Is There A Difference in Tree Pruning and Tree Trimming?

When talking about taking care of trees, people often use the terms pruning and trimming interchangeably. They may say they are trimming a tree, when in fact, they are actually pruning it.

Tree pruning and tree trimming are two very different things. Each serve different purposes, are performed at specific times of the year, and use different tools.

It is important to understand the difference between pruning and trimming so you can accomplish what you are hoping for.


Tree pruning has one basic purpose:

1. Maintenance – to protect and encourage healthy growth of a tree

  • When pruning for maintenance, branches that are loose, dead, decaying, or infected are removed. This prevents falling branches and keeps diseases from spreading to other parts of the tree or even different areas of the landscape. Unnecessary branches and roots can also be removed.
  • Pruning is normally done annually. Trees that bloom in the spring should be pruned after their blooming season is over, typically late June. For trees that bloom during the summer and non-blooming trees, pruning should be done in the winter when the trees are dormant.
  • Hand shears are used for smaller pruning jobs like leaves, buds and tiny branches. Lopping shears have handles that are about a foot long which gives enough leverage to prune large branches. If the branches are too thick for the lopping shears, a saw can be used.


Tree trimming has two basic purposes:

1. Maintenance to promote healthy growth
2. Aesthetics to produce a desired shape and to enhance the beauty of the property where the trees grow

  • Trimming trees helps the trees grow in a healthy manner. If a tree is overgrown, trimming select branches will promote new growth by allowing sunlight and moisture to reach the leaves, limbs, and roots.
  • When trimming trees for beauty, removing green shoots and unsightly branches improves the overall appearance. Trimming the trees into a desired shape also promotes the beauty of the tree. Most business owners and homeowners will keep their trees trimmed so they look nice to passersby and visitors.
  • To help keep trees healthy, trimming is usually done twice a year, once during the dormant season and again during the flowering season. During the flowering season, trimming should be done when the new growth is 12 inches or shorter.