With young trees, there is a great amount of effort and know-how required to promote beautiful looks and healthy growth, but that’s a young tree. So, how to prune a large tree you ask?

Keep reading, I’ll give you all the information you need!

Pruning A Large Tree Step by Step

Truthfully, large trees require a small amount of maintenance, although if the tree has a few dead branches or limbs then you have to take off the affected parts.

With large trees, you are permitted to prune any time of the year, however, it’s best to prune when the trees have little or no leaves.

Be advised not to prune during the spring just after the trees have produced leaves. The reason for this is that the tree’s energy has been used up, thanks to the new growth, so pruning at that time will only put unnecessary strains on the tree.

Tools You Will Need To Prune A Large Tree

Since the trees are large, you will need pruning tools that can cut thick branches.

Here are the items you will need –

  • Pruning saw
  • Chainsaw
  • Ladder
  • Helmet (for climbing high up)
  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Non-slip boots
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Rake or shovel


Be sure to prune only the limbs you can reach conveniently. If the limbs you are trying to reach are too high, then maybe you should get a professional arborist.

Also, do not trim more than 25 percent of the tree’s branches.

Lastly, do not trim only the top of the tree, as this will mess up its good looks. Also, it will take quite some time for the tree to get back in shape!

Steps To Take When Pruning A Large Tree

Here are the steps you should take when pruning a large tree.

Locate dead branches and cut

The first thing you need to do is to locate all the dead branches and limbs. These branches will have no leaves on them, they will also have no signs of buds on them.

Besides a lack of leaves or signs of buds, you can tell if a branch is dead by the way it feels. Deadwood is usually brittle, unlike live branches that are more flexible.

When you’ve identified the dead branches, cut the underside of the branch you want to remove. The cut should be about 18 inches from the tree’s trunk.

Use a pruning saw for this, but if the branch has a thickness of more than 4 inches, then use a chainsaw.

Make a second cut

Create a second cut a bit farther out the branch from the first cut. Be sure to cut through the branch from the top.

Finish off by making a clean cut just outside the swollen bump of the tree’s collar.

Examine the joints

Check the branches and joints so you would know which live branches require thinning.

If you notice any limbs with a U-shape, then you should leave them. This is because they are healthy and should remain on the tree.

On the other hand, cut off limbs that have V-shaped branches along with them. Also, locate the branches that rub across other branches and prune them back to the nearest healthy U-shaped union.

Raise the crown

You do this by pruning the lower branches. Cut off branches that will hinder you from walking under the tree.

A good tip is to keep two-thirds of the whole tree as the crown, and one-third as the trunk.

Cover up the wounds

You can do this with non-toxic wood dressing (if they are pruned during the growing season). Other than that you can leave the wounds and let them heal naturally.

Clean your saw with disinfectant after you prune each tree

This is to avoid the spread of diseases among your trees. You can mix one part bleach to nine parts of water heater make a disinfectant solution.

Rub the mixture on your blades and leave it for a few minutes to kick in. You can also use a mixture of dish detergent and water, but be sure to rinse off thoroughly with clean, clear water and let them dry completely.

Tools Needed To Trim High Tree Branches

The tools you will need are listed below.

  • A pole pruner
  • A pole saw
  • A pocket saw and rope
  • A ladder
  • A bucket lift
  • Ropes and harness
  • Helmet
  • Safety goggles

Be advised, if the branches are too high, then you might want to call a professional arborist.

Keep in mind that climbing high up a tree could be dangerous, especially if you have little or no experience doing so.

Falling off a ladder would lead to serious injuries, a broken ankle, or even death!

How To Prune Large Trees Without Killing Them

When pruning large trees, you will put the tree at the mercy of sharp tools. Randomly cutting off branches and limbs doesn’t always mean the job is done, because improper pruning could mean the death of the tree!

Keep in mind that dead large trees can be dangerous, they are also expensive to remove.

Here are tips on how to prune a large tree without killing it.

  • Prune away broken roots back to the healthy wood
  • Remove broken or damaged branches
  • As you prune, don’t damage the bark and bark ridges
  • Avoid long stumps (they are avenues for infestation and rot)
  • Keep your cuts neat and smooth (it’s easier for wounds to heal from sharp cuts)
  • Make cuts next to, but not into the branch bark ridge
  • Cut at angles to avoid leaving too much cut surface exposed

Large branches should be cut with a pruning saw, don’t use a conventional saw or lapping shears. This is because conventional saws or lapping shears would make a mess of your cut.

Besides the teeth clogging quickly, they won’t give you a smooth, clean-cut. You’ll only be damaging the branches.

For small branches, the saw you use matters a great deal. You wouldn’t want your branches to rip away with the tree’s bark.

It’s great that you’ve learned how to prune large trees without killing them, but you don’t want to hurt yourself in the process. Be sure you’ve got all the protective gear required!

What You Should Prune

Here are the parts of the tree that need to be cut off –

  • Dead, infested, or dying branches
  • Brach stubs
  • Branches that are growing too close together
  • Rubbing branches
  • Suckers and water sprouts
  • Weak crutches
  • Dangerous branches

When To Prune Your Tree

Knowing how to prune a tree is one thing, knowing when to prune is another. The time has to be right.

Dead branches can be pruned anytime, but the best time to prune living branches is during the dormant season. This is during the late winter period or early in spring, just before the beginning of the growth.

Many large trees are prone to disease and infestation if they are pruned during the summer period.

Keep in mind that some trees are bleeders, and they produce free-flowing sap when a branch is damaged. This won’t be so much of a problem if the sap doesn’t attract insects. For trees like these, the dormant period is the best time to prune.

For water sprouts and weak branches, they can be removed anytime during the summer months. Any other pruning during the summer is a bad idea!

Treating A Large Tree’s Wound

In the modern-day, many have adopted tree paint and wood dressing to heal wounds on large trees. These can prevent rot and decay.

While those have proven to be effective, many experts believe that trees should be left alone to heal naturally. After all, trees have been healing themselves for millions of years.

How Much Of A Large Tree Can Be Pruned Safely?

Experts have asserted that you shouldn’t prune more than 25% of the tree’s branches. You should only prune as much as necessary.

For most deciduous trees, you have to ensure that there are living branches on at least 2/3 of the tree. This, however, varies by the type of tree.

Large Tree Pruning Dos And Don’ts

When it comes to pruning large trees, there are certain things you must do, and certain things you shouldn’t do.

Knowledge of what to, and what not to do could be the difference between the life, death, health, beauty, and productivity of your tree.


  • You should keep in mind that poor pruning can cause damages to your tree
  • Always check on your trees to see if there’s any pruning required (you may have dead or infested branches, also check on the condition your trees after a storm)


  • Don’t prune if there is no need for it
  • Do not prune more than 25% of the tree’s foliage during a growing season
  • Do not climb a large tree without proper gear (this includes tree climbing spikes)
  • Do not climb up a high tree or try to reach high branches of you’ve got no experience doing so (the professionals can handle that)


I hope this article on how to prune a large tree has been very helpful.

Good luck and stay safe!

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