Common Pruning Errors

We see a lot of poor quality pruning when we are out and about, its a real shame as the effects can ruin a tree for ever, and trees can take a long time to grow, so its best to get them pruned properly. So before you embark on any tree cutting, here’s a few tips on what not to do.

Stub Cutting

Leaving short stubs where branches have been cut too far out from the main stem. This results in unsightly and weakly attached epicormic growth. Cutting in the right place is the key to good pruning, stubs look ugly and on broadleaved trees will often sprout new growth.

Stub Cutting


Cutting the top off a tree or limb causes rapid epicormic growth and significant rot and/or dieback of the cut stems. It can also cause root dieback and weaken the tree allowing fungal infections to take hold. Ironically, topping can also cause very rapid upward growth which quickly replaces the removed material. This is the most common form of poor pruning that we see, it tends to have the opposite effect in the long term as the tree often doubles or triples its growth rate to replace its top. The best solution for trees that are too tall is to reduce them using proper reduction cuts, this will minimise the chances of the rapid re-growth associated with topping. Reductions can’t work miracles however, if your tree needs too much taking off it may be better to remove it all together and replace it with something more suitable.

Tree Topping


This is simply cutting the ends off branches. As with topping this leads to unsightly growth, which will grow much quicker than the original branch. Pruning cuts should be made at a node or branch union allowing the remaining section to heal over the wound; chemicals produced by the living section also inhibit epicormic growth.

Tree Lopping

Bark ripping is caused by poor working practice, simply cutting through a heavy branch will cause it to tear leaving scaring which allows rot and infections to take hold. Flush cutting is a common mistake and results in a larger than necessary wound. Try to prune at the natural “neck” or collar formed where the branch meets the stem. On some species this is hard to find in which case make your cut at 90 degrees to the branch you are cutting to minimise the size of the wound.

Bark Ripping

Flush Cutting. 

Flush cutting damages the cambium of the tree and leaves a much bigger wound than necessary, these wounds tale longer to heal and often cause the bark to dieback under the wound.

Flush cutting

This image shows correct target pruning practised by professional tree surgeons. Correct pruning is vital to the health of your tree. If you are unsure of how to proceed get a professional to do the job.

We are always happy to offer advice and because our quotes are free if your trees do not require any work it won’t cost you a penny.

Proper pruning is essential for healthy tree growth.