious about the size of the branch that you are removing. If it is less than 5 cm in diameter, then you can remove it. If it is between 5 and 10 centimeters, then you may not want to remove it. If the branch is more than 10 centimeters in diameter, you should only remove it if you have a super good reason.
  • The lateral branches will need to be between one-half and three-quarters the diameter of the stem at an attachment point. Otherwise, they need to be removed.
  • Try to prune the younger branches. They are much easier to manage and there is a lowered chance of leaving any nasty scars.
  • Don’t trim any branches that are too close or too long. You should never remove the branch collar or leave a large stub.
  • Whenever you are finished pruning, the tree crown will need to be two-thirds rationed.

How To Trim A Tree Properly

How To Trim A Tree - Step By Step
Image by Liberty Tree Care [1]
*Important: Most people only make only 1 single cut up right against the tree trunk which is bad for the tree and results in the heavy limbs tearing or ripping the bark at the trunk.

Here is how to trim your tree the right way using the best tree trimming method; the 3 point cut!

Step 1. Make 1st Cut A Foot Away From The Trunk

Come out a little further from the tree about a 1 foot or so depending on how large the tree limb is. Start out by making an undercut first.

Step 2. Make 2nd Cut 3 Inches Away From The 1st

Then come out about 3 inches away and make a top cut. This way the branch will fall off cleanly and there is no chance of ripping or tearing.

Step 3. Make 3rd Cut Right Next To The Tree Trunk 

Finally, come back and cut off the remaining stub right next to the trunk to make you third and final cut. Hold on to the stub while you make the cut to avoid any other potential damage.

*Important: Make sure you make the cut in the area called the branch bark bridge to allow for optimum healing after the pruning cut has been made

Best Time Of The Year To Trim Your Trees

The late dormant season is best for most pruning. Pruning in late winter, just before spring growth starts, leaves fresh wounds exposed for only a short length of time before new growth begins the wound sealing process. Another advantage of dormant pruning is that it’s easier to make pruning decisions without leaves obscuring plant branch structure. Pruning at the proper time can avoid certain disease and physiological problems:” [3]

Types Of Tree Trimming

The tips that are listed below will help to guide you if you have been wanting to prune your trees or if you have been wanting to learn more about maintenance and care techniques for trimming your trees.

Crown Thinning

If you are wanting or needing to trim the tree crown, then you want to keep these tips and techniques in mind:

  • Keep the lateral branches to where they are evenly spaced as much as possible, especially if it is on a young tree.
  • Prune the branches that are rubbing or crossing each other.
  • Don’t remove more than one-fourth of the crown at a single time. If you need or have to remove more than that, then spread it over years.

Crown Raising

To make clearance for pedestrians or other various reasons, you are able to raise the crown of the tree by pruning it carefully. You want to maintain the live branches that are on most of the height of the tree. If you end up removing too many branches towards the bottom, then your tree may not develop a strong stem.

Crown Reduction

You should only reduce the crown if it is really needed. You will need to prune the lateral branches that are one-third in diameter of the stem.

If you have to remove over half of the foliage from the branches, then just remove the whole branch.

Professional Tree Trimming Techniques

Below are some great techniques for trimming your tree that you should keep in mind:

  • Before you go any make a cut, you will need to look for the collar of the branch, which will grow from the stem tissue at the base of the branch. You will need to look for the ridge, which will be on the upper surface and will run parallel to the angle at the stem of the branch.
  • You should use the same techniques to prune both living and dead tree branches.
  • Be sure that you cut the outside of the bark ridge and make sure to angle the cut down and away from the stem. You want to make sure that you do not damage the branch collar.
  • If the stem happens to be too long, then you will want to use the 3-cut technique. You will want to make a single notch within the side of the stem that will face away from your kept branch. Then make a second cut just on the inside of the branch and make sure it is above the ridge. Then make a third cut that will remove the stub by cutting through the stem that runs parallel to the ridge of the bark.

If you keep these tips and techniques in mind from this guide, before you begin to take on pruning and trimming your tree, you will do fine.

Tree Trimming Breeds Healthy Trees

If you are wanting to keep your landscape looking amazing, then you will need to consider having your trees pruned and trimmed. Trimming and pruning will help to remove broken and even dead limbs and it will help you to keep a healthy tree. The cost of having your tree trimmed will depend on different factors, but it actually depends on if you can do it on your own, or if you will need to hire a professional.


Proper tree trimming is not as easy as it seems, so if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact a licensed arborist.

Cited Sources

    1. “How To Trim A Tree (W/ Images).” Liberty Tree Experts, 19 Jan. 2018,
    2. “How To Trim A Tree | Large or Small | Tips – Arbor Care Tree Care.” Arbor Care – Quality Professional Tree Care, 17 Aug. 2017,
    3. “Pruning Trees and Shrubs.” Pruning Trees and Shrubs : UMN Extension,