Issue: May 31, 1999

Pruning large tree in summer


When is the best time to prune a large tree? The tree is very old and beautiful. I am planning to change the backyard design and want to cut fairly large branches off so children will not get their eyes scratched or poked. Will I hurt the tree and should I put sealing paint on the wound if I cut the branches off?


In general, pruning a tree when it is dormant is recommended if there are large branches to remove; that is, pruning between the time the leaves fall from the tree in the fall and the time the buds swell in the spring. However, pruning for safety reasons or minor pruning may also be done in the summer. In fact, some shrubs and spring flowering trees are best pruned immediately following flowering in the spring.

As I said, pruning for safety reasons should be done now! The safety of your children is more important than the tree. If, for safety reasons, you must do the pruning in the summer, do it. If you can delay, delay as long as the construction is progressing -- the later in the summer that you prune, the less impact you have on the tree but, if it must be done today, do it today. Prune as much as is needed to ensure the safety of your children. If more pruning is needed later, then delay that until winter when the tree is dormant.

It sounds like the tree is relatively healthy, so the pruning should not be extremely damaging to the tree. However, you can't prune without having an influence on the tree, and some of that influence is negative. Regarding the use of pruning paints - we do not recommend the pruning paints. However, we do recommend that you prune properly. If proper pruning cuts are made, the effect on the tree is minimized. Information on proper pruning is available from your local Cooperative Extension Service Office.