Tree Pruning - Controlling Direction

Asked May 23, 2017, 9:23 AM EDT

When we look at the branch of a tree, we see a terminal bud at the end of each limb and that is the direction of growth. Once the terminal bud is removed (to control size/length of limb) the bud next down would be the new dominant bud (or a duo of buds at the same location of the limb would each start growing). Since it would be on a side of the tree limb, it would start growing out at an angle to the limb and we would start to see limbs "curving" and looking less natural.

A few years back, I pruned a sargent crab's limbs back because they were too long (note that sargent crabs tend to grow horizontally rather than up). Sure enough, the new growth grew at an angle to each of the original limb directions and it looks silly with all of the new growth curving up or curving in other directions.

Is there an alternative, so it would look more "natural" or does it mean that once a limb is pruned I am stuck pruning it each year?

Frank Allen

Wayne County Michigan

1 Response

There are two types of pruning cuts. Heading cuts and thinning cuts.
A heading cut is as you describe, cutting back into one year old wood or the current season's growth and releasing the buds below the shoot tip. Usually the highest buds closest to the cut have the narrowest angle. You do have some control when you come back the next year and select the limbs you want to keep. It may seem noticeable the first year or two but it looks pretty straight several years from now when the shoot is several inches in diameter.
A thinning cut removes a shoot completely or cuts back to another branch. When you cut back to another branch the angle of that branch is already set in the wood and it will retain that space.