I recently read that, eventually, most trees will need to be pruned in some way.

Even nature has its own way of getting rid of weak and unnecessary branches through wind, animals and natural elimination.

But in our yards, there are some specific reasons why it may be necessary to prune low-hanging branches or “suckers.”

And we must remember that the less we mess with the natural growth patterns of trees, the better.

Sometimes good-intentions turn into forever mistakes.

According to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, reasons to prune include: to train the plant, maintain plant health, improve the quality of flowers, fruit, foliage or stems, and restrict growth.

In Neil Sperry’s new book, “Lone Star Gardening,” he adds the following to the list of reasons to prune:

1. Pruning compensates for roots lost while transplanting.

2. It removes dead, damaged or rubbing branches.

4. Pruning improves plant symmetry or formal shape.

3. It allows more sunlight to reach the flowers or turf under the tree canopy, and pruning removes branches or roots that have become hazardous to pedestrians walking or a visual impairment of roadways for drivers.

A few general guidelines for pruning include:

  • Minimizing the removal of lower branches of younger trees since that foliage helps produce food and nutrients necessary for proper growth. Always try to leave at least two-thirds of the tree unpruned.
  • Protect trees’ bark while pruning large or heavy branches by removing most of the weight from the end of the branch and then making an undercut up to a third of the way through before cutting the branch from the top.
  • Step back often when pruning to get a good view of the overall shape the tree is taking.

One hasty cut and the shape could be ruined permanently.

Finally, I want to address pruning paint.

Some folks have the impression they should purchase pruner’s paint and apply it for every cut they make. This is not necessary. The only trees that need to have their cuts painted are oak trees in an area known for having oak wilt fungus.

Any kind of paint or clear sealant can work.

It must be applied right away to prevent the spread of the fungus.

Other trees can be pruned without the need for paint, as there is a natural process of healing and new bark production.

Darla Horner Menking is a Texas Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at darla.menking@gmail.com

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