How to Prune a Tree by Lion Tailing

by Sara Clark
Trees should be pruned during their dormant season.

Trees should be pruned during their dormant season.

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Lion's tail pruning is a method of pruning the lower branches from tree limbs, leaving a top tuft of foliage that resembles a lion's tail. Previously advocated by some arborists as a way of increasing a tree's wind resistance, the practice has become controversial. The Tree Care Industry Association warns that lion's tail pruning removes more than the recommended 25 percent of foliage from a tree, leaving it weakened and susceptible to disease. Some tree owners still prefer the look of a lion's tailed tree, but the exercise should be carried out with caution, as the tree may take years to regain its former shape. Always consult a qualified arborist before deciding to lion's tail prune a tree. Very tall trees require specialized pruning equipment, and only experts should work on these trees.

Items you will need

  • Extendable pole pruning saw or pruning saw, ladder and assistant
  • Gloves
  • Eye protectors
  • Helmet
  • Lopping shears (optional)
Step 1

Wait until dormant season. During fall and winter, trees will not "bleed" sap as heavily through any pruning wounds. It also lessens the risk of infection or infestation, as insects and fungi are also dormant during these seasons. If you're pruning a deciduous tree, the lack of leaves in the winter also allows you to see the shape of the tree more clearly.

Step 2

Identify the branches to be removed. Each branch is connected to the main stem or trunk by a layer of growth called a stem collar. The pruning cuts should be made on the branch side (rather than the stem side) of this collar. Position yourself where you can easily reach the first branch.

Step 3

Make a small V-shaped cut on the underside of the first branch. This will prevent the pruned branch from snapping off and tearing a strip of bark off the main tree. Before you start the cut, check that the branch will not fall on you or your assistant when it drops. If you are using a ladder and hand saw, steady yourself with one hand on the base of the branch. With the other hand, cut the branch through a few inches further along. Allow the branch to drop to the ground.

Step 4

Remove the remainder of the stub close to the stem. Continue to remove branches along the line of the tree limb. It may be beneficial to remove excess twigs with lopping shears to help you see the line of the limb.

Photo Credits

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