Cutting trees correctly - tutorial for the perfect tree cutting

Cutting trees correctly - tutorial for the perfect tree cutting

Deciduous trees benefit from the right pruning at any age - an overview

Deciduous trees are the ace up the gardener's sleeve when garden design calls for a representative eye-catcher. From majestic wild species to small cultivars, the ideal house tree is available for every garden size. If pruning begins at a young age and continues regularly, trees remain as easy to care for as they get older, as well as unbreakable. The following table lists the most important types of cuts with information on the intended cutting goal and the best dates:

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Types of cut deciduous treesGoal / occasionbest date
Body sectionRaising the ideal growth habit with a leafy crownin the first 5 to 10 years in late winter
Conservation cutMaintain crown shape, control growth in size, promote vitality and flowering potentialLate winter from January to early March
Taper cutrevitalize old deciduous treesNovember to February

With the exception of a few early-flowering ornamental trees and fruit trees, summer has served its purpose as the central cutting point for woody plants. Scientific studies and field trials over several years have shown that trees and hedges can cope better with a cut in late winter. Light maintenance cuts should take place around St. John's Day (June 24th). At this time, most plant species take a short break from growing.

Growing and educating young deciduous trees - this is how it works

A deciduous tree at its best presents itself with a slender, straight trunk and a harmoniously shaped, densely leafed crown. The crown itself is composed of a framework system . Around a tightly upright central drive 4 to 6 guide branches are arranged, on which side branches form. This structure remains lifelong and should be brought up with care. As the illustration below shows, the pruning care of the first few years pursued the goal of building the perfect treetop. How to do it right:

  • The best time is in late winter, in good time before budding
  • Do not cut back the central shoot with 5 to 7 scaffold shoots during the construction phase
  • Instead, slim down the shoot tips by removing superfluous side shoots
  • Cut off the steep upward rival shoots to the crown framework at the base

If cheeky shoots sprout from the trunk below the crown, remove these as well. The same applies to steep wild shoots from the root area. If trees are grafted on a wild underlay, water shoots can form, which compete with the noble crown for nutrients. By suckers tear , remove last debris from which it could grow again.

Trees construction section


Knowing the growth law of peak funding gives you security when cutting trees

During the superstructure pruning, the tip buds of the crown central shoot and guide branches are not cut for good reason . One of three fundamental laws of growth is that trees grow strongest from their top buds. This applies equally to the trunk, central shoot and every branch or branch. Because sunlight is the fastest at the tips, plants pump their juices upwards with great force. At lower-lying buds, the sap pressure is reduced the greater the distance to the respective tip bud. Do not cut off the tip buds as part of the crown structure until all shoot types have achieved the desired length.

The shape and clearance cut keeps deciduous trees vital and well-formed

Well-trained trees are spared from shears and saws in the first few years. Regular checks indicate in good time the necessary pruning measures, such as cutting back too long shoots or removing dead wood. The aim of the shape and clearance cut is a beautifully shaped, light-flooded crown with dense foliage as well as the control of length and height growth. The figure below shows the before-and-after comparison of a professional pruning using the chestnut tree as an example. This is how your trees stay vital and beautiful:

  • Thoroughly clear the treetops every 4 to 6 years in late winter
  • Saw off dead branches on astring
  • Remove shoots that compete with the main branches and remove all inward-facing branches
  • Do not leave any hook-shaped stubs
  • Branches that are too long or protruding from the crown shape lead to a side shoot lower down
  • Cut or tear off wild shoots from the trunk and tree disc

There is not always a side shoot to divert the branch that is too long. Shorten the shoot to the desired length with a cut on buds . With this cutting technique, you don't cut anywhere, but specifically. Place the loppers a few millimeters above an outward-facing bud or a pair of buds. In this way, you are already showing the fresh shoot the right direction of growth.

Cut back trees

Shrink trees that are too big, don't just cut them

The growth of native trees is often underestimated. Within a few years, the growth rockets blow up the available space. Trimming trees that have been cut is taboo . The radical measure destroys the natural habitus and leaves large wounds that no longer close. Ultimately, rot spreads and the entire tree becomes unstable.

In order to reduce the size of a deciduous tree, we recommend a moderate cut and shape cut. In late winter, remove dead wood and all branches that do not belong to the crown structure. Any remaining, too long shoots can be diverted to a side shoot further back. Strongly branched tips of the leading branches are slimmed down. If you repeat the recommended pruning every 3 to 5 years , your tree will become noticeably smaller and still retain its natural shape.


Popular spherical trees thrive without a dominant central shoot. A classic example is the maple cultivated form spherical maple 'Globosum'. So that the round crown shape is preserved, subject these trees to a shape and clearing cut every 2 to 3 years in late autumn. Thin out dead wood and shorten the remaining branches by a third.

Revitalize old deciduous trees - this is how the rejuvenation pruning succeeds

If the pruning is neglected for many years, deciduous trees will become bare and old and turn into unsightly undergrowth. A taper cut can fix the problem on various deciduous and fruit trees. Since the circumference of the cut goes far beyond the normal maintenance cut, tapering should only be carried out in exceptional cases. Please inquire in advance at the tree nursery you trust whether your tree is suitable for the following revitalization. Here's how to do it properly:

  • The best time is during the leaf-free period from November to the end of February
  • Thin out dead branches on astring beforehand
  • Do the same with weak, unfavorably positioned and inwardly growing shoots
  • A third or half of the remaining leading branches lead to a younger branch
  • Shorten outdated leading branches to 10 to 20 centimeters long cones

The illustration below demonstrates how rejuvenation works using an old pear tree as an example. Ultimately, what remains is a basic structure consisting of central shoots, leading branches with a few side shoots. The more old branches you can divert to young shoots, the more successful the revitalization will be. Where derivation is not possible, cut the branch back to a ten to eight centimeter cone. This dries back a little in the following period. After a while, fresh shoots sprout from the base and the dried tissue is removed.

Deciduous tree rejuvenation pruning


The Federal Nature Conservation Act has the final say when it comes to cutting times

When reading this tutorial you will have noticed that more extensive pruning measures are limited to winter time. If you heed the recommendation, follow the requirements of the Federal Nature Conservation Act. According to paragraph 39, trees can be pruned from October 1st to February 28th. This applies to thinning out, putting on the stick and other profound editing measures. The reason is the protection of wild animals that raise their offspring during the summer. Primarily native bird species prefer to nest in tree tops, hedges and bushes. Therefore, during the summer grace period, light pruning of all kinds of trees and shrubs is permitted, provided that no animals are impaired.

Rarely cut conifers - instructions for pruning

When cutting conifers, horticultural reservations are certainly appropriate. In fact, most conifers are noticeably more pruning than deciduous trees. If trees carry needles instead of leaves, they no longer sprout out of old wood. The main cause is the renouncement of the installation of sleeping eyes along the shoots as an “iron reserve” in the event that active parts of the plant fail. In order to cut pines, cypresses or fir trees, the following premises must be observed:

  • Always prune conifers in the green, needled area
  • Never shorten or remove scaffold drives in the unpinned area
  • Reduce growth with a gentle pruning in June (St. John's Day)
  • Too long branches divert to a shorter, densely needled side branch

Conifers respond to a radical rejuvenation cut with a total failure . The only exception are yew trees, which forgive you a cut in the old wood and a rejuvenation cut if necessary.

Conifer pruning

Fruit tree pruning is not a book with seven seals - the 5 best tips

Expert pruning of fruit trees goes beyond pruning ornamental deciduous trees. Important premises must be observed so that the trees not only form a beautiful crown , but also bring a rich fruit harvest . The following 5 tips will familiarize you with the basics of pruning fruit trees:

Pruning fruit trees in winter

The time of cutting has a significant impact on growth. The earlier you prune a fruit tree in winter, the more vigorously it sprouts in spring. Since weaker growth is conducive to blossoming and fruiting, vigorous apple and pear trees should be cut in late winter. Aim for vigorous growth on young fruit trees, prune as early as October or November.

Thin out dense crowns in good time

Dead wood is poison for a vital fruit tree. Dead branches shade the valuable fruit wood, which reduces the number of flowers and fruits. You should therefore regularly thin out the crowns of your trees. An old gardener's rule is that you can throw a hat through a cut fruit tree and it will fall to the ground. The old rule is not to be taken quite so literally. Act according to the rule of thumb: the more airy the crown, the larger and juicier the fruit.

Note the juice balance

The classic fruit tree crown is shaped like a pyramid. A continuous central drive carries three to four leading branches. In order for the crown to develop evenly, it is important to observe the juice balance. The top buds of the leading branches must be at the same level so that they grow evenly. At the same time, their distance from the top bud of the main stem must not be too great. Cut a fruit tree so that the tip of the central shoot protrudes about 20 centimeters above the guide branches, as illustrated in the figure below.

Pruning fruit trees

Steep branches do not bear fruit

The laws of growth teach us that a steeply upward shoot does not think of creating buds for a flower. Instead, leaves sprout incessantly, which are important for the formation of reserve materials. Only when the shoot moves in an inclined to horizontal direction of growth, flowers and fruits form. Do not just cut off steep branches on fruit trees. Tie down the shoots or hang small weights on them to direct growth to a flatter position. The first flowers and fruits will not be long in coming.

Rejuvenate fruit wood regularly

Popular fruit trees, such as apples and pears, have the juiciest fruits on biennial flowering branches. Over time, the shoots age and hang to the ground. To encourage the trees to produce young fruit wood, divert old wood on a sloping or horizontal shoot. Cut off worn fruit wood where a young shoot, garnished with flower buds, branches off.

Tree pruning 101 - basics of pruning technique

Common cutting techniques have already been discussed in this tutorial. The following overview explains in detail the most important cuts in a practical way and suitable for beginners:

Derivative cut

It plays a key role in the structure and maintenance section. You will prune your trees properly at any age if you are familiar with the derivative pruning. The main advantage is that you don't simply cut branches that are too long or poorly positioned, but redirect them to a well-positioned, young side shoot. As the illustration below illustrates, cut exactly where the old and young branches fork.

Trees derivative cut

Cut on astring

Older trees sometimes make it necessary to clear out dead leading branches. The astring must not be damaged so that deciduous trees survive the intervention undamaged. An astring can be recognized as a small or thick bulge at the transition from the branch to the trunk. This contains valuable tissue that is later responsible for wound healing. Position the saw so that you cut downwards and outwards at a short distance from the astring. The figure below illustrates the correct and incorrect procedure.

Astring cut back

Cut thick branches in stages

If branches are more than arm-thick or particularly heavy, there is a risk of breakage when cutting in one go. The result is severe damage to the tree. The danger is averted if you cut thick branches in stages . As the illustration below shows, you are doing the right thing:

  • Start at a distance of 40 to 50 centimeters from the actual interface
  • Place the saw on the underside and cut to the middle
  • Support the branch with your free hand at a safe distance from the saw blade
  • Make the next cut with the saw 10 to 20 centimeters away on the top of the branch
  • Saw until the branch breaks through

The last stage is dedicated to the remaining stump. You saw this off on Astring. Finally, smooth out the cut with a knife.

Cut back thick branches

The right tool for pruning trees - tips for scissors and saws

You can prune thin branches of your trees with secateurs, either as bypass or anvil shears. You can easily cut thick branches with a diameter of 2 to 3 centimeters with two-handed pruning shears. If you choose a model with a ratchet mechanism, the scissors can often be up to 4 centimeters thick. The tree saw is used from a diameter of 4 centimeters. Folding saws have the advantage that they are easy to handle even in a tightly branched crown. The hacksaw serves as a preliminary stage to the chainsaw. With this tool you work on pull and pressure, so that you can handle really thick branches yourself.

frequently asked Questions

How much distance should I keep from the garage and house wall when planting deciduous trees? We plan to plant a number of globe maples 'Globosum' with a stem height of 220 centimeters.

Like all maple species, spherical maple thrives as a shallow root. The roots spread predominantly horizontally and less vertically. The diameter of the spherical crown always corresponds to the diameter of the root disc, even in later years. If you are aiming for a crown diameter of 5 meters as part of the pruning, you should plant the trees at a distance of 250 centimeters from the garage and house wall.

3 years ago we planted a cake tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) in the flowerbed, which now grows over our heads. With a height of more than 3 meters, it is oversized at this location, so we want to transplant it. When is the best time? What to look out for

Most trees can easily be relocated within the first 5 years. This also applies to exotic species such as the cake tree. The best time is after the leaves have fallen in autumn, when the tree begins its winter dormancy. Cutting back the crown by a third or half will make it easier to grow in the new location later. The more root volume that is retained, the better the chances of success. A generous water supply is important in the first few weeks.

The 3 most common mistakes

Trees with stunted, aged crowns, without flowers, leaves or fruit are usually victims of cutting errors. To save you from typical misunderstandings in tree pruning, please take a look at the following table. The 3 most common mistakes in pruning deciduous, coniferous and fruit trees with tips for prevention in a nutshell:

Cutting errorsDamageprevention
Tip of central shoot or guide branches cut offmisshapen crown, premature end of growth in height and lengthDo not trim the top buds when pruning, but slim them down
Crown never thinnedbare treetop without leaves, flowers and fruits, premature agingThinning out dead wood regularly
Cut into the old wood on the coniferConifer without green needles, total failureAlways cut conifers in the green area

Another common mistake is worrying home gardeners, even when they are perfectly pruning their trees. We are talking about dirty, blunt loppers and saws. Statistics have proven beyond any doubt that unkempt blades and saw blades are the main cause of the spread of diseases and pests after a pruning. Always sharpen and disinfect the tool before pruning your trees.



Tree roots need air. If you plant your deciduous or conifer within a paved area, the soil should be well ventilated. Enrich the earth with crushed stone, gravel or lava granules. (€ 10.95 at Amazon *) Structurally stable soil additives guarantee that the root strands do not run out of air, even under paving stones.