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Pruning Trees Correctly and Recognizing Risky Trees

Above: a poorly pruned tree; Photo by John E. Woodmansee

Trees add significant value to our landscapes, but sometimes trees can become somewhat problematic in their crown, trunk, or roots. Also, when nurturing newly planted trees, some strategic pruning in the early years can set trees up with a better chance for longer-term survival and success.

To address both issues, Purdue Extension in Whitley County will be offering “Tree Risk Assessment and Tree Pruning” free to local residents on May 15, 2023, from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Whitley County 4-H Center.

Recognizing tree risk factors will comprise the first part of the program. Phil Woolery, Purdue Extension Educator and ISA Certified Arborist with a Tree Risk Assessment Qualification will teach about tree risk assessment. He will go over the general process of evaluating tree risk, and cover some things to look out for in the tree branches, roots, and trunks. He will conclude by talking about some mitigation strategies for risky trees.

The derecho of 2022 underscored the potential risk we can experience with trees all too clearly for many local residents. Although we cannot always accurately predict how our landscape trees will handle Indiana storms, Woolery will explain some things homeowners can look for. When you need a professional opinion, you should hire an ISA Certified Arborist with a Tree Risk Assessment Qualification. You can find them at

As a preview of the program, homeowners can look for things like dead, damaged, and diseased limbs in the canopy. These can eventually fail and fall. Roots can become damaged when new water or sewer lines are installed, or from other factors. With trunks, one thing we can experience is lightning strikes, which damage the growth layer under the bark and can kill one side of the tree.

Some trees with risk factors could have been assisted early in their life with some prudent pruning. I will cover best practices when pruning. I will focus on pruning younger trees so that they are better positioned for long-term survival. I’ll cover why we prune, the best times to prune, how to best make pruning cuts, and the tools used for pruning. I’ll cover the overall goals of pruning, which include establishing one central leader, eliminating non-beneficial plant parts, and appropriate branch spacing on the trunk. If time allows, shrub pruning may also be covered.

As we are now early in the growing season, several plants have begun to produce early blooms. For these early flowering plants, prune after flowers fade. For later flowering plants, the late dormant season is the preferable pruning time. However, most plants can be pruned during the growing season. One of the worst times to prune trees and shrubs is late summer/early fall, as the tender green growth that results may not harden off before winter and could experience winter kill.

If you would like to participate in this free program on May 15, please call the Whitley County Extension office by May 12 at 260-244-7615 to reserve your spot by simply giving us your name and phone number.


Program Flyer

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