Pruning Small Flowering Trees. Avoid pruning a young or newly planted tree — it needs as many leaves as possible to produce the food required for good root growth. Remove only dead, broken, or injured branches, as well as those that cross or rub each other. And always prune back to a healthy stem or branch without leaving stubs. This eliminates hiding places for pests and diseases, and looks better. Never cut back the plant's leader — the top-most growing point of the tree — which is vital to letting the tree develop its natural form.

What to Prune from a Tree
(As shown in image 6, left)
A. Suckers that grow from the roots or base of the trunk
B. Limbs that sag or grow close to the ground
C. Branches that form an acute angle with the trunk
D. Watersprouts that shoot up from main "scaffold" branches
E. Limbs that are dead, diseased, or broken
F. Branches that grow parallel to and too close to another
G. Branches that cross or rub against others
H. Limbs that compete with the tree's central leader

Once the tree is a few years old, shape it gradually over the course of several years to maximize foliage and flowering. The tree's branches should be well-spaced up the trunk and spiraling around it. As a guideline, prune no more than one-fourth of the tree's total leaf area in a single year. To raise the tree's crown or create clearance beneath it, remove the lowest branches. Also target branches that are spaced too closely together or that join the trunk at a narrow angle — 45 degrees or less. These form weak limb attachments and will break easily in wind or under the weight of snow and ice.
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