Tree Trimming Vs. Tree Pruning – What’s the Key Difference?

It’s no secret that it takes a lot of effort to maintain the trees in a garden or a yard. It’s important to look after your trees and plants to make sure that they remain healthy. There are a lot of ways to maintain trees, and two of the most significant and used techniques are tree trimming and tree pruning. These two techniques will help you keep your trees in great condition. A lot of people mistakenly consider these two techniques to be similar, but there are clear distinctions between them. If you want to take proper care of the trees in your garden or yard, you must know the differences between tree trimming and tree pruning.

tree trimming vs tree pruning

Both pruning and trimming are essential for the aesthetics of trees, but one of them is more significant for taking care of the overall health of your plants. They are both landscaping techniques, but their applications and functions differ. You have to trim and prune at different stages of the life of a tree. Trimming usually refers to maintaining small hedges and shrubs. In this article, we will look into the key differences between tree trimming and tree pruning.

But first, let’s get to know more about these two horticulture techniques.

What Does Tree Trimming Refer To?

Tree trimming refers to removing excess branches of a tree in order to maintain its proper shape and size, and an aesthetically pleasing look. When you trim the growth of your trees, hedges, or shrubs, it helps promote the healthy growth of those plants. It’s an excellent method to keep plants properly in order and not let them grow out of control. 

If you trim your trees, it will make sure that the branches of the tree don’t grow out in an uncontrolled manner in multiple directions. Here the main focus is the aesthetics of the tree, as well as your garden, as you most certainly don’t want an ugly-looking tree on your property. Tree trimming will also allow canopy lifting, in case you want more space and clearings between the trees on your property. It allows more light to reach the lower branches of the trees. 

Also, trimming causes the remaining foliage of a tree to grow thicker and faster than the case of it remaining untrimmed. You can conduct it annually on your trees to maintain their size, shape, and health, and stop structure failure or split wood. 

What Does Tree Pruning Refer To?

Tree pruning primarily refers to removing diseased, dead, damaged, and loose branches that cause problems for the trees. It helps protect against diseases, pests, and anything that might prevent the tree from flourishing and helps promote strong growth. Any growth that is interfering with other parts of the tree, such as branches crossing over one another, is also removed. In short, tree pruning can seem a bit complicated. That’s why you should consider a reputed tree care management service for expert pruning of your trees. 

Tree pruning improves the appearance, health, and strength of trees and shrubs. It allows trees to thrive. Trees can appear unsightly, be more susceptible to diseases, and their size can get restricted with improper pruning. Pruning also increases the reach of sunlight to the lower branches, which increases branching and improves fruit production. It also helps avoid interactions with other trees and reduces hazards for passers-by. Pruning is often done for higher flower or fruit production and to save plants from a disease that starts spreading through some parts. 

Differences Between Tree Trimming and Tree Pruning

Even though these two techniques might look similar, they have some key differences. The main difference is in their purpose. There are also differences in the equipment and tools used while going through these techniques, and the timing and frequency of conducting them. Let’s have a broader look at these differences. 


The main purpose of tree trimming is to enhance the aesthetic beauty of your trees and improve your total landscape. It means whenever a tree or a shrub in your yard needs improvement in its appearance, you will have to go for trimming. Trimming also helps control overgrown branches and maintain the shapely growth of your plants.

Branches can grow in different directions if you don’t trim your trees timely. Your trees can look unwieldy when that happens. This kind of uneven growth can also cause other damages, apart from making your trees look unbalanced and misshapen. Trimming helps boost the proper growth of a tree, as the extra branches and overgrowth can prevent trees from getting their necessary moisture and nutrients. 

On the other hand, the purpose of pruning is to remove infected, diseased, or dead branches of a tree. So, you need to prune your trees in order to cut away the unwanted parts of your trees that can cause further damage or problems. Your trees will remain safe from diseases and infections through proper and timely pruning. 

You can also prune your trees to ensure the safety of your property. You can decrease the risk of branches falling over and harming your property by pruning away the diseased and weak branches of the trees that are placed near your home or other assets. Growing branches can often hang over the roof of your home or stretch into power lines, and you can prevent that from happening with pruning. It will work as an investment for your property’s safety and the long-term health of your trees.

How do Tree Trimming and Tree Pruning Work Together?

Tree trimming and tree pruning can work together, as you can go for both these techniques at the same time. Your tree might be in need of a makeover, and you need to cut specific misshapen and overgrown branches to maintain its proper shape and size and make it look aesthetically pleasing. Then you’ll need to go for trimming,

At the same time, your tree might also have branches that are infested with diseases, infections, or pests. Or branches that are causing problems for the growth and health of the tree. Then, you’ll need to prune your tree. So, a tree might need both at the same time. But you can’t do both at the same time because it will put a lot of stress on the tree. Also, tree trimming and pruning have differences between their timing and frequency. You can’t trim or prune all the time of the year. You’ll need to wait for the perfect time to trim your tree or prune it. 

Also, the timing of tree pruning and trimming are not the same. So, you will have to wait for their proper respective timing to go for them, even if your tree is in need of both at the same time. 

Equipment and Tools

Trimming Equipment

In order to carry out tree trimming efficiently and quickly, you’ll need to follow the proper safety guidelines for tree trimming and use specific equipment and tools. Experts use a trimmer or a clipper to conveniently trim trees. You can use either an electric trimmer or a gas-power one. Apart from these tools, shears are also used when it comes to trimming shrubs. 

Pruning Equipment

In terms of tree pruning, two kinds of shears are used for cutting the tree parts, which are lopping shears and hand shears. Hand shears usually are used to remove leaves and buds from trees. Lopping shears are mainly used for cutting the thick branches of the trees. Sometimes the tree branches can be too dense to be removed by shears. In that case, you can use a saw to remove them efficiently.

Trimming and Pruning Methods for Tree

Here are some methods that you can go for while trimming and pruning your tree-

Three Trimming Methods for Trees

Trimming doesn’t have specific methods. However, make sure to maintain these rules while trimming your tree-

  • Trim your tree when it’s the dormant season for the tree
  • Keep your tree balanced and well-maintained
  • Determine which part to trim, and then finally make the cut.

Three Pruning Methods for Trees

The three most popular tree pruning methods are-

Crown Thinning

It’s most commonly conducted on mature trees and involves trimming trees for removing specific branches so that the overall density of the trees will be reduced. It helps increase air circulation and sunlight penetration. Also, helps reduce stress on specific tree limbs from wind, snow, gravity, ice, etc.

Crown Raising

This method needs to be conducted over a long period of time. In this method, the lower branches of the tree are removed so that you can have a better view, or get more space for buildings or traffic. 

Crown Reduction and Cleaning

Crown reduction is conducted on more mature and older trees, as it helps strengthen a tree and enhance new growth. This method removes a tree branch and turns it back into a growing lateral branch. 

And crown cleaning is removing broken, diseased, or broken branches. It can be performed at any time and can be included in the main three methods of tree pruning. It strengthens a tree and prevents any kind of future damage. 

Timing and Frequency of Trimming & Pruning

According to experts, trees should be trimmed twice a year to maintain their aesthetic appearance. Apart from these sessions, trees should also be trimmed at least once after the flowering season. When it comes to smaller shrubs, you’ll need to trim them before they have a height of one foot to ensure healthy growth.

Experts recommend that trees should be pruned once a year. Pruning is often down at certain times of the year. You have to conduct the tree pruning process based on the species of the plants, as well as their blooming cycle. For instance, for summer flowering or fruit trees, pruning is usually done in the winter. When it comes to spring-flowering trees, the best time to prune them is after their blooming cycle, which can be during the mid-summer season. Many people usually go for pruning during winter, as trees remain dormant in this season. Also, it encourages new growth for the trees when the season starts to improve.

What Are the Benefits of Tree Trimming and Tree Pruning? 

Tree trimming will mainly help to enhance the aesthetic beauty of trees and improve the total landscape, but it comes with health benefits too. Whenever a tree goes through uneven growth, it can cause different damage too, apart from making it look misshapen and unbalanced. Trimming will help boost the proper growth of a tree, as overgrowth and having extra and misshaped branches can prevent it from getting its necessary moisture and nutrients.

Tree trimming is particularly beneficial for the health of a tree, as it is mainly done in order to keep a tree healthy and save it from various diseases and infections. Diseased, damaged, loose, and dead branches, which can cause problems for the health and growth of a tree, are removed with pruning. It gives trees protection from pests, infections, and other problems that might prevent them from flourishing. Tree pruning also helps promote the strong growth of the tree. It also helps deal with any kind of unwanted growth of branches that might interfere with the growth of other parts. 

Should You Hire a Professional?

It’s not easy to properly trim or prune a tree. You will need proper tools and a lot of expertise to conduct the trimming work or pruning work on a tree. Without these, it’s not possible to conduct tree trimming and tree pruning properly. Also, they are very difficult and risky work. So, if you are not a professional or an expert, it’s better if you don’t engage in these tasks. You won’t only endanger the health of your tree, but you will also endanger yourself. 

If the trimming and pruning work isn’t conducted properly on a tree, the health and growth of the tree face huge risks. Unevenly cut branches and other limbs can cause huge problems for the tree, and at times you might even fail entirely to cut a part that’s infected with a disease or pests. So, it’s best to contact a professional regarding these and hire them to do the trimming and pruning work for you. 

Contact a Certified Arborist at Atlas Tree

Atlas Tree has been providing high-quality tree care to the Sonoma County community and beyond since 1982, specializing in tree management that promotes tree health and longevity. Atlas Tree provides tree trimming and pruning services to keep your trees in good condition. Our skilled team will carefully remove any unwanted branches or leaves and shape and thin the tree as needed.  

Contact Atlas Tree Care online or by phone at (707) 523-4399 to learn more about tree trimming and tree pruning services. Request a free consultation with one of our certified arborists.

Final Words

If you want to keep your trees healthy and ensure proper growth for them, it’s important that you conduct tree trimming from time to time. At the same time, it will make your trees look aesthetically pleasing. Again, if you want to keep your trees safe from diseases and infections, tree pruning is a must. Both have their purposes and benefits, and based on the situation and your needs, you will need to determine which one to go for. You will also have to choose the proper time and equipment while going for them, as they require specific tools and equipment, and need to be conducted during a proper time.

Frequently Ask Questions

Is it preferable to trim a tree or cut it down?

It’s better to trim a tree if it’s become a nuisance due to too much shade, infested branches, or broken branches. However, if the tree is dead, or causing a major danger to the surrounding, it’s better to completely cut it down.

When should you not trim trees?

You shouldn’t trim during fall at all, as it prevents the tree from going into its natural dormancy. Also, trimming during summer can cause problems too, as then the tree goes through stress for producing a poorly-timed new flush of growth.

Is tree pruning the same as trimming?

Many people consider them to be the same, but they have a lot of differences, including their purpose, and the time of conducting them.