What every homeowner should know
Urban landscape trees require a level of care to maintain their structural integrity, overall health, and visual appeal. Pruning is a means to make corrections to woody plants for their overall health, and branches should only be removed if their is a good reason for their removal.
Reasons to prune
There are only a few good reasons to prune woody plants, contrary to popular beliefs. Pruning opens woody plants up to the possibility of fungal and bacterial infection, so it should only be done if there is a good reason. Here are some good reasons to prune.
The removal of branches that are structurally dangerous (ie:weak attachments,crossing branches),and low in vigor.
The removal of dead, dying, and diseased branches
The selective removal of branches to improve structure, increase light penetration, improve air circulation within the tree canopy.
The removal of lower branches to provide clearance for structures, people, site of vision.
The removal of selected branches for the purpose of decreasing the height and width of a tree and maintain the structure and form of the tree.
So when can pruning be done? The simple answer is anytime that allows for growth characteristics, and flowering. So what does that mean?
Spring blooming plants should be pruned right after flowering. The reason for this is because these plants will be setting new dormant buds soon after flowering for the next season, so any pruning for these plants should be done right after flowering.
All other woody plants can be pruned up to late summer. The reason you should complete pruning for these plants by late Summer is the action of pruning itself initiates new growth. So if pruning is completed by late Summer it allows any new growth to harden off before frost or freezing weather sets in. This cold weather can cause severe damage, or possibly death for the plant.
Anytime that storms cause breakage within the canopy of a woody plant.
Anytime that deadwood is discovered in the canopy of a woody plant.
Proper cuts are essential for woody plant health, pruning exposes the plant to infection. For this reason clean cuts positioned at branch collars, or just above branch buds are important for immediate healing to begin. To make proper cuts you MUST use sharp tools so that the cuts are smooth. Only bypass pruners should be used on live tissue, anvil pruners by design will crush the branch tissue causing severe damage.
Tree and shrub pruning is an important maintenance function. The implications of improper pruning is permanent. New growth will respond according to what has been done, and weak branch joints can develop as a result of lack of knowledge of pruning cuts and techniques. Always hire trained landscape professionals to do sensitive work like pruning. An ISA Certified Arborist would be my first choice to complete this type of work, they have time in trade experience requirements, they must pass an exam over multiple aspects of arboriculture and must maintain continuing education to keep their certification. These men and women that hold an ISA Certification are experienced professionals that love what they do. They are committed to their trade and take pride in their work.