How To Shape a Living Pine Tree

Shaping and pruning enhance the shape of the trees and shrubs and will give your garden a beautiful and neat look. Trees and shrubs benefit from regular and proper shaping and pruning to make them healthy and in good shape. Pine trees are good additions to a landscape. They look neat and stately and will give your garden a green color throughout the year.  Pine trees do not shed their leaves regularly so you do not have to worry about dead leaves littering your garden. A pine tree is naturally triangular in shape but you can help maintain this shape better with proper pruning.  

There are thirty-one varieties of pine trees growing in North America. Some of these are planted in the yard as wind breakers while other are used as ornamentals to keep the garden looking green even during the height of winter. Some folks decorate their pine trees during the holidays. Below are some ideas on how to shape a living pine tree.

  • Late spring or early summer is the best time to shape and prune your pine trees when new needle growths are showing so that you can shape the pine trees easily and help the trees concentrate on keeping healthy and robust. If you are going to trim some of the branches, it will be best to wait until late winter so there will be less sap to ooze out of the trees.
  • Know the right time when the pine trees are in their slow-growth phase, depending on which region you are located. In most areas it will be between late May and early August. In warmer regions it can be done by late April and later when you are living in a colder region.
  • The leader, the main tip or the trunk of the pine tree is the first to be cut. This part of the pine tree is the one that controls the growth hormone that is why this is the one that has to be cut back. Measure at least two to four inches from the tip and cut the leader at a forty five-degree angle. The highest part of the cut should be on the same side as the growth bud left behind. Cutting at a forty-five degree angle also helps promote the faster healing of the pine tree.
  • If you find it difficult to create a balanced triangular shape around the pine tree visually, you can tie a piece of string on the tip of the pine tree where you have just cut the leader. It should be long enough to reach the ground. Anchor the end of the string on the ground, creating at least a sixty or seventy-degree angle from the top to flare at the bottom.
  • Trim off the branches that will extend out of the string guide. Move the string to another section around the tree and trim all stragglers. Go around the pine tree in this manner until you come back to your starting position. Remove dead leaves and branches as you trim and give the pine tree a neat triangular shape.

Always ensure that you are using sharp pruners recommended for the size of the branches you are going to trim to prevent injuring the pine tree. Regular shaping will help pine trees keep a better shape. Professional gardeners recommend that you do not shape pine trees that are newly planted. They should be allowed to get established, usually for three years before you can start shaping them.


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