Tips and Techniques for Pruning Trees

Pruning your newly planted tree at the right time and in the right way can make the difference between having a tree which is badly misshapen with stunted growth or having a tree that stands tall and proud and is a pleasure to see and own.

The Village of Indian Head Park has a comprehensive tree trimming program which assures that every parkway tree is trimmed once every seven years. This regular pruning provides trees with structural strength and form and eliminates unhealthy branches. Occasionally, the amount of branches requiring removal exceed the recommended maximum 1/3 of the total branches on the tree. Such major pruning is done only when circumstances require it and is usually the result of storm damage or disease. The extensive pruning is done in an attempt to save the tree.

Some trees may need pruning during years in between the cycle trimming program. The Forestry Division accepts service requests year-round for parkway tree pruning or inspections. If you have any questions about trimming or to initiate a service request, please contact the Public Works Department at (708) 246-3154.

How & When to Prune

  1. At Planting
  2. 3-4 Years After Planting
  3. 5-7 Years After Planting
  4. 15 Years After Planting
All branches should be left intact for the first year after planting. A newly planted tree needs as much leaf surface as possible to aid in food manufacture while the tree is adjusting to its new home. The only time branches should be pruned during the first year after the tree has been transplanted is if the branch is broken or has been damaged by insects.

Lack of Pruning

Some newly planted trees often have branches which are awkwardly spaced or protrude at an unattractive angle. While the tree may not look its best, it is wise to avoid pruning the branches in order to leave the maximum possible leaf surface in order to manufacture food which will build a larger root system.  Both the roots and the top of the tree will be larger after one year if the tree is left un-pruned.
  1. 3-4 Years After Planting
  2. 5-6 Years After Planting
  3. 15 Years After Planting
By the time the tree has been in its new home for two to four growing seasons, sprouts and suckers often appear. The root suckers protruding near the base of the tree have been sapping strength from the tree, thereby stunting its growth. They should have been removed. Your tree may also have sprouts which are disproportionately vigorous and weakly attached to the tree. The broken limb which has sprouted new branches of its own should have been pruned. The tree's unattractive shape will only grow worse with time.

Pruning for Strength

  1. Branch Size & Angles
  2. Center for Gravity
  3. Water Sprouts & Suckers
  4. Rubbing Branches
  5. Temporary Branches
Narrow angles signal a point of future weakness, whether in the trunk or in the crown. As the two branches grow, neither has sufficient space to add the wood needed for strength. Instead, they grow against each other. The effect is similar to hammering in a wedge. To prevent this and the expensive problems which are sure to follow, simply remove one of the two branches. For strength, the ideal branching angle approximates ten or two o'clock.