How to Prune an Oak Tree


Many oak trees are pruned incorrectly. This can cause damage and even death to the tree. Learn how to prune an oak tree the right way by following these simple steps.

Checkout this video:

Pruning Basics

Pruning is a horticultural and silvicultural practice involving the selective removal of certain parts of a plant, such as branches, buds, or roots.

Why prune an oak tree?

Pruning an oak tree is important for two reasons: to improve the tree’s health and to shape it.

Pruning can be done for reasons of safety, such as removing a branch that is hanging over a house or power line. It can also be done to improve the appearance of the tree, such as when you want to thin out a dense canopy to let in more light.

Pruning can also be done for the health of the tree. For example, pruning can help oak trees combat disease and pests by removing infected or infested branches. Pruning can also remove dead or dying branches that could fall and injure people or damage property.

In general, you should prune an oak tree every three to five years. You may need to prune more often if the tree is damaged or if it is growing too quickly.

When to prune an oak tree?

In general, you should prune your oak trees in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. This timing is important because it allows the tree to heal before insects and disease have a chance to attack the wounds.

While the best time to prune is typically before new growth begins, there are some exceptions. If your oak tree is diseased or damaged, you may need to prune it immediately to prevent the spread of disease or further damage to the tree. Likewise, if you need to remove large branches that could pose a safety hazard, you should do so as soon as possible regardless of the time of year.

Pruning Techniques

You should prune your oak tree every two to three years. The best time to prune is in late winter when the tree is dormant. You can prune oak trees using a variety of techniques. The type of technique you use will depend on the size and shape of the tree.

Crown thinning

Crown thinning is a pruning technique that is used to increase light penetration and air circulation within the tree canopy. This prevents the growth of mold and mildew, and also helps to reduce the risk of branch breakage. When crown thinning an oak tree, it is important to remove no more than 1/3 of the live branches from the crown. This will ensure that the tree remains healthy and does not become stressed.

Crown reduction

Crown reduction is a pruning technique that is used to reduce the size of a tree. This can be done for a number of reasons, including to reduce the wind resistance of the tree, to reduce the amount of shade it produces, or to make it easier to manage.

The crown reduction technique involves cutting back the branches of the tree by a certain percentage. For example, if you want to reduce the size of an oak tree by 50%, you would cut back each branch by 50%. This will reduce the overall size of the tree without affecting its shape.

If you need to make a more significant reduction, you can cut back the branches by more than 50%. However, this will start to affect the shape of the tree and should only be done if absolutely necessary.

When cutting back the branches of a tree, it is important to make clean cuts at the correct points. If you make too many cuts or cut in the wrong places, it can damage the tree and weaken its structure. It is always best to consult with a qualified arborist before carrying out any kind of pruning work on a tree.

Crown cleaning

Crown cleaning is the selective removal of dead, dying, diseased, crossed, crowded, and weakly attached branches from the crown of a tree. The purpose of crown cleaning is to improve tree vigor and structure, reduce the potential for storm damage, allow greater penetration of sunlight and air movement through the canopy, and increase beauty and aesthetic value by improving the form and silhouette of the tree.

When pruning for these reasons it is important to avoid over pruning, which can result in the death of the tree. When selecting branches to remove during crown cleaning it is important to consider branch angles (branches growing less than 45 degrees from the trunk or main branches should be removed), long shoots (branches longer than 1/3 of the total length of the branch they are growing on), suckers (shoots that are not attached to a branch), water sprouts (shoots that are attached but that are vertical or nearly vertical), crossing and rubbing branches (branches that cross or rub against each other), codominant stems (two or more main stems or trunks with equal diameter), weakly attached branches (branches that are poorly attached to the trunk or main stem of the tree and are at risk for storm damage), and branches with narrow crotch angles (the angle created where a branch meets the trunk or another branch).

After considering all of these factors, crown cleaning can be done using any number of different pruning techniques including directional pruning, drop crotching, thinning cuts, reduction cuts, and heading cuts.

Tools and Equipment

Before you start pruning your oak tree, you need to gather the proper tools and equipment. You will need a ladder, gloves, a saw, and a pruning hook. Make sure you have everything you need before you start.

Pruning saw

A pruning saw is a specialized tool designed for cutting branches of trees and shrubs. It is similar to a hand saw, but has a narrower blade with a very sharp point. The teeth on a pruning saw are also much smaller and more closely spaced than those on a standard hand saw. This makes the pruning saw ideal for cutting through small branches without damaging the bark of the tree.

Pruning saws come in various sizes, from small hand-held models to large ones that must be mounted on a tripod. The size of the saw you need will depend on the diameter of the branches you need to cut. Most pruning saws have either a straight or curved blade, which can be used depending on the type of cut you need to make.

To use a pruning saw, first make sure that the branch you want to cut is not too thick for the size of blade you have. If the branch is too thick, you will not be able to make a clean cut and could damage the tree. Next, position the branch so that it is supported by another branch or by your hand, if possible. This will help prevent the branch from breaking off when you start cutting.

When you are ready to start cutting, place the blade of the pruning saw at a point about 1/2 inch (1 cm) from where you want the cut to be made. Apply pressure to the handle of the saw and allow the blade to slowly penetrate through the bark and into the wood of the branch. Keep applying pressure as you slowly move the blade back and forth until it has cut completely through
the branch.


Loppers are long-handled pruning shears with two handles and blades. The cutting blades are usually an inch or two longer than bypass pruners, which gives the user more leverage to cut through thicker branches. Loppers come in a variety of sizes, with smaller ones being used for light pruning jobs and larger ones for heavier branches.

Hedge shears

Hedge shears are one of the most important tools you’ll need for pruning your oak tree. They come in a variety of sizes and can be either manual or powered. If you have a lot of oak trees to prune, a powered hedge shear will make the job go much faster. Otherwise, a manual hedge shear will do the job just fine.


The main goal when pruning any tree is to maintain its health and structure. To do this you need to understand how the tree grows. Oaks are unique in the way they grow. New growth occurs on the tips of the branches (or stems). This means that if you cut off the tips of the branches, the tree will respond by growing new buds just below the cuts.

Personal protective equipment

While you are working on your oak tree, you should always wear personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes gloves, eye protection, and a long-sleeved shirt. You should also avoid working in direct sunlight whenever possible. If you must work in direct sunlight, make sure to take frequent breaks and stay hydrated.

First aid kit

When working with hazardous materials, always keep a first-aid kit close by. The contents of a first-aid kit will vary depending on the type of work being done, but it should always contain items like bandages, antiseptic wipes, and gloves.

Leave a Comment