How to Recognize an Over-Pruned Tree

What does an over-pruned tree look like? In this post, Spruce Up Tree Care, your tree trimming experts in Memphis, elaborate on this interesting topic. Read on before you make a common pruning mistake and damage the structural integrity of a tree. Understanding how improper pruning can harm your trees is crucial for maintaining their health and appearance.

Signs of Over-Pruning in a Stressed Tree

Over-pruning can kill your tree if you remove more than a third of the tree branches. If you are unsure whether your tree is over-pruned, look for the following signs.

Lack of Strong New Growth and Foliage

You can recognize an over-pruned tree by the lack of strong, new growth. The tree may not have enough energy to grow new branches or foliage, leaving it bare. The tree will limp on for a while but decline further as it has less energy. The tree may not be able to grow or sustain new foliage, so leaf drop is common. 

Wounds That Don’t Heal

A tree can usually heal pruning cuts quickly if it has the resources to do so. If you cut away too much foliage, you affect the tree’s ability to generate energy for renewal. 


Denuding the tree of foliage leaves the bark vulnerable to sun damage. Sunscald shows up as pieces of dry, peeling, or cracked bark that take a long time to heal and is a good indication that the tree was trimmed too much. 

Weaker Branches

New tree branches will sprout as the plant tries to restore its canopy and focuses on quantity rather than quality. This new growth places further stress on the plant by increasing its need for food. The new growth will be weaker than it should be and won’t be able to withstand wind or storms. In winter, these branches break more easily. 

How to Fix Over-Pruning

We recommend learning as much as possible from pruning FAQs because you can’t reverse the damage. Better yet, leave tree trimming to a professional arborist. You can, however, do several things to help your tree recover.

It will take a few seasons, but your tree can thrive again if you:

  • Call an arborist as soon as possible to save the tree.
  • Don’t dress the wound unless you live in an area where there is a lot of oak wilt disease. 
  • Perform soil testing to check what nutrients it is short of. 
  • Fertilize the ground to provide additional nutrients for your tree. 
  • Water the tree regularly, especially if rainfall is minimal. 
  • Do not perform general trimming for one to two seasons. 
  • You may cut back branches if they break, and carefully consider removing extraneous sprouts if necessary. 
  • Never top the tree. 

Contact Us for Help

Tree trimming is a delicate balance between art and science. Even one cut too many can lead to a stressed, over-pruned tree, so why not let the professionals do it instead? Our professionals at Spruce Up Tree Care can help you answer questions like “How often trees should be trimmed?” and learn essential tree maintenance tips. Contact us at (901) 833-8242 to learn more. 


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