Having properly trimmed and pruned trees can make your backyard more enjoyable. The trees create shade over your home, keep the property cool during the summer and protected during the winter, and provide a place to hang a swing for the little ones. 

Pruning is the process of removing unnecessary, old, and damaged branches while promoting healthy tree growth. However, these aren’t simple procedures and often require professional knowledge and equipment to complete them right. 

Keep reading to learn how to trim a tree without killing it and the tools you need to do a successful job. 

how to trim a tree

Benefits of Tree Trimming 

When we take regular tree care seriously, we are preserving their health and beauty. While tree trimming may seem like a minor activity in the grand scheme of tree maintenance, it is more important than you think. 

Here are some of the most important benefits of trimming:

  •     Proper trimming enhances the overall appearance and structure of your trees
  •     It prevents trees from developing weak and broad branches
  •     It keeps the limbs from growing much larger and crossing each other
  •     Increases sun exposure and circulation throughout the tree
  •     Improves the quality and size of the crop
  •     It improves your view and opens up the property 

How to Trim a Tree: Trimming and Pruning Mistakes to Avoid 

It is important to learn how to trim a tree without killing it, and the best way to do it is by familiarizing yourself with the common mistakes people make in the process. 

Pruning Without a Specific Goal 

One of the most pruning mistakes that kill trees is removing branches without a particular goal in mind. The idea behind pruning is to remove damaged or old branches to increase flower or fruit production.  

If you are cutting the limbs without any purpose, you risk causing significant damage to your tree. 

Extensive and improper pruning takes effort and patience to fix, and in the case of severe damage, you can’t reverse the effects.  

Improper Pruning Cuts 

An improper cut (cut too close or too far from the trunk) can cause severe damage to your trees. A proper cut, on the other hand, minimizes the damage and allows it to grow into a healthy and lush tree.  

A stub cut eliminates the branch collar, leaving a deep wound on the tree’s side that won’t heal quickly. It also leaves dead branches, which will deteriorate and impact the root collar and the trunk. 

Before you cut, make sure you know which branches to remove and how deep the cut should be. 

Tree Trimming During the Blooming Season 

If you trim or prune trees during the blooming season (from early spring until summer), there is a risk of eliminating healthy heaves and starving your tree. Trees get all the necessary nutrients throughout the roots and the leaves, so if you eliminate most of them, they will probably decay. 

Summer is also the most common period for droughts, so if you remove more branches, you expose the tree to high temperatures and fierce sun, which can hurt the plant. 

It is best to prune your trees in the late fall or during the winter months. 

Unnecessary Tree Topping 

Topping a tree is removing the top of the plant. When doing improper or unnecessary cuts, you provoke stress and affect the structure or your tree. If the tree has no balance, it will be more likely to fall and damage your property.  

So, how to top a tree without killing it? 

Well, topping is only an option when the tree grows out of proportion and impacts the growth of other trees in your yard. It is also necessary to know which branches to cut off. Before making the first cut, give yourself enough space, check where it leans, and ensure you have the right tools. 

Using Dull Cutting Tools 

Dull tools might not seem a big problem when pruning a bush, but when trimming a tree, they can impede the process and cause significant damage. In addition, using dull cutting tools can create improper cuts and cause larger wounds that may take months to recover. 

Proper Tools in Trimming and Pruning Trees 

When choosing tools for trimming and pruning your trees, it is essential to determine how many brunches you want to remove.  

Here are some of the tools you might need:

  •     Hand Pruners – for cutting branches with a diameter of one inch 
  •     Bypass Pruners – for accurate and clean cuts 
  •     Lopping Shears – for cutting branches with a diameter of two inches 
  •     Pruning Saws – suitable for larger branches, with a diameter of three or more inches
  •     Rope Saws – for cutting branches with a diameter of up to five inches
  •     Pole Pruners – ideal for pruning branches beyond your reach

How to Prune Trees Like a Pro: The Procedure of Tree Trimming and Pruning 

Here is a step-to-step guide on how to prune and trim a tree without killing it:

  •     Step 1: Stand approximately 20 inches up the underside of the branch you want to cut. It is the perfect location for your first cut. 
  •     Step 2: Move to the branches’ top sides. Ideally, you should choose a location an inch or two further from the first cut and cut down until the branch falls. 
  •     Step 3: Find the branch collar to make the final cut. With most trees, you will notice a rougher bark on the tree’s trunk. Make a complete cut under a 45-degree angle to prevent damage and stimulate callus production. 

How Much to Trim a Tree Without Killing It 

It is essential to prune tree limbs right to enjoy a better-looking and healthier tree. Although trees grow naturally without trimming and pruning, these landscape activities allow your plants to reach their full potential and live longer.  

The goal when pruning is not to change the shape or the size of the tree, so you should consider how many branches you remove to ensure healthy and stable growth. Ideally, you should only remove 10-20% of the branches. 


Now that you know how to trim a tree without killing it, you can follow the tips we’ve mentioned above and give your plant a fresh cut. If you find these activities time-consuming or challenging, it is best to hire professionals to do the job for you.  

Lineage Tree Care offers reliable and affordable services for trimming and pruning within Snohomish and Everett County in Washington. Contact us today at 425-800-8023 to get a free quote and learn more about the services we offer.