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Trees and shrubs add beauty and ambiance to your property. Although these plants are mostly low-maintenance, they need some care to keep them healthy. Promoting growth makes them more resistant to diseases and insects and more visually appealing.
The national average tree pruning cost is $410 though most people might pay $177 and $644. This is an important part of keeping them healthy and strong. Some people forget that if you don't trim or prune trees and shrubs, they can grow too dense, which prevents water from reaching the roots and sunlight from touching the exterior. This might leave the plant lush on the outside, but the inside dies.
The price range for tree pruning depends on many factors including:
Size of the tree
Location of the tree
Type of tree
Health of the tree
Check with several professionals when getting a quote for your tree pruning, as these factors could affect how much you pay for the process. Larger trees with a greater girth could cost more. Trees planted close to power lines or your home could also increase the cost. There are certain types of trees with thick branches that are harder to cut. Healthy trees are usually easier to prune, whereas trees with diseases or pests take extra work and will increase the total cost of your pruning work by a professional.
The appropriate time to have your trees pruned depends on a few factors, like:
Aesthetics: Pruning helps keep your tree beautiful, as long as you don’t try to give it an unnatural shape or size.
Safety: Trees can grow dangerously close to utility lines or obstruct proper vision while driving. Dead or broken branches can fall off at any time, causing some risk to you or your family’s safety and property.
Health: Many tree health issues can be solved with a little pruning. You can cut away a disease before it spreads, for example, if you catch it early.
Experts recommend pruning a tree while it is dormant, or when the tree is not actively growing. Different trees have different growth periods, and the only exception to this rule is when the tree causes a safety hazard.
Large trees usually cost more than smaller trees to prune by professionals. There are more branches, and they often are more difficult to reach because of the height and width of the tree. On average, trees 60 feet and taller will cost between $800 and $1000 to prune, depending on the number of trees to prune and where they’re located. Extremely tall trees will incur further costs. You should get several quotes from arborists before proceeding with this project.
As with tree pruning, maintenance costs average between $400 and $600, depending on tree type, maintenance needed and the expertise level of your professional. Always ask for a quote before proceeding with work.
Several services available to keep your trees healthy and your yard beautiful include:
Tree Inspection ($150): A pro inspects the state of your trees and evaluates whether any kind of work needs to be done to improve its health.
Deep Root Fertilization ($200): Certified arborists use specialized equipment to send fertilizer deep in the ground to reach the deepest roots.
Tree or Trunk Injection ($50 - $100): Tree injection (also called trunk injection) is a disease treatment and prevention technique where chemicals are injected into the tree. Injection is more efficient and controlled to keep the tree healthy.
Insect & Disease Control ($60 - $150): Just like humans, trees can get sick or infected by parasites. Certified arborists are best for identifying diseases and suggesting treatment.
Some extra costs may be applied to tree maintenance work, such as a travel fee if your arborist has to travel a long distance to your property. You might also pay for the labor, materials or equipment and additional factors like the tree’s location, disease control or pesticide application if there are insects on the tree. Always request the inclusion of any extra fees in the quote to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Since 2002, the emerald ash borer has caused damage to ash trees all over the Eastern and Midwestern United States. The adult beetles can cause little damage. The larvae, on the other hand, feed on the inner bark of ash trees, which disrupts the ash’s ability to transport water and nutrients to its branches.
There are several treatments available to control emerald ash borer infestation. Some of the most effective involve trunk injection or pesticides. Protection against the emerald ash borer requires a yearly treatment, usually applied in May or early June. The cost of emerald ash borer treatment is about $20 to $30 per year and on a per tree basis. Depending on the size of the tree, it might take up to two years before the tree is fully protected. If the ash tree is infected too badly, it will need to be removed, which can cost up to $1,000.
If you have questions or concerns about a possible emerald ash borer infestation, it is best to consult a certified arborist for advice. Left unchecked, an infestation can result in the death of the tree.
In the West, spanning from the Rocky Mountains to Canada, 70,000 square miles of forest have died because of beetles. This includes ips beetles, spruce beetles, fir beetles and the mountain pine beetle. These beetles are tied to a larger problem in the area like warmer temperatures and stress on trees due to the changing climate.
Treating trees infested with these beetles is much harder because there isn’t really a way to save the tree once it’s infected. You can kill some of the beetles during an epidemic because they’ll emerge from the tree. Otherwise though, you usually have to remove the tree. It can cost between $100 and $150 per tree in such situations. Some other facts about beetle treatment and removal include:
Ips and related beetles are sometimes mistaken for mountain pine beetle so check your beetle closely.
If a mountain pine beetle emerges from your tree, it won’t need to be treated.
Some methods used to remove beetles include felling and burning trees, pesticides like chitosan and controlled (mosaic) burning.
Although different trees enter their dormant season at different stages, there’s a basic seasonal pattern you can follow for general tree care.
Spring: During spring, fertilize and water your trees so they grow strong and healthy in the summer. It’s a bad idea to prune most trees in the spring because they are actively growing branches, buds and leaves. However, it’s a good time to plant new trees, so do your shopping early so your tree is in the ground for the heavy spring growing period.
Summer: In the summer, you should mostly leave your trees alone. Only conduct minor trimming or hazard removal if required. Unusually dry weather may require some extra watering, but if you water your grass regularly, your trees should be fine too.
Fall: Usually, trees go into their dormant phase in the fall season. This is the time to do major pruning and trimming to prepare the tree for next year. Remove dead and diseased branches, trim the top and sides for access to sunlight and for shape and generally complete any work that requires more than a few snips.
Winter: You can leave your trees alone during the winter. Protect them against the cold and snow if necessary. Use the winter to fell any trees that are dead, dying or may damage your home. However, note that winter is actually the best time to prune your trees. Arborists are also less busy, which may lead to lower prices.
Fruit trees are among the most popular trees to prune. Apple, lemon, plum, cherry, fig and peach trees, for example, need regular pruning to grow delicious fruit every year. Leaving dead or diseased branches on these trees could jeopardize the quality and quantity of fruit.
Prune apple trees in the late spring or early winter. It’s especially important to do so during the first six years of an apple tree’s life—you’re teaching it to grow in a conical, upwards shape. Prune the lower branches to raise its base, then remove any stems that aren’t growing upwards. Older apple trees should be pruned to maintain the conical shape and to promote apple growth.
Prune lemon trees right after they're finished bearing fruit for the season. Start by cutting off dead or diseased branches. Feel free to cut off stems that are thinner than a pencil, those that touch the ground (to prevent insects) and branches that cross other branches or grow vertically. Thin the tree so sunlight can reach every branch.
Plum trees should be pruned during the summer, between June and August, to prevent fungal infections that may come with wet weather. Do it on clear, dry days with as little moisture as possible in the air. Plum trees have to be pruned every year, but they are very resilient, so even a little bit of over-trimming shouldn’t hurt the tree. As with any fruit tree, remove lower branches and make sure sunlight can make it to every fruit-bearing stem.
Pruning cherry trees is delicate work, but the beautiful cherry blossoms every spring are well worth the effort. Cherry trees should be pruned in the early fall, as this is when they enter their dormant season. Remove the water sprouts, or “suckers”, which are the new growths at ground level. Avoid cutting branches that meet the trunk of the tree and making many small cuts all over the tree. Only cut stems that take away from the growth or beauty of your tree and use the tree’s natural shape to guide you.
Fig trees can seem tricky, but learning the basic schedule and techniques will give you a strong tree and delicious fruit for years to come. Prune your tree several times over the first winter after you’ve transplanted the tree. You can remove as much as half of the branch growth! This is meant to give your tree a strong root system, which will support your tree in the years ahead. As time progresses, prune your fig tree so that it grows low, horizontal branches. Choose 4-6 main branches to hold the fruit. Removing suckers at the base of the trunk also keeps your fig tree healthy.
Choose the right kind of branch to cut by its size first. Any branch that’s less than five centimeters in diameter (about 2 inches) is okay to cut. Consider branches between 5 and 10 centimeters (2 to 4 inches) more carefully. If you are unsure, leave it there. Any branch bigger than 10 centimeters (4 inches) should stay on the tree unless you have an excellent reason to cut it, such as disease or a safety hazard.
You can also choose your branches by the angles they make with other branches. Weak, V-shaped angles indicate good candidates for cutting. Branches growing on a U-shaped angle should stay on the tree. Aim for a 2-to-3 ratio between the crown size and the tree height. You should never cut away more than ¼ of a tree’s crown at a time.
There are three basic techniques for crown work:
Crown thinning means removing excess branches from the top and outer edges of the trees so the others can grow strong. Prune branches that cross or rub against other branches. The trick is to keep even spaces between lateral branches.
Crown raising means to remove excess branches and foliage from the bottom of the tree, usually because they obstruct sidewalks or roads. Keep the above techniques in mind, but make sure that you keep branches on at least two thirds of the tree’s height.
Crown reduction means to take off branches and foliage from the top of a tree. This should only be done if absolutely necessary for the health of the tree or the safety of people and property.
Before you cut, identify the branch collar at the base of the branch as well as the branch ridge, which is parallel to the branch itself. Cut outside of the ridge and away from the collar.
To successfully prune your tree yourself, you need the right tools.
A bypass pruner has a curved, sharp blade that cuts neatly and provides you with access to narrow-angled stems.
Looping shears are meant for slightly bigger stems and for extra leverage. Choose bypass rather than anvil blades and ratchet or gear joints. Some shears have shock absorption features to lessen arm fatigue.
Pruning saws come in different forms depending on the type of branch you want to cut. Fine-toothed saws are best for branches up to 2 inches in diameter. Use a coarse-toothed saw for 3-inch stems or bigger.
Pole pruners are like regular pruners, but set on a long pole with a rope to activate the mechanism. These are meant for pruning branches up high, where using a ladder is inconvenient or could damage the tree. Be very careful when using pole pruners near utility lines.
Hedge clippers are specifically used to cut the thin stems of hedge and shrubs.
Remember to clean your tools carefully after each job and whenever you change the type of tree to prevent communicating diseases from one plant to another. Rubbing alcohol of 70% concentration or more is sufficient. Do not use household cleaners or bleach.
As you explore your options for hiring a tree service to prune or trim your trees and shrubs, look at certified arborists. An arborist or arboriculturist is a professional in the cultivation, management and study of trees, shrubs, vines and perennial woody plants. In the US, certified arborists must have three years of documented experience and have to pass a difficult written exam.
They are useful when you have specific care issues with your tree, like disease or insect infestation. If you grow fruit trees, a certified arborist will know how to care for your tree to maximize your harvest quantity and quality. However, because of their training, they tend to charge more than non-certified tree service professionals. Their expertise and standards are higher and thus command greater fees.