Sugar Maple-large branch pruning

Asked April 24, 2019, 10:39 AM EDT

Hi, I have a sugar maple that is about 25-27 years old. I would like to prune off a large lower branch in order to even out the tree and allow for more sunlight underneath the tree as it has really not grown to that high of a height over time. I would like to know the proper time to prune off the one large branch. I believe I have to wait for the sap to leave from spring. Can I prune it in May, or should I wait until June, or ???

Ramsey County Minnesota pruning trees sugar maple horticulture

3 Responses

Hello and thank you for contacting AaE.

I think it would be helpful to know how big the branch is in comparison to the rest of the tree's branches. Can you send a photo of the entire tree with the intended branch in view? A second photo of that branch especially at the point of attachment to the trunk would also help.


Attached are the requested photos. It is the lowest branch on the right side. Thank you.

That branch represents a large photosynthesizing segment of the tree so you have two options. You can take it down now and the tree may experience a bit of stress so make sure it gets plenty of water during those dryer days of summer.

Or, as a more cautious approach, you could trim all the smaller branchlets that radiate from that large branch and wait a year or two for the tree's main trunk to grow larger in relation to the branch. You'll probably need to trim any new growth on that branch of the tree each year while you wait until the branch is 1/3 the size of the trunk at the junction. (The trunk will continue to thicken but slowly but the branch will not because trimming tells the tree not to put energy up that way.)

I see a branch just above it that may eventually be one to remove later. If you think it may be too low later, you can start to trim its branchlets now to keep it from getting larger due to the added energy the tree will put into the rest of the branches because of the trimming activity on the big branch. Then, the year after you finally remove the big branch, you can remove the next one up without stressing the tree too much.

I do see additional problems with the tree including something called included bark on some of the upper branches as well as cross branching. You may want to consult a certified arborist to determine the best course of action for your tree. Here is a link to information about how to locate a certified arborist put out by the U of MN Extension.
I hope this information helps.