Acer palmatum

How to prune an ornamental tree

Find out how to prune a deciduous ornamental tree in winter, in two easy steps.

Do it:

Jan, Feb, Mar, Nov, Dec

Takes just:

30 minutes

At its best:

Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct

The best time to prune deciduous trees is while they are dormant, from November to March.

Browse our Plant Finder to find a great range of deciduous trees.

Pruning should aim to enhance the natural shape of the tree. It's also an opportunity to cut away any dead, diseased or crossing branches to keep the tree healthy. Find out how to do it, below.

You will need

  • Secateurs or pruning saw


Remove any smaller branches arising from the trunk to create a clean, bare stem at least 90-120cm tall. If you are pruning a feathered tree, such as a rowan (Sorbus), which has naturally low-growing branches, only remove those that are very close to the base.
Cut away any dead or diseased branches and remove any that block paths or are getting in the way. Cut them off sensitively, thinning them out, rather than chopping back the whole canopy. Cut away any overcrowded branches - the tree should have well-spaced main branches.


How to cut correctly

When pruning branches, cut back to a healthy bud or side shoot. Choose an outward-facing bud. When cutting back branches to the trunk, don't cut right up against it - the ridged area where the branch meets the trunk is called the collar, and it protects the tree from infection. Make your cut just short of the collar.

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