Should you trim lower branches on trees?
Nature's trees are often beautiful and untended, with long, slender branches that reach low to the ground. This can be beautiful for shade and dramatic in fall. It is also a great place for children to play. In urban settings, these branches may need to be removed. For example, a blockage of a path is one that rubs against another or is lower than the city code.
Lower Tree branches need to be cut or removed
You don't want to remove your lower branches. They are there to strengthen the tree's structure. This is especially important during storm season. Trees with a lot of their lower trunk exposed may be more vulnerable to strong winds and can end up being blown over by them.
If a tree has too many lower branches, it can lead to a compromised immune system. This is especially true if the limbs have been cut incorrectly. This can cause decay and death [link to dead, sick, dying] as well as infestation.
Homeowners may want to increase the amount of sunlight that the tree receives or help the grass grow greener. Although thinning the crown is a good idea and can help reduce water consumption, removing lower branches can cause soil to dry out more quickly. This can cause winter drought if not monitored.
We have an amazing Guide to Tree Trimming, read this for more information about trimming and pruning.
Avoid Pruning Mistakes
Prune when it is right
First, you should know when the best time to prune your trees.
Winter pruning offers many benefits. Winter is the best time to prune shrubs and trees. It's less stressful for the tree and makes it easier to see the branch structure. Also, it is less likely to spread pathogens. Pruning trees before spring buds break will help them heal faster.
- Pruning cuts should be done correctly
- Header cuts for crabapple
- As this tree attempts to recover from its heading cuts, notice the shoots that grow all along the branches.
Go check out our Tree Trimming Cost Guide, which may help you decide whether to do it yourself or hire an expert.
Make the Cuts Correctly
AVOID FLUSH CUTTING
Flush cutting is one of the biggest pruning errors. This is when a branch is cut flush with the bark on the tree trunk or larger branch it's attached.
How to avoid a flush cutting: First identify the branch collar. This is the area at the base of the branch. Next, cut just beyond it. The branch collar tissue is stimulated to grow and the wound is sealed by a pruning cut.
NO STUB CUT
Stub cuts, which are the opposite of flush cutting, leave a branch stub that can be seen long enough for the collar to not grow over it.
Avoid stub cutting by following this rule: A stub branch is too long if you can hang your hat on it.
NO LION TAILING
Another common error is "lion tailing," which refers to removing the interior branches and keeping the growth and leaves only at the branch ends. This practice is highly discouraged.
- Removing too much foliage (which is what the tree needs to photosynthesize)
- Redistributing the weight of branches to the ends helps compromise the tree's structure
- Open crown to sun scald, wind damage.