How to Prune a Fraser Fir Tree

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A Fraser fir tree is an attractive Christmas tree, especially if you carefully prune and shear it. Pruning a Fraser fir tree highlights its character. However, if you do it wrong, you may strip away its potential. Generally, you should aim to produce a cone shape with a consistent slope form side to side, so that the tree appears circular from above. The angle of the taper should also remain the same from top to bottom.

Things You'll Need

  • Hand clippers
  • Shearing knife

Choose the leader, which is the vertical branch at the top of the tree that will serve as the central stem. Choosing the right leader results in a straight tree and uniform branching. A leader has a crook at the base and may not fully straighten. If you view it as a cross-section, it looks like a branch with more needles and buds on the top and sides than on the bottom. If there are several possible leaders, choose one that is most circular, most vertical, most vigorous and has buds furthest down on its backside. A leader is usually about 12 inches long, but can range from 8 to 24 inches.

Use a pair of clippers to cut back the leader to a length of about 12 inches. To keep the plant's vigor, wait until the plant is at least 4 1/2 feet tall before you cut the leader.

Choose a bud near the top of the tree that is slightly higher compared to the surrounding buds to serve as the leader for next year.

Cut the stem of the selected bud at an angle about 1/4 to 1/2 inch above the bud with a pair of clippers. This helps the bud grow vertically.

Use clippers to cut the top lateral branches, which are branches that grows horizontally, to about half the length of the leader. For example, if your leader is 12 inches, you should cut the top lateral branches to a length of 6 inches.

Follow the angle between the top leader and the top lateral branches as a guide to cut the lower sides of the tree. You can use a knife to do this because this does not need as much precision as the work at the top of the tree. Determine the angle, then swing the knife with your entire arm to cut a straight line, moving the knife from the top down and away from the center of the tree.

Tips & Warnings

  • When using a knife to prune the sides of the Fraser fir tree, move your arm away from the side of your body to maintain the angle for the cut.
  • If you are not pruning your Fraser fir for use as a Christmas tree, it should not need pruning, except to trim away dead or diseased branches.

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