Should I Cut the Lower Branches away a 20-Foot Pine Tree?

Should I Cut the Lower Branches away a 20-Foot Pine Tree?

Pruning the lower branches from a mature pine tree (Pinus spp.) Is a “can,” not a “should.” It’s a discretionary haircut which improves access under the tree, if that’s desirable. However, like every cut a coniferous evergreen, you have to prune lower branches — if at all — in the ideal time and in the ideal way.

How Pines Grow

Before you pick up the pruner, be certain that you understand how exponential increase differs from different trees. Other coniferous evergreen species grow dense, overlapping divisions that shade out regions of the canopy close to the trunk. You shouldn’t prune inside that area because no new growth is possible. Pines do not self-shade in this manner, however, but rather produce whorls of branches split vertically from different whorls by an internode of trunk. A main aim of pruning a young pine would be to shorten the distance between whorls. After a tree is mature, this kind of shaping is no more feasible.

Pruning Mature Pine Trees

Established pine trees require little maintenance clipping if the tree is planted correctly in its acceptable hardiness zones. The zones vary among species, including U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9. Most pines have strong central leaders which don’t require any help or training, assuming a classic pine pyramid shape is desirable. Mandatory pruning is generally confined to removing dead or diseased limbs in the stage they emerge from the trunk.

Optional Pine Pruning

Many homeowners elect to eliminate the lower divisions in their backyard pines. It is desirable if you need to have more access to this region under the tree. Removing lower branches won’t damage a pine. In fact, it is possible to get rid of the lower third of the crown without damaging a healthful pine, according to forestry experts in the University of Idaho’s Cooperative Extension System. On the other hand, the tree may be more happy and is more lovely with its full overhead intact, so just cut if you believe it truly necessary.

Removing Lower Branches

If you decide to eliminate your pine’s lower branches, do this when the tree isn’t in its growth period that lasts from spring through summer. The ideal time to act is late winter. Use a hand saw that cuts on the pull stroke, cleaned before every use with a rag dipped in denatured alcohol. Make the cuts just beyond the limb collar, the slight swelling where the branch emerges from the trunk. For large, heavy divisions, employ a three-cut procedure. First make a cut 12 to 24 inches from the underside of the limb on the lower side of this branch. Cut about a third of the way through the branch. Secondly, cut through the branch from above, just outside the first cut. Make the final cut just beyond the limb collar to eliminate the branch stub.

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