If you have a tree on your property, there will come a time when you will need to trim branches off it.
Once a tree branch has been removed correctly (cut at the branch collar) it will not grow back. You will, however, be encouraged to grow on other parts of the tree.
When you remove branches from a tree, the tree responds by using excess reserves it would have otherwise used to feed those branches, to grow new ones.
There is no way to really stop a tree that is planted in the ground from growing.
The only real way to do it is the limit root growth.
Like a bonsai tree, the trick to keeping trees small is limiting their roots. Because a tree’s growth potential above ground, is in direct proportion to its root growth below ground, by limiting root growth you can limit the tree’s overall growth.
In short, the tree needs to be in a pot to do this.
Is it illegal to cut branches off trees?
All cities have what’s called a Tree Preservation Order which is a set of ordinances governing whether residents can trim or remove trees. Most of the time trimming is fine, but it will depend on the city you live in.
I would start by checking your local laws for tree trimming.
For tree ordinances in your area, please visit our tree laws and permits page and look under your state and city for more information.
Can I cut all branches off my tree?
If you were to cut all the branches off a tree, you would essentially be ruining the tree. This goes for palm trees as well.
When a tree grows, it sends out branches from the inside out. The branch is a woody stem that is one whole piece and connected to the tree.
When you remove all branches from a tree, it will react by sending out hundreds of sucker shoots.
Trees make food for themselves through a process called photosynthesis. They need leaves to do this. If you remove all the branches and leaves from a tree, it will need to sprout new ones in a hurry as you have just cut off its food supply.
Within a week of you cutting all the branches off your tree, it will be covered in tiny suckers. These suckers will continue to grow making your tree look more like a bush than a tree.
Your tree might eventually die, but if it doesn’t, it will need trimming every 6 – 12 months as the suckers will keep growing.
Advice: Do not cut more than 20% of your tree’s foliage per year. For the love of God, do not remove all the tree branches.
Can I make my tree grow more branches?
To stimulate the growth of a tree there are a few things you can try.
Prune: It sounds counter-intuitive, but removing branches from a tree will bolster its root system and the tree will come back stronger than ever.
If you have a ‘weak-looking tree, this is by far the best first step. Remove lame or poorly formed branches and within 12 months the tree will come back stronger than ever.
Fertilize: I recommend using a natural fertilizer like horse manure. This will slowly seep nutrients into the soil and fertilize the tree for 12 months.
By giving the tree fresh nutrients will help boost new growth.
Mulch: By covering around the base of your tree with woodchip you are trapping in heat and moisture which the tree will love. The more water available for the tree to use the more it will grow.
Water: And last but not least, water. Be sure to check the conditions your tree likes. Some trees like lots of water all the time, whereas others like a good soaking every now and then followed by dry spells. You don’t want to over-water and encourage root rot.