How to Lace a Tree

Tree lacing is a method of pruning trees so that the tree admits light and air through its canopy or crown. Tree lacing and overall pruning is done for safety, health and aesthetics, according to The Forest Service. It reduces pest problems and dangerous branches. Tree lacing in particular enhances the natural form of a tree, allowing light for plants underneath the tree. To lace a tree yourself, distinguish which tree limbs need removal to thin approximately 20 to 30 percent of its overall canopy.

Cut off any lower dead branches first with a hand pruner. Protect the stem or trunk by cutting a wedge underneath the branch first, approximately 4 inches from the trunk and only halfway through the branch. This prevents tears along the bark and stem tissue. Cut the branch completely off from the top of the branch about 2 inches out from the wedge cut.

Reduce the stub of the cut branch by trimming it parallel to the main tree trunk. This procedure helps the tree to naturally heal itself after the pruning. Repeat for other lower dead branches.

Look for large branches with V-shaped growth angles, rather than more open U-shaped angles. If two large branches grow into a V shape, they may cause cracks later on. It is best to remove those branches to help bring light and air through the tree crown 2. Remove those branches next with a hand pruner if they are low enough. Use a ladder if needed. Remove either the entire V or the less dominant part of the V to increase light in the canopy.

Cut a wedge cut halfway through the underside of the branch first if you are planning on completely cutting it off. Cut the entire branch off about 2 inches away from the first cut. Trim back the stub closely to the main branch or trunk.

Cut off branches that are growing too closely to other branches, but avoid creating "lion's tails" -- tufts of branches and foliage -- at the ends of branches. Do not trim more than 1/4 of the living branches at a time.

Trim taller branches with a pole pruner, which has a pruning saw at the top of a pole. A rope is used to cut the branches from the ground. Step back and look at the overall shape of the crown. Be sure not to trim too much and trim the overall canopy evenly.


Clean pruning tools in 1 part bleach to 9 parts water to disinfect, especially if working with diseased trees. Follow with a wash in soapy water.

Tree lacing should be done only once a year at most. It is done mostly to hardwoods. Conifers do not need any crown thinning.

Cut at the nodes, which are the points where one branch attaches to another.

Most trees should be laced in late fall or winter.


Use caution when trimming near power lines.

Do not trim if people are standing underneath the tree.

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