Tree Pruning

Tree pruning is an “art.”  Similar to sculpting – you are taking away material to create something of beauty.

Tree Pruning Tallahassee, Florida

The above trees were pruned to meet multiple objectives.  These included: expanding the vista of the water, improve sunlight to turf areas to prevent turf thinning and to do this without compromising tree health. 

At Fielder Tree Service, we know tree pruning is necessary for many reasons.  As trees grow in the urban landscape they quickly conflict with structures, signage, pedestrian and vehicle traffic, and utility services.  Further conflicts arise when they provide too much shade, diminishing healthy turf, leading to soil erosion and drainage problems.  That’s just to name a few.  Pruning trees to manage these conflicts is a frequent service requested.

Another goal of pruning is aesthetics.  Properly pruned trees increase curb appeal.

No matter the need, we must always consider the effect on tree health.  One primary rule of thumb is to never remove more than 25% to 30% total foliage in one season.  Sometimes that should even be the maximum for a few seasons so as not to stress the tree too much.  Remember – leaf tissue is the food producing system (through photosynthesis).  Removal too much leaf quantity can have a multitude of bad effects.

Of all tree work performed, this is the one service that is very difficult to fully communicate without establishing and writing a specific “scope of work.”  If not specific – then the interpretation of the work order and the accountability of the contractor to meet that scope, can leave property owner and contractor at odds.  Fielder Tree Service recognizes this and will always strive to write detailed specifications and endeavor to provide the highest level of service.  Our customers are the most important asset and we will always deliver the professional service they expect.




As trees mature, their need for structural pruning should decrease. Pruning should then focus on maintaining tree structure, form, health and appearance by:

  1. removing dead branches
  2. thinning to reduce weight and / or the wind-sail effect of large laterals, and
  3. maintaining inner branches.

Fielder Tree Service’s professional arborist are trained to provide high quality tree care maintenance. Pruning such as crown reduction, or shaping, is sometimes necessary if tree branches and foliage begin to interfere with surrounding improvements, such as buildings, utility wires or paths. The types of pruning generally used in the industry are described below.

Crown Cleaning or cleaning out, is the removal of dead, dying, diseased, crowded, weakly attached, low-vigor branches, and water-sprouts from a tree’s crown.

Crown Thinning -is the selective removal of branches to increase light penetration and ail movement through the crown. Thinning opens the foliage of a tree, reduces weight on heavy limbs, distributes ensuing invigoration throughout a tree and helps retain the tree’s natural shape. Thinning cuts are usually the preferred method of tree pruning. When thinning the crown of mature trees, you should seldom remove more than 1/4 (one fourth) of the live foliage. 

At least 1/2 (one half) of the foliage should be on branches that arise in the lower 2/3 (two thirds) of the tree. Likewise, when thinning laterals from a limb, an effort should be made to retain well-spaced inner lateral branches with foliage. Trees and branches so pruned will have mechanical stress more evenly distributed along a branch and throughout the tree.

Caution must be taken not to create “lion-tailing,” which is caused by removing all 01 most of the inner foliage. This places foliar weight at the ends of the branches and may result in sunburn, water-sprouts, weakened branch structure and limb breakage.

Crown Raising – removes the lower branches of a tree in order to provide clearance for buildings, vehicles, pedestrians and vistas. It is important that a developing tree have at least 1/2 (one halt) of its foliage on branches that originate in the lower 2/3 (two-thirds) of the tree. Similarly, branches should have even distribution of foliage along their lengths. This will ensure a well-formed, tapered structure and to uniformly distribute stress within a tree. In some cases, this may not be possible because local ordinances require removal of low branches for clearance.  Fielder Tree’s Arborist will advise you on the best tree and landscape options for your property.

Before Tree Pruning

After Tree Pruning

Net benefits to the overall property include: additional sunlight to lawn area and to the inside of the home.  Limbs have been pruned away from house roof and eaves.  There is an overall improvement in curb appeal.

View Before Tree Pruning

View After Tree Pruning


Functional pruning – trees pruned with the goal of to clear the side of the house and roof (reducing maintenance and repair expenses to house)

Tree Pruning Before

Tree Pruning After

Crown Reduction – If a tree has grown too large for its allotted space, either:

  1. Remove the tree, particularly if it has a central-leader growth habit;
  2. Thin branches to reduce tree height and/or spread by pruning back leaders to lateral branches

Thinning cuts to reduce the size of the crown results in fewer sprouts and can maintain the structural integrity and natural form of the tree, delaying the need to re-prune. The lateral to which a branch or leader is cut should be at least 1/3 (one third) the diameter of the branch being removed.  Fielder Tree’s Arborist understand the required pruning techniques for mature trees.

A tree pruned by the crown reduction method appears more natural and last longer if confined to relatively small thinning cuts.  This is the preferred method of crown reduction.  The removal of a large limb or leader to a large lateral, or shorter vertical, is commonly called “drop crotching” or “drop-crotch pruning.” Pruning the leader of a central leader tree to a large lateral is inappropriate.  Even though large wounds may lead to decay, drop crotch pruning is preferred to making heading cuts.

Tree Pruning Crown Reduction Method Example of Crown Reduction Method

Crown Reduction Illustration

SPANISH MOSS – To manage or not to manage.  Hanging off trees and landscape plants, Spanish moss is a familiar part of Florida’s environment. Despite its name, Spanish moss is not a moss but a bromeliad—a perennial herb in the pineapple family.  Most bromeliads, including Spanish moss, are epiphytes. Epiphytes grow on other plants, but do not rely on them for nutrients. They take nutrients from the air and debris that collects on the plant. Spanish moss has permeable scales that “catch” moisture and nutrients.

Spanish moss prefers moist environments, but its ability to trap water lets it survive dry periods. The plant can also go dormant until moisture conditions improve Spanish moss does not have any roots. It attaches to substrates by wrapping its stems around a surface. Also, it does not need roots for water and nutrient uptake, since all parts of Spanish moss have that ability.

Spanish Moss and Tree Damage. Many homeowners think that Spanish moss kills their trees. This is not the case because the moss is not parasitic. The only thing Spanish moss uses trees for is support.  If you observe tree decline after heavy infestations of Spanish moss, the trees are usually declining because of a different factor. In fact, tree decline can cause Spanish moss growth as the canopy thins and lets in more sunlight for the moss to grow.  Fielder Tree’s Arborist know this and will advise you on the proper care of your trees.

Heavy moss on a tree can shade leaves and slow growth, but healthy trees will grow faster than the moss. Be aware that the moss can also weigh down and sometimes break branches.  If you want to remove Spanish moss, have an arborist remove it by hand. However, it will grow back after a while.

YOUNG TREE CARE.  The main reason to prune young trees is to develop good branch structure and tree strength. Removing weak branches and correcting poor form when branches are small, will minimize the size of the pruning wounds. Early pruning will also promote strength and balance that will make a tree less susceptible to damage from wind, ice, and snow storms. Developing good structure is most critical in the first 15-20 years of a tree’s life.

When To Prune.  The best time to prune is in mid to late winter (January-March). When pruned during this time of the year, the tree will begin responding to the wounding early in the spring. A coniferous tree planted in a suitable site, will need minimal pruning throughout its life.

Training Young Trees.  Limit pruning of newly planted trees to the removal of dead and broken branches or the correction of multiple leaders. Begin developmental pruning of deciduous trees 2-3 years after planting. Key things to remember when pruning young trees are to:

  • Know the general growth habit of a tree before beginning.
  • Leave the temporary lower branches on the tree until they reach 1 inch in diameter to increase trunk growth and root development.
  • Always leave 70 percent of the tree height with live branches (see Figure 1).
  • Avoid removing lower branches too quickly, keeping lower branches longer allows for larger and stronger tree trunks (see Figure 2).
  • Concentrate efforts on removing crossing, rubbing, broken, diseased and weak-angled branches in the upper portion of the tree.
  • Eliminate double leaders and basal sprouts.
  • Develop one main leader on shade tree species such as: oak, maple, ash, and linden.
  • Concentrate efforts on removing rubbing and competing branches on species such as crabapple.
  • Space permanent branches 15-35 inches apart. Remember developmental pruning is an on-going process over the first 15-20 years of a tree’s life.


PALM TREE PRUNINGIf you have palm trees, you may be wondering about the proper way to prune them.  Some palm trees don’t need to be pruned, like our native cabbage palm—it automatically sheds its dead leaves.  If you have palms that aren’t self-cleaning, you may choose to prune them periodically. Just use a pole saw to remove any brown fronds. Leave the green fronds alone, since they’re the energy factory for the tree. 

Fielder tree’s palm pruning experts can help you with your tree care needs.