Pruning should be a regular part of all tree and shrub maintenance programs. Proper pruning involves the selective removal of plant parts to train young plants, rejuvenate older plants, improve plant appearance, structure and health, control size, create special forms, prevent personal injury and property damage, and influence flowering and fruiting.
Reasons to Prune Trees
Stop Circling and Girdling Roots
Growing trees in containers or planting them in compacted soils or restrictive areas may cause roots to circle. As circling roots enlarge they may girdle (choke) the tree, or fail to anchor the tree adequately. Prune circling roots when you plant the tree or when they develop in your landscape. Don’t remove roots that will create large wounds, but smaller roots so they will continue to grow outwards and properly anchor the tree.
Remove Watersprouts and Suckers
Improper pruning and damage may cause plants to produce watersprouts in the crown of the tree and suckers from the base of the tree or the tree’s roots. Prune watersprouts and suckers when they appear before their vigorous growth weakens the trees. To “untop” improperly pruned, or topped trees, remove selected watersprouts to re-establish a better branch structure.
Remove Codominant Leaders and Weakly-Attached Branches
Damage, improper pruning, or opposite bud arrangement may cause trees to produce two equal stems, known as codominant stems and weakly-attached branches. Prune codominant leaders and weakly-attached branches when young to prevent wounds from breakage. In addition, remove rubbing and crossing branches.
Remove Damaged Branches
Our Kansas storms, equipment, people, animals and other pests may damage tree branches. Damaged branches diminish appearance, create hazards and are sites for insect and disease development. Prune anytime damage happens to the tree.
Create Special Effects
Trees can be pruned to create special aesthetic, architectural and environmental forms and shapes. Special forms include bonsai or dwarfing, topiaries or three dimensional forms and espaliers or two dimensional forms. Pollards are trees pruned at the same place each year to restrict plant size.
Open and Rejuvenate Older Trees
Excessive internal growth often restricts air circulation through older plants, often increasing pest problems and reducing light penetration. Selectively prune to reduce wind resistance, increase air circulation, reduce pest problems and increase light penetration to the inside branches of the tree.
Control Size and Growth Direction
Proper heading (pruning to a bud or side branch) and thinning (pruning entire branches) can control plant size and branch growth directions. Prune to buds or at branch collars, not mid-branch (topping).
Remove Potential Hazards
Prune branches that interfere with people walking on sidewalks or threaten property before problems occur. Weak limbs on windy Kansas days can fall on houses, cars and even people. Monitor trees for potential hazards. Trees limbs in Johnson County should provide 13 feet over the street and at least 8 feet over the sidewalk to give enough room for large trucks and pedestrians.