Taking a little off the tips overall or giving “haircuts” is discouraged, while selective pruning is the best. This includes removing dead limbs, crossing or rubbing branches, crowded growth, sucker growth, and bunchy growth or “witches broom.” Promoting a natural looking, open canopy on plants and trees is best, by always pruning to an outward facing bud.
This is the time for me to make my plea: please, please, please no topping or dehorning!
Topping is the worst, most stressful thing you can do to a tree, besides cutting it down. This method produces weakly attached sprouts and unsightly witches broom.
Always strive to prune your plants correctly. If you have trees that need to be pruned, or you desperately want to save, remove broken limbs promptly. Jagged limbs will not heal correctly leading to other problems. In addition, do not leave stubs or make a cut in the middle of a branch and leave it. There is a natural swelling where a branch meets the trunk.
This area is referred to as the branch collar, and is an active area of dividing cells and growth. When you prune at a 45 degree angle just to the outside of the branch collar, your tree has the best chance of healing. In addition, remove the weight from large limbs before making your final pruning cut. After removing limbs, no pruning paint or sealants are necessary. If pruned correctly, the tree will heal itself.
Tracey Payton Miller is a horticulture educator for the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service.