The Benefits of Structural Pruning
Written by: Ron Gumz, Board Certified Master Arborist MN-0324B
Pruning is an important part of a tree’s life. Many shade trees are pruned out of necessity when branches get in the way. This generally is caused when branches are in the way for mowing the lawn or when branches interfere with buildings. In addition to these kinds of pruning needs, the rest of a tree needs pruning as well. Structural pruning addresses the needs of the entire crown of a tree. The primary goal of structural pruning is to promote a strong, central leader with well-spaced, smaller diameter branches along this main trunk.
Structural pruning is a type of pruning that focuses on improving the architecture of the branches within the crown of a tree. This kind of maintenance for a young or middle-aged tree will attend to the pruning needs of the tree. These items include branch spacing and orientation, co-dominant branches, branch diameter ratios, present or future clearance needs, etc. Structural pruning will need to be done at regular intervals during a tree’s life. For fast-growing trees like Autumn Blaze Maples, the pruning interval often needs to be every two to three years.
Another important aspect of Structural pruning is dealing with co-dominant stems. Co-dominant stems are secondary leaders which compete with the central leader. These co-dominants are often poorly attached and become easily susceptible to splitting out during storms. To address co-dominant leaders, arborists typically use subordination cuts. This technique reduces the length of competing leaders to improve the tree’s structure and slow the growth of these subordinated leaders.
The greatest benefit for a tree will be derived when pruning is started early in the tree’s life. Over the duration of a tree’s life these pruning benefits include:
- Reduced potential for storm damage
- Reduced disease issues
- Reduced future maintenance costs
- Improved appearance of the tree
- Improved branch spacing
- Improving the useful lives of trees in the landscape
The goal with any treatment done for trees is to extend the useful life of the trees in your yard. Pruning is one of these critical components of tree maintenance in a landscape. Done properly and at the correct stages of a tree’s life, it can help your trees live long, healthy lives!