How to Raise a Tree Canopy Properly

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Raising the tree canopy can improve access and view corridors.
Raising the tree canopy can improve access and view corridors. (Image: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Raising the canopy on a landscape tree is a technique used for both practical as well as aesthetic purposes. Also sometimes referred to a limbing up, pruning away some of the lowest branches and limbs can allow more sunlight to plants below and improve traffic flow under and around the tree. It can improve views and visual balance in the landscape. Raising the canopy is also a method used to create a more manicured formal look to trees and even large shrubs. As a rule, raise the canopy on young and medium-aged trees as opposed to older one trees so you don't leave large, open wounds on large-diameter, older limbs.

Things You'll Need

  • Fine-toothed pruning saw
  • Power saw
  • Ladder

Identify the lower limbs and branches that you would like to remove as well as any that you anticipate will need to be removed in the future as the tree grows.

Shorten the lower limbs you have targeted for removal to stunt their growth and keep the branch and limb diameters smaller, a process called subordination. Remove 1/3 to 1/2 of the length of these branches.

Repeat this pruning process annually or as needed on the limbs in the lower 1/4 to 1/3 of the canopy, keeping them smaller in diameter than the trunk.

Remove the subordinated lower limbs, individually as needed, as each limb begins to interfere either with traffic clearance, views or other aesthetic goals. Cut the limbs just outside of the slightly swollen branch collar where they attach to the trunk but do not cut into the trunk wood itself.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use either a sharp, fine-toothed pruning saw or power saw to make clean cuts that will not tear the cambium and bark on the remaining portion of the limb.
  • All wounds to a tree can be entry points for disease. Removing smaller limbs and limiting wound size will also lessen risk of infection or infestation through the wounds.

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