How To Fix An Over-Pruned Tree: A Step-By-Step Guide

Similar to many people, I dedicate a significant amount of my time to tree maintenance. Everyone admires a well-maintained, beautiful tree, don’t they? However, in my efforts to keep my tree in top condition, I occasionally over-trimmed it. As a result, I decided to investigate online methods to correct an over-trimmed tree. Here’s what I found.

You can fix over-pruned trees yourself. You’ll need patience and watch the water sprouts grow until your tree reaches its former height. Cut out the rotten and damaged part, then shape it through thinning. Also, you’ll need to provide a health boost through fertilizers to your tree during the process.

However, fixing an over-pruned tree can be pretty complicated and depends on the type of tree. Even more, getting the branches to grow back might be challenging if they get damaged to a particular extent.

As such, it’s always best to follow proper tree pruning techniques. This way, one can reduce the risk of over-pruning and, in turn, prevent damage to that beautiful tree.

Step-By-Step Instructions on Fixing an Over-Pruned Tree

Although it sounds all easy, pruning can be quite complicated in practice. You have unruly branches if you don’t get enough on it.

Delve in too hard; then your tree has a problem – over-pruning. And although we might intend to avoid it, it’s common.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

Abraham Lincoln

A prime example of over-pruning is cutting off all the branches of your main tree so there’s only one central trunk left. Over-pruning might also take a different form in tree topping. And while it spells doom for your tree, it’s not entirely unredeemable. Here’s how.

1. Fixing Your Tree After Cutting All of Its Branches

It’s common to find tree branches cut off to keep your tree’s shape and health. And this causes quite some issues for your trees. However, in most cases, you can salvage the situation. To do this, follow the steps below.

How to Reshape and Repair A Tree with All Its Branches Cut Off

Below are the steps one should consider before even looking into reshaping and repairing the trees on your property.

Step 1: Know Your Tree

To fix trees with their branches cut off, you must know the type of tree or shrub you have. And this is particularly essential because it dictates what action you will take. For instance, some trees automatically grow back without needing your fix.

On the other hand, some trees will begin to languish and eventually die without your action. So, ensure you identify your tree to know whether you need to act.

Step 2: Obtain Expert Opinion

You might sometimes need to get an expert opinion to determine the shape and state of your tree.

If you don’t have much experience with trees and shrubs, consider contacting an arborist.

These professionals can aid you with over-pruning problems and help your tree bounce back naturally. And whether you need to take action to spur this boost. Alternatively, the arborist will tell you if there’s no solution to your tree or shrub.

Step 3: Exercise Patience

After identifying your tree as one that can bounce back, the next step is to exercise patience and watch your tree. For instance, if your tree wasn’t significantly diseased or weak, it should naturally grow back.

You should, however, know that you won’t realize this growth immediately. And this is because it takes some years to notice the bloom after heavy over-pruning.

Step 4: Provide Health Boost

The next step is to provide some extra boost to your tree’s growth. And this involves the provision of health care to the tree. Naturally, the absence of branches already places your tree at a disadvantage. The best thing to do is create an advantage for it.

Ensure your tree is appropriately watered, especially during the warm season and also look into using mulch.

This way, you can provide additional nutrition to the soil around your tree. Sometimes, you might also need to add fertilizers to your tree.

Step 5: Engage in Thinning

After providing a health boost to your tree, you should see some tree growth responses. However, this isn’t the end of the road. You’ll also need to help your tree maintain the proper form.

You’ll need to create an even canopy and maintain a sturdy tree branch.

Thinning is a good activity to help create an even canopy, where it involves removing limbs from the branches to ensure increased sunlight penetration.

Step 6: Exercise Care

The process of fixing over-pruned trees takes time. And a considerable amount of time at that. So, you’ll need to be patient once again to get the desired result. Also, remember this and exercise care when you next decide to prune your trees.

2. Fixing a Topped Tree

Generally, tree topping involves a situation whereby you must cut your tree’s top when pruning. And in turn, your tree is weak and likely to experience a decline.

What Happens to A Topped Tree?

When you create a topped tree when pruning, the effect is that your tree loses vital energy. And due to this loss of power, the tree reacts to remedy the damage and regain the energy.

As such, in time, the top of your tree gets covered in vertical, thin sprouts that appear like twigs. They are water sprouts that grow into the tree quickly, significantly below the cut.

These sprouts then increase the height of your tree. And your tree might reach the same height as before the pruning.

The only problem is that the tree is mainly unstable and has an unfavorable silhouette. However, the good news is that you can fix this problem. To do this, follow the steps below.

How to Reshape and Repair A Topped Tree

It is essential during this process to exercise patience. Because initially, when the tree gets cut at the top, it grows several sprouts to reduce the damage and restore energy.

It may be tempting to cut the new sprout but refrain from doing so. Please wait until the shoots grow and your tree reaches its original height.

  • Assess the tree after and closely monitor it for signs of decay, cracks, and damage. Check for weak sprouts. They usually are short sprouts and also have cracks and corrosion.
  • Prune said, weak sprouts. And this should be done as far as its trunk. Ensure you don’t cut shorter but healthy sprouts that appear like they might reach the height of the leaders. This is because the nutritious sprouts usually become the new limbs of the leaders.
  • During this process, ensure the leader is stable and in a central position. This placement will enable it to grow successfully as your tree’s replacement branch.
  • Repairing or reshaping your topped tree is no one-day activity. You’ll need to repeat the process above consistently over four to six years. The steps should be done once a year or two years, depending on your tree type.
  • Also, ensure you regularly trim the branches you didn’t cut. This technique trains them and ensures they come out all correctly shaped.

Contact an arborist for tree service and advice to ensure you don’t lose your tree.

How to Trim Your Tree’s Branches: Step-By-Step

As already stated, you might need some pruning to fix an already over-pruned tree. And this is usually to ensure it takes a proper shape and remains healthy.

As such, knowing how to go about tree pruning is essential. This way, you can effectively and efficiently complete the fixing procedure.

The video below shows you how to prune espalier fruit trees. I indicate when and how to do it in practical terms.

How to Prune Your Tree?

To prune your trees correctly, here’s a step-by-step guide.

Step 1: Remove Suckers

The first step is to rid your tree of suckers. Generally, they are weak, unhealthy, and weedy-looking offshoots at the base of your tree’s trunk.

Suckers are parts of the tree that won’t grow into proper branches and will affect the overall health of your tree, thanks to their energy-sucking potential.

As such, prune suckers from your tree to begin the pruning process.

Step 2: Prune Dying or Dead Branches

Next, to enjoy a smooth pruning process, you need to prune your tree’s dying or dead branches. And this is particularly relevant as it lets you know what your tree has left.

So, assess your tree and identify the branches that appear dead or are already rotting and about to die. Then, remove them.

Step 3: Remove Hazardous or Unwanted Branches

After removing dying or dead branches, you should have a more unobstructed view of your tree.

Now assess it again for unwanted branches that pose a danger or hazard to you or your property. These branches include touching your home, hanging low, or causing property safety issues.

However, remember that the objective here is to improve the tree canopy’s height or reduce obstruction. Prioritize trimming little branches instead of removing entire tree limbs.

Step 4: Prune Weak and Damaged Branches

Next in this process is identifying damaged tree branches. And this damage might be a result of storms or breakage. Then, ensure you prune these branches even though they might be alive.

Damaged branches in your trees invite diseases and pests to your plant.

Also, they can constitute a rot spot. And this generally affects the health of your plants. So, ensure you locate them and remove them following the techniques above.

Step 5: Trim Crossing Branches

Now, you must have cleaned a large part of your tree. As such, you have a better view of your tree.

Assess it for overlapping and crossing branches, which rub against one another. It is best to remove them, for they cause damage to your tree over time.

After identifying them, remove the damaged branches when both are damaged. Alternatively, where it’s just one, remove that single branch. Where damage is yet to occur, remove the smallest branch.

Appropriate Tree Pruning Techniques

Most over-pruning cases result from improper or inappropriate techniques, so a good grasp of them is essential.

Here’s a guide to avoiding over-pruning when rectifying an already over-pruned tree.

1. Identify the Branch Collar Before Cutting

When you decide to prune, you must identify the branch you want to remove. Afterward, you need first to locate the collar of that branch.

The branch’s collar is located where that branch sprouts out and connects to the tree.

You might find it easy to locate it on some trees. And you might find it hard to identify it in others. However, look for the area that forms a circle, ridge, or thick bark.

2. Cut Downward

Next, when cutting the branch, it’s vital to cut downward. And it’s critical to have this technique rooted in your mind. This need is because it’s a common mistake that has a devastating effect.

When you cut at an upward angle, you create a branch susceptible to water drops. And when these drops settle on the wound, they can eventually result in rotting. Cut downward so there’s a protrusion up, protecting the tree wound from water drops.

3. Avoid Upward Growing Branches

Another common mistake is trimming tree branches on an upward growth trend. And the effect is that there’s usually a wound facing up, which makes the tree susceptible to water and rotting.

As such, always avoid branches that are on an upward growth trend. This way, you don’t create a new rot center that might affect your tree’s general health.

4. Avoid Leaving Long Stubs

Another thing to avoid when you’re pruning is leaving a stub that’s too long. This step is because long stubs make it harder for trees to create the necessary callus. That’s why it’s essential to identify the branch collar before cutting.

Ensure the stubs are extremely short and very close to the tree trunk. This way, the tree can effectively form the necessary callus around the wound. And in turn, maintain your tree’s general health and your attempt to fix over-pruning.

5. Cutting Large Branches

Another common mistake is for people to cut large branches the same way they cut small ones. There’s an appropriate technique for cutting them, and you can get it done by using the three-step process below:

Step OneExecute a hollow cut around the branch’s underside.
Ensure it’s between 4 and 5 inches far from the tree trunk.
Step TwoCut off the branch in an area between 2 and 3 inches away from the first cut.
This way, the first cut prevents peeling the bark around the trunk.
Step ThreeElectrical or Gas-Powered Chain Saws

On this cautious note, let us move on to pruning tips one should avoid to risk pruning your trees.

Tree Pruning Tips to Avoid Over Pruning

It’s always best to avoid over-pruning your trees. As such, the techniques and step-by-step guide above become very relevant. However, beyond them, there are some points to note if you want to avoid over-pruning entirely. Here you go.

  • If you’re a first-timer or novice in pruning, it’s always best to start small. Avoid diving in entirely on your first attempt. Begin with one and, at most, two of the above steps. You can then continue the rest after a year or so.
  • Exercise caution when removing big tree limbs. And this is because cutting large limbs can pose a health risk to trees. Avoid cutting them unless there’s a compelling reason to cut them. Compelling reasons will include where the trees are dead, diseased, damaged, or hazardous.
  • Avoid trimming more than one-fourth of your tree’s branches – living ones. If the need arises, don’t do it at the same time. It’s best to wait for a time-lapse between both cuts.

One essential reminder is to check your tree at all angles during pruning. This is a sure way to see if your tree is lopsided before making cuts. Ensure you’re conscious of this need, as it’s common for people to lose track of form when trimming.

Using Pruning Equipment

Another critical part of fixing and avoiding over-pruning is using the correct equipment. The various relevant kit includes:

1. Pruning Shears

They are usually handy and can be used to cut stems. However, they are more suitable for smaller ones – stems with a diameter of less than one inch.

As such, avoid using them for big branches as it will result in a lousy cut and spoil the shears. You can go for either the scissor or an anvil type. Generally, the scissor-type produces a closer and cleaner cut.

2. Lopping Shears

This shear is a much bigger shear than pruning shears. And they generally come with long handles that you can operate with your hands. It comes in different ranges and can cut branches as much as 2 inches thick. However, you should avoid using it with extremely tough or large branches.

3. Pruning Saws

They are usually large and may be either folding or rigid. Pruning saws are handy if you have to prune large branches. They are also straightforward to use and cut into branches very fast.

4. Bow Saws

They are somewhat similar to pruning saws. The only difference is that they are quite limited in their use. As such, you would only enjoy their use in situations where there are no obstructions before you.

You’ll require at least a foot of space around the area you intend to cut.

5. Electrical or Gas-Powered Chain Saws

These are very useful if you intend to prune vast branches of trees. And they come in various sizes. However, using them can be pretty tricky, especially for inexperienced people. And it has some safety concerns. As such, professionals are those who it’s appropriate for.

Other tools that you might find helpful include chisels, pruning knives, mallets, and gouges.

Maintaining Pruning Tools

Another vital part of the effective utilization of pruning equipment involves proper maintenance. This is important because it allows you to get a clean and precise cut. You must ensure your tools are correctly maintained and sharp for the task.

You’ll need to store them in a warm room and keep them clean. Disinfect them regularly, especially in cases where you prune infected trees. Failure to do so may result in diseases to other healthy plants.

You can always use bleach or alcohol on the equipment after each use. Also, clean and oil the equipment thoroughly to avoid rusting.

FAQs on How To Fix An Over-Pruned Tree: A Step-By-Step Guide

Do Branches Grow Back After Pruning?
Often, once you cut off a branch, it doesn’t just grow back. This is because no natural design allows the cut area of a limb or tree to grow back. Due to this, it is essential to be extremely careful when pruning your tree and use safe pruning techniques to avoid damaging them.

Can You Kill Trees from Over-Pruning?
Generally, over-pruning doesn’t result in the death of your tree or plant if some canopies are left. But continuous over-pruning may cause it to die. The tree becomes too weak and has exhausted its capacity to refresh its canopy, making it highly susceptible to pathogens and diseases.

Is There A Difference Between Cutting Back and Pruning?
Although they are sometimes used interchangeably, there’s a difference between cutting back and pruning. The former involves cutting overgrown plants to keep the appearance uniform, while the latter involves cutting off infected, dead, or lose stems or branches from a plant.

When Is the Best Time to Trim My Tree Branches?
The best time to prune trees is from late winter to early spring. Your tree is naturally dormant during this period, which reduces the risk of your tree being infected by diseases and pests where it’s open. Just don’t prune during wet, rainy, and humid days.

Can Pruning Stimulate Your Tree Growth?
Generally, pruning contributes to the direction of your plant’s growth. When you cut a particular side of your tree, you’re indirectly encouraging growth in another area. Trees stay healthier when you prune diseased or pest-ridden branches, improving tree health and development.

What Happens If I Don’t Prune My Trees?
Pruning helps you eliminate dead, diseased, or damaged wood parts. It prevents the suckers that sprout out from taking over other parts of your plants. Your failure to prune your trees will result in the spread of damaged suckers and therefore cause weak growth of your tree.

Conclusion on how to fix an over-pruned tree

Tree pruning is a slow process of meticulous care and forethought. It is also crucial in urban settings, where the tree’s health decline may cause severe damage to the public (source).

The damaged branches may fall off, cause personal injury, or damage nearby properties.

Hopefully, the steps above will help you with the upkeep and pruning of trees. But should you feel like you don’t have time to follow your tree’s growth, or if the tree is rare and fragile, consider contacting arborists.

Their experience in the field will make the process more smooth sailing and ensure that your tree will be okay.

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