Guide your tree’s life: prune as it grows

Learn how to prune properly by taking a class.  Photo to DNR
Learn how to prune properly by taking a class.
Photo to DNR

If you want your trees to live long, healthy, sturdy lives, pruning is the way to go. Good pruning practices act as structural training, which develops strong ‘bones’ as trees grow and mature. In other words, less work for you and more safety for everyone.

Simply put, structural pruning helps your tree keep its ‘head’ – its leader – and develop strong branches. You can start by identifying the central leader, the straightest stem in the middle of the tree. Then prune away the 3Ds:

  • Dead
  • Diseased
  • Damaged

Next, support that central leader by removing any branches that look like they will grow higher than the central leader.

Prune with care. Over-pruning reduces a tree’s ability to feed itself and may stress a tree enough to encourage insect or disease problems. Never remove more than 25 percent of a tree’s live crown in a single year.

If you’d like to see structural pruning in action, take a drive to the City of Shoreline. Throughout the month of February, the City will work with a Puget SoundCorps team to prune young street trees to help them develop a strong, sound structure that will keep them healthy and safe as they mature. To conduct this work, the City received an Urban Forestry Restoration Project (UFRP) grant, which is administered by DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry Program.

The UFRP provides Puget SoundCorps crews to assist communities with urban forestry maintenance and restoration tasks, such as structural pruning and invasive plant removal. For more information about the UFRP, visit our webpage or contact Micki McNaughton at (360) 902-1637 or

Well-cared for trees provide a wide variety of environmental services, such as cleaning the air, while contributing to the health, beauty and economic vibrancy of a community. Give your trees the right care to help them grow up to be healthy, safe, beautiful citizens of your community!

Learn more about good pruning practices with these resources:

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