How to prune a monkey tree

Updated February 21, 2017

Monkey trees look prehistoric and grow to massive heights, up to 30 m (100 feet) tall. The scientific name for this plant is Araucaria aracuna but is also called a monkey puzzle tree. Monkey trees grow in a pyramid shape: wide at the bottom and narrow at the top. As the tree grows, its large whorls or fans spread out around the tree. It is best to avoid planting this tree in high-traffic areas because of its big, tough leaves. Prune this evergreen tree cautiously to avoid personal injuries.

Prune back small branches to shorter lengths, cutting away last year's dead growth. These sections will be dried out and slightly lighter in colour.

Cut away larger, lower branches if your monkey tree needs thinning. Use a hand saw to make the cut flush to the trunk. Smaller branches may be cut away with large pinking shears. Do not thin out branches from the top of the monkey tree. These lead branches are needed for strong growth. If you accidentally cut the centre or lead branch, tie a nearby whorl to the cut branch with twine. The new branch will become the leader in a few growing seasons.

Shape the entire tree by using shears to create a smooth outline. Cut away scraggly portions to make the tree look better blended.


Hire a professional arborist to prune large monkey trees.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Hand saw
  • Twine
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About the Author

As a former senior sales director with Mary Kay and the co-owner of a renovation company, Monica Patrick has firsthand knowledge of small business operations. Besides start ups, she has extensive skills in recruiting, selling, leadership, makeup artistry and skin care.