5 Dangers of Over Pruning Your Trees

tree trimming in a cherry picker

Most homeowners know that they really ought to stay on top of trimming and pruning the trees on their property, though many don’t know exactly how or how often it should be done. In most cases, this leads to trees being left to grow without enough trimming or guidance, often leaving trees not reaching their full potential or falling victim to branch breakage or pest infestation. Less often, this leads to over-enthusiastic tree care resulting in over pruning. You might be surprised to know that it really is possible to care too much for your trees.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Trees need to be pruned so that weak or damaged branches can be removed before they cause bigger problems like downed limbs or pest infestations. But it’s important to be conservative when removing branches because the leaves that grow on those branches provide the tree’s main source of nutrition through photosynthesis. Removing too many leaves, especially during growth seasons of spring or summer, and particularly removing many leaves all at once, can cause a tree to struggle to provide enough nutrition for its remaining branches, which can cause big problems for the tree.

Too Much Sun

If you’ve just read the section above this one, you could be thinking that the main problem with removing too many branches and leaves is that the tree can’t sustain itself, nutritionally. But those leafy greens provide another important protection for the tree: protection from the sun. Bark and branches count on leafy shade during the hottest and most intensely sunny parts of the year. Removing the branches means removing the leaves, and that means exposing more of the tree to the sun’s direct rays.

More Potential for Breakage

This may seem counter-intuitive, since we already said that proper pruning is essential for reducing the number of broken branches. But it’s also true that improper trimming, or trimming too many of the wrong branches, can cause limbs to be out of balance or weighted incorrectly, leading to weakness and damage over time.

Invitation for Infestation

Pruning a tree requires cutting to remove branches, and these cuts leave wounds in the bark of the tree where the branch is removed. Done correctly, these small injuries to the tree aren’t a concern, but too many, done incorrectly, can leave your tree vulnerable to pests and illness. And that can cause more harm than good for your tree.

Topping is the Worst! Don’t Do It!

Have you ever seen a weirdly shaped and stunted tree that looks like someone came along, snipped off the top of it, and left it to grow awkwardly forever after? That’s the result of tree topping, and it’s a sure sign of a pruning gone wrong. Tree topping is the practice of inelegantly trying to shorten a tree by lopping off the top of it. The problem is that this damages the tree and changes its shape forever. It’s the thing people do when they don’t know what they’re doing. It’s a common tree trimming disaster, and we could probably devote an entire blog post to why you shouldn’t do it, but for now, just trust us: don’t!

Our Advice: Less is More

If you’re determined to do your own pruning and trimming, we applaud your enthusiasm, but we want to share one piece of advice: less is more. You can always go back later and remove limbs you should have trimmed the first time, but you can’t go back and replace any you’ve pruned over-enthusiastically.

How Can You Tell if Your Trees are Over Trimmed?

Properly pruned trees don’t look particularly pruned. A well-trimmed tree looks … like a tree. Balanced, open, leafy, green, and natural. In fact, the best tree pruning leaves trees looking like more balanced and vibrant versions of their natural state (meaning, they don’t look like trees that have been trimmed). If your trees are looking obviously thinned or sparse, you’ve probably overdone it.

Ok, Well Now What Am I Supposed to Do?

If all of this “trim your tree but don’t overly trim your tree” advice has you wondering what to do next, don’t fret. Give your local tree pruning expert a call, and we can take a look at your trees. We can let you know if you’re on track with your DIY tree pruning, or if you could use a hand from a professional. We’re happy to talk to you about the costs of tree trimming and give you our professional opinion on the best course of action for your trees.