What Happens If You Prune Your Trees Wrong?

Every tree health article and website gives advice on the correct way to prune trees and the best way to care for them. However, what happens if you prune your trees wrong? What exactly is the danger?

First, incorrect pruning can weaken the structure of your tree. An unfortunately common practice that damages tree structure is tree topping. This is when a person simply cuts off the top part of the tree, usually believing that a shorter tree is better. However, topping damages the plant structure in several ways. It affects the natural distribution of weight and strength throughout the structure. It also removes a large portion of the tree’s leaves. Without the leaves, the tree cannot create the food and nutrients it needs, and the limbs will starve and weaken. Often, the tree will attempt to compensate for the lost leaves by producing many new shoots. The weakened limbs are not able to handle that much new growth, and therefore is under even greater stress than before.

Second, incorrect tree pruning leaves the tree susceptible to infection and disease. If the tree does not have enough leaves, and therefore enough food, the tree is not strong enough to fight off disease and fungi. Even worse, cutting in the wrong place or the wrong way can produce wounds that do not heal correctly. Normally, when a tree is cut, the sap pushes out any debris, then forms a scab, much like blood does in the human body. If the cut is too big or in the wrong place, the scab cannot form and the wound remains open. To diseases and pests, these wounds are like gaping doorways to the inside of the tree.

Finally, pruning at the wrong time can damage the tree beyond repair. Cutting a tree right after new growth over stresses the plant’s resources. The tree will try to send nutrients to both the cut and the new growth, and neither will receive what is needed. Pruning right before harsh weather, such as winter freezes, will also damage the tree. The cut will not have healed enough to fight off the cold.

Contact a professional tree trimmer for advice on how and when to prune your trees. Different types of trees require different care, and an expert will be able to help you avoid any mistakes.