How To Tell If A Tree Needs To Be Trimmed: An Essential Guide

This guide is everything you need to know about trimming your trees. We will discuss what tree trimming is, when it is recommended, and provide helpful tips for DIY homeowners
Tree Trimming Essential Guide St Louis St Charles

Tree trimming is often a necessary task when it comes to the health and safety of your St. Louis or St. Charles County home. However, trimming your trees deserves a little bit forethought before taking blades to branches. This guide aims to shed light on the essentials of tree trimming, providing homeowners with the knowledge they need to keep their green spaces flourishing.

Tree Trimming vs Tree Pruning

Tree trimming, often confused with pruning, is the targeted removal of tree branches to improve the tree’s structure, health, and the safety of your property. While pruning typically focuses on the tree’s health and flower or fruit production, trimming is about maintaining the desired shape and size. If you didn’t know the difference prior to this blog, don’t worry. This is one of the most misunderstood concepts homeowners have with their tree care. 

Maintenance Trimming vs Hazard Trimming

There are two main types of tree trimming:

  1. Maintenance Trimming: All about preserving the health and appearance of trees, ensuring they grow strong and maintain a pleasing shape. This process involves selectively cutting away dead, diseased, or excess branches to improve air circulation and sunlight exposure, which are crucial for the tree’s vitality and growth.
  2. Hazard Trimming: trimming that focuses on removing branches that could pose a risk to people, property, or power lines, thus preventing potential accidents and damage. It’s especially important for trees that are old, damaged, or located in areas where falling limbs could cause serious harm, ensuring safety is maintained around your property.
Professional Tree Trimming St Louis St Charles

Professional arborist trimming branches

Tree Trimming Tips for DIY Homeowners

For those who might not have the tools, experience, or comfort level for tree trimming, we strongly recommend enlisting the services of a reputable tree service company. However, for the DIY enthusiasts out there, tree trimming can certainly be a manageable task with the right tools and knowledge at your disposal. It’s important to note, though, that using inappropriate tools or incorrect techniques can not only endanger your safety but also harm your trees. To help ensure you’re trimming your trees correctly and safely, here are some essential tips:


When should you trim your trees for optimal recovery? Ideally, you want to perform any tree trimming during the late fall or winter seasons when trees enter a dormant phase. Trimming during these seasons is best because minimizes the stress on the trees and reduces the risk of disease transmission. However, it is important to do your own research before cutting. Your tree might have specific needs that fall outside of this guideline.


Having the proper tools not only makes the job easier but also ensures a cleaner cut, which is better for the tree’s health. Essential tools include:

  • Pruning shears for small branches.
  • Loppers for medium branches, typically up to 2 inches in diameter.
  • A pruning saw or chainsaw for larger branches.
  • Safety gear, such as gloves, safety glasses, and a hard hat, to protect yourself from falling debris.


Before you start trimming, take a step back and examine your tree. Look for dead, diseased, or damaged branches that need to be removed. Identify branches that may be causing overcrowding or growing in undesirable directions. Plan your cuts in advance to avoid over-trimming, which can stress the tree.


Making clean cuts is essential for the tree’s healing process. Here are a few techniques:

  • Locate the branch collar: The branch collar is a critical part of the tree’s anatomy, located at the base where the branch connects to the trunk. It is essential to identify this area because it contains cells that will help the tree heal from the cut. Cutting into or too close to the branch collar can damage these cells, impeding the tree’s natural healing process.
  • Downward angle cuts: When trimming branches, it’s advisable to angle your cuts downward and away from the stem. This technique ensures water does not accumulate on the cut surface, which can lead to rot and disease. A downward angle also facilitates the natural healing process, allowing the tree to more effectively seal the wound and prevent the entry of pathogens.
  • Avoid cutting upward facing branches: Branches that grow upward are typically vital to the tree’s structure and health. These upward-growing branches, especially if they are part of the tree’s central leader or main upward growth, should be preserved to maintain the tree’s natural shape and stability. There is also an elevated risk of rot when cutting these branches
  • Cutting long branches: Pruning a branch that is too long, especially if done improperly, can result in an imbalance in the tree’s structure and create open wounds that are difficult for the tree to heal. Instead of removing a long branch in one cut, consider the three-cut technique to prevent tearing the bark or causing undue stress on the tree. This method reduces the weight of the branch gradually, minimizing the risk of damage to both the tree and the person doing the trimming. If a branch is significantly oversized or poses a risk, it may be best to consult a professional to ensure the health and safety of the tree and its surroundings.


Tree trimming can be dangerous, especially when dealing with large branches or trees close to power lines. Always prioritize safety:

  • Never trim trees that are close to power lines yourself; leave this to the professionals.
  • Use a sturdy ladder and have someone spot you for added safety.
  • Avoid trimming during adverse weather conditions like high winds or wet conditions, which can increase the risk of accidents.


While many tree trimming tasks are suitable for DIY, some situations require professional expertise, especially for high, large, or complex trees. If the job seems too big or risky, it’s worth investing in a professional tree service to ensure the work is done safely and correctly.

Tree Trimming Conclusion

Tree trimming is more than a simple cut here and there; it’s an art that requires understanding and respect for the trees in your care. Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast in St. Louis and St. Charles County or prefer to leave it to the professionals, knowing the basics of tree trimming can go a long way in maintaining a healthy, safe, and beautiful landscape.

Need To Talk To A Professional Arborist?

Are you looking for professional tree trimming services in St. Louis or St. Charles County? Look no further than Liscombe Tree Service. Our team of experts is equipped to handle all your tree care needs, ensuring your landscape remains beautiful and safe year-round. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and let us help you keep your trees in top condition!