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How to prune oak trees

Updated April 17, 2017

Oak trees come in about 400 different species and can be found in many countries above the equator. Most oak trees can become quite large and, like any other tree, require pruning to maintain tree health. If you want to prune your oak trees yourself, you need proper tools and information on the best pruning techniques, so that your oak trees stays healthy and beautiful.

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  1. Get the proper tools. The tools largely depend on the size of branch you'll be pruning. For small branches, use hand pruners that look like large scissors. If you have branches that are more than 3 inches in diameter, consider also buying a pruning saw. These cut branches up to about 4 inches diameter. Anything larger and you need a chain saw.

  2. Learn when to prune. For oak trees, the recommended pruning time is November through March. In the summer months, pruning oak trees can attract small beetles that spread oak wilt fungus disease. If you don't prune your oak trees between April and October, you can prevent your oaks from getting this disease.

  3. Prune your oak tree first for safety reasons, then for the health of the tree. Remove branches that are growing too low or could potentially break and hurt someone, as well as branches that are in the way of another branch. Any weak branches should be removed, including branches that are dying or dead.

  4. Prune based on the size of the branch. Any branch that's under 2 inches in diameter is OK to remove. Anything between 2 and 4 inches should be removed with careful consideration, and any branch that's bigger than 4 inches diameter should only be removed with a solid reason involving safety or the health of the oak tree.

  5. Make cuts, especially for dead branches, parallel to the main branch. Remove all the dead wood, and avoid creating branch knobs because these can attract insects. Another way to help this is to use a non-phytotoxic wound sealer on every cut you make.

  6. Prune aesthetically last. This is when you trim lightly to give the tree a better shape. Cut back some of the foliage if the oak tree is growing strangely, to make it look nicer. Prune lightly; do not go overboard.

  7. Tip

    Be careful when pruning larger oak trees. If you need to use a chain saw for most of the job, consider calling an arborist company to trim the tree for you.


    Don't operate a chain saw without the proper safety equipment or knowledge. If you have any doubts, call a professional.

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Things You'll Need

  • Hand pruners
  • Pruning saw
  • Chain saw
  • Safety equipment

About the Author

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