Your tree should come with a list of instructions for good pruning and proper care — follow the recommendations carefully to ensure healthy growth.

Pruning is an essential part of keeping your tree healthy. Never cut a branch flush against the trunk, and don't leave long stubs. Remove only dead, broken or crossing branches.

Proper method for pruning trees

Wait at least five years before pruning your new tree, and use the "one-third rule":

  • Never remove more than 1/3 of a tree's crown.
  • Where possible, try to encourage side branches that form angles that are 1/3 off vertical (10 o'clock and 2 o'clock positions).
  • For most broadleaf trees, don't prune up from the bottom any more than 1/3 of the tree's total height.
  • Tree paints or other solutions are no longer recommended for sealing pruning cuts — the wound will heal itself quickly if the cuts are made properly.

Never "top" a tree

Never "top" a tree by cutting main branches back to stubs. The practice starves the tree by drastically reducing its food-making ability and makes the tree more susceptible to insects, disease and storm damage.

The stubs also will sprout spindly branches that can quickly grow back higher than the original limb and require even more frequent pruning.

When you're pruning, be sure to check for power lines first. Not only can electrical current travel through trees, but falling branches can easily catch on or knock down power lines as well. If your tree has power lines nearby, call a professional arborist for help.