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Should You Cut Dead Branches From a Tree?


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Arboriculture Industry » Best Practices » Should You Cut Dead Branches From a Tree?

Should You Cut Dead Branches From a Tree?

Should you cut dead branches from a tree? Homeowners in Toronto often ponder if they should prune or take out any dead tree limbs to keep their trees healthy and beautiful. In this comprehensive blog post, we will delve into the importance of removing deadwood and the basics of when, why and how. With this guide, we will get you to the point you never have to ask should you remove dead branches from a tree again.

We will explore the benefits of pruning for tree health and preventing property damage, as well as the role Certified Arborists play in maintaining your tree’s canopy. We’ll talk about some of the reasons why you should remove broken branches or dead limbs.

Understanding whether you should remove dead branches from a tree is crucial not only for aesthetics and safety, but also for maintaining the health of your tree.

1. Deadwood in Trees and Cities

Tree branches can naturally die as a part of the growth of a tree, one common reason is a lack of light. As a tree grows bigger and the tree’s canopy expands, new branches will stretch up above the old resulting in shade. Since the branches being shaded no longer have as much light, they aren’t able to produce as much energy and may be naturally shed. Other reasons for why a branch dies may be worse: fungus or mushrooms from rot, a pest or disease, growing too heavy and cracking, or a host of other causes.

So, should you remove dead branches from a tree? Yes!

Urban Tree Problems

Cutting dead branches from the tree’s canopy doesn’t hurt the tree, it can help to improve airflow and sunlight as well as make space for new live branches to grow. In this way, taking out dead from trees is crucial for their overall health, growth, and safety in the urban environment.

In a natural environment like a forest, no person or property is around to be hit by falling branches. In a city backyard, trees can be a source of worry for parents and neighbours.

Pruning your tree helps reduce the chance of breakage and improves its appearance. Additionally, it ensures the safety of homeowners in Toronto by preventing potential damage or injury from a dead limb falling, especially during storms. When you have your tree properly maintained, you no longer have to worry whether your tree is dangerous or not.

Key Takeaway:

Dead branches can be removed from trees without harming them. Removing them can improve the safety of your tree and property, and improve the health of the tree in a variety of ways. In a city, preventative maintenance can help keep trees health and safe for everyone around them.

2. Pruning Dead Limbs to Reduce Risk

You can significantly lower the risk of broken branches falling on property or people through proper pruning. By removing these weak points, you create space and sunlight to allow the tree to focus on developing strong, healthy branches, which are less likely to snap under pressure or during high winds.

A great example of trees impacted by deadwood is the honey locust or Norway maple. These tree create a lot of small pieces of deadwood, and large dead branches too. Both are vulnerable to breaking from excess weight. The volume of dead twigs and branches in a honey locust or Norway maple can negatively impact growth and the safety of the tree.

3. Improve Appearance

Pruning dead branches also enhances a tree’s aesthetic appeal by promoting new growth and creating a more balanced canopy. It can also be done as a part of vista pruning, to allow a view through a tree.

A properly maintained tree’s crown can not only improve its appearance, but also allows sunlight to penetrate further into the foliage, benefitting both the tree and any adjacent vegetation. When you want to prune trees to reduce their height, ensuring there is adequate foliage in the canopy is critical to maintaining the health of the tree.

4. Arborists’ Role in Tree Maintenance

Certified arborists are essential in maintaining trees’ health through regular checkups and deadwood pruning services. If you’re wondering should you remove dead branches from a tree, you might also be wondering if you can do it yourself. You can! But you might also benefit from a professional on hand.

  • Identifying Hazards: Arborists can spot dead or damaged branches that may pose risks to homeowners in Toronto and remove them, reducing the risk of property damage or injury from falling branches.
  • Training Trees: They can train young trees to develop sound branch structures and promote good branches that will support the tree’s structure over time, pruning trees to structurally to promote vitality.
  • Trim Trees: Reducing a tree’s canopy to prevent too much shade in the tree, and pruning to improve sunlight penetration can help maintain the health of declining or mature trees.
  • Treating Diseases: Arborists have the expertise to identify and treat tree diseases, recommending appropriate treatments for various issues like fungi, insect infestations, and other factors that may affect a tree’s health.

By hiring a professional tree service, homeowners in Toronto can ensure their trees receive the best care possible, leading to healthier urban landscapes filled with thriving flora.

Key Takeaway:

Arborists have professional knowledge of tree care and tree science, combined with practical skills in the maintenance of trees. Hiring skilled professionals like Certified Arborists to do your tree pruning for dead branches can ensure there are no other unknown issues like disease or hazards.

5. Removing Dead Branches: A Guide for Toronto Homeowners

Don’t let dead branches damage your tree’s health or pose a risk to your property. Follow these tips to keep your trees healthy and safe, or check out these DIY Tree Trimming Tips.

Timing is Everything

Remove live branches during the dormant season (when there isn’t active growth), but cut dead branches from the tree’s canopy at any time. Cutting them before they fall or deteriorate will keep your property safer and cleaner, as well as simplify the work.

Proper Pruning Techniques

  • Inspect Regularly: Identify broken or dying limbs that need removal
  • Make Clean Cuts: Cut just outside the branch collar to promote healing
  • Consider a Professional: Hire an arborist for expert advice and assistance

For optimal tree health, proper pruning and arboricultural techniques should be employed. That’s where we or other Certified Arborists come in.

Large oak tree with leaves growing over a grey stone house in the beaches neighbour in toronto, overgrown tree needs to be pruned by certified arborist

6. FAQs in Relation to Should You Remove Dead Branches From a Tree

Why is cutting dead branches a good idea?

Dead branches can pose safety hazards and damage property.

  • Dead branches can harbor pests or diseases.
  • They weaken the tree’s structure.
  • They can fall and cause property damage.
  • They provide no specific benefit to the tree and aren’t harmful to remove.

Will taking out dead branches hurt my tree?

Pruning deadwood doesn’t harm trees. In an urban environment, preventative maintenance of trees by pruning is important.

  • Promotes overall tree health by improving airflow and sunlight penetration
  • Prevents property damage or personal injury from falling limbs.
  • Reduces risk of pest infestations and disease spread.
  • Aids in maintaining an aesthetically pleasing appearance.
  • Increase fruit production for fruit-bearing trees.

What are the downsides of removing dead wood or branches?

Removing deadwood from trees does have a few drawbacks for the ecosystems that trees are a part of.

First, dead, dying and diseased branches are often home to many different types of insects that are themselves a food source for a wide variety of animals and birds. These insects are part of the life cycle of the tree and many other organisms and animals we share the city with.

Second, birds prefer to sit on dead branches and some live in cavities of trees, just like squirrels. Removing dead and diseased branches can remove a habitat. The phenomena of birds sitting on dead branches and trees is global – even vultures in Africa prefer the unobstructed view that dead branches and trees provide.

Do I have to get all of the deadwood out or is some ok?

All trees naturally create deadwood and shed limbs or branches that are no longer useful or productive. Deadwood is natural. Dead branches are natural. When we say you should take the deadwood out of your trees, we do not mean they should be picked clean! Deadwood 2” diameter and greater is a common threshold. That means taking out branches that are bigger that 2” wide, to prevent injury or damage, increase sunlight and airflow. Taking out all of the tiny bits of deadwood no matter how small is unnecessary. This is called “chasing pencils” and is time consuming work. If there isn’t a lot of dead in your tree or it is small, it may not need to be removed.

Can a Healthy Tree Have Dead Branches?

Yes, even healthy trees can develop dead branches over time due to natural growth patterns or environmental factors.

Should you remove dead branches from a tree? Yes.

Should you remove lots of living branches as well? No — this could cause the tree to die back.

Don’t remove anything more than 10-20% of the healthy tree at any given time. A young tree can be pruned more frequently, mature trees should get a break of at least a year or two between pruning. Regular inspection and timely removal of these dead limbs help maintain the health and structural integrity of the tree.

When should I remove dead branches from a tree?

It can be done at any time of the year. Since taking out limbs that are already dead doesn’t involve cutting into live wood, there are fewer concerns about timing than there are doing other sorts of pruning on certain trees.

How can I do it myself?

We don’t recommend it, but if you’re confident and the branches aren’t too big then you may be able to DIY it.

  1. Identify any weak or damaged limbs that need removal. This may include dead, dying, and diseased branches. It may also include healthy branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other, or overhanging branches at risk of breaking.
  2. Leave good branches to ensure the tree grows properly, especially in the case of mature trees.
  3. Use proper trimming techniques, such as cutting close to the branch collar without damaging it — a professional arborist will know how to trim the tree branches without causing damage.
  4. When a branch dies, deal with it sooner rather than waiting for a lot of deadwood to build up — it will keep the tree healthier and reduce the cost of tree pruning over time.
  5. Contact a local tree service for a free quote

Don’t let dead branches bring your tree down. Make the final cut and keep your tree healthy and happy.

7. Conclusion

Next steps to reduce deadwood

Now that we’ve thoroughly answered the question “should you remove dead branches from a tree?”, consider what steps you can take to address them now and prevent them in future.

The best thing for tree health and your wallet is ensuring small problems with your tree stay small. Remove them to keep your tree healthy and prevent property damage.

Norway maple tree branch fell off toronto backyard
Climbing arborist pruning a tree in spring time toronto at the top of maple trees transferring between branches
Large oak tree with leaves growing over a grey stone house in the beaches neighbour in toronto, overgrown tree needs to be pruned by certified arborist
Invasive species norway maple split in half after and fell over in a wind storm, backyard toronto
Toronto arborist inspects a fallen tree on a house and tree on fence after manitoba maple tree trunk broke in the beaches neighbourhood of toronto
Neighbour tree branches over the roof of house in toronto
author avatar
Michael Co-Founder
Michael is a Certified Arborist and founder of the company. He holds a Certificate in Urban Arboriculture (Honours) from Humber College, Certificate in Project Leadership from Cornell, has post-graduate studies in Urban Forestry and Arboriculture from Oregon State College of Foresty and holds a BAH in Ancient History with a minor in Business. In addition to being an ISA Certified Arborist, he is a TCIA Certified Tree Safety Professional, Tree Appraisal Qualified by Arboriculture Canada and holds a Landscape Exterminator license. Michael sat on the Board of Director for the Ontario Commercial Arborist Association in 2022 and 2023. He worked at some of the top arboriculture companies in Southern Ontario before starting Vista Tree Management. Before that, he was an award-winning Executive Director in the nonprofit sector and published marketing consultant. On the rare days off, Michael can be found at home with his family - a loving wife, two daughters and two cats in Central Toronto.
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