In this article, I’ll be showing you how to trim an oak tree.

Oak trees are among the most useful trees in the world. They are a great addition to pretty much any landscape and they produce excellent wood for furniture.

Pruning them will help maintain their good looks, as well as keep them healthy.

Here are the basic trimming rules for an Oak tree.

Why You Should Trim Your Oak Tree

There are various reasons why trimming your oak tree is important.

First of all, an untrimmed oak will grow wildly, which will lead to poor health by creating a habitat for all sorts of pests.

Dead or weakened branches also need to be pruned away, this is because weak branches can fall off at any time and could cause serious injuries to a person standing below.

Another reason you should prune your oak tree is to maintain its beautiful natural shape. Oak trees are a great addition to your garden, but only when they look good.

When To Trim An Oak Tree

For young or mature oak trees, the most suitable time to trim them is during the winter season. By doing so, they would be able to recover from the pruning wounds.

Here is more on choosing the best time for oak trimming.

Oaks are dormant during the winter, so they will be able to withstand the stress from all the cutting.

Follow these steps to trim your oak tree.

Clean the clipper and the blade of the saw

As you should with any tree, be sure to clean your cutting tools before you lay them on the oak tree’s limbs. You wouldn’t want to pass on an infection from a decayed branch to another healthy oak tree.

You can use clean water to tidy up your blades, but for better results, you can use bleach or homemade alcohol-based sterilizer.

Make sure the blade of your saw is sharp enough to give you a clean-cut, devoid of jaggedness. Smooth cuts are easy for the oak tree to heal from, this won’t be the case if you cut with blunt blades.

The Branches That You Should Remove

For a young oak tree, all you have to take off are its dead or broken branches. Since they are young, trimming them to shape isn’t necessary, as they will still be in their natural shape.

Trimming an oak tree in its youth could lead to cutting off the main branches it needs for its growth. Even worse, you could damage the stem and kill the tree.

You can wait for about 3 years before you consider trimming a young oak tree into your desired shape.

For mature oak trees, you should cut off the branches that grow towards the center of the crown. Doing the will guarantee enough airflow to the center.

You will also need to take out the branches that rub against each other. This will prevent the branches from injuring themselves. This is important because wounds on an oak tree are fancied by pests and they act as gateways for diseases.

Safety During Oak Tree Trimming

Oak trees have very strong branches which can be a problem if it falls off unannounced. Be sure to clear the ground area before you start cutting them off, just so there are no unsuspecting passers-by below.

If oak branches are hanging over a fence or entangled in a power cable, then don’t attempt cutting them yourself. Call on the power company or a professional tree trimming service to handle the job.

This precaution could save you from electrocution.

Have your gloves, work boots, hard helmet, and safety goggles on when you trim your oak tree.

How To Prune Mature Oak Trees

Mature Oak trees do not require much maintenance pruning to retain its shape and good health.

The oak tree grows in the US Department Of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 to 10, depending on the species of course.

All oak trees should be pruned in their dormant state, even mature oaks. At this time there is a reduced risk of pest infestation and the tree can recover from its wounds faster.


  • Make sure the cutting tools you’re using are sharp and sterilized
  • Do not prune off more than 15 percent of its branches per season. Cutting off more will increase the stress on the tree during re-growth

As you trim a mature oak, look out for dead or damaged branches and cut them off. They are unproductive and they are hazardous to the tree and its surroundings.

Branches growing towards the center of the crown should also be removed. This will open up some space for air circulation towards the center. Don’t forget to prune out other branches that rub against each other.

Lastly, cut off any branches that do not conform to the intended shape of the oak tree. These will be the lengthy, overgrown branches you need to cut back.

How To Prune Each Unwanted Branch Of Your Oak Tree

For every branch that needs to be cut. Follow these steps.

Sterilize the clippers and saw

You can use a disinfectant of 9 parts clean water and 1 part domestic bleach. Be sure to rinse off the blades with clean water and leave them to dry before you start cutting.

Make the First Cut on the Branch

With your pruning saw, you are to make the first cut about 18 inches from the collar branch. A pruning saw will work well with thicker branches found at the lower end of each branch.

Stop your cut when you get to the center of the branch.

Make the Second Cut on the Branch

The second cut should be made at the top side of the branch. This would be about an inch away from the first cut near the tip of the branch.

Make the Third Cut on the Branch

Keep making the second cut until the branch is off the tree. Take off the remaining branch section by making a third cut at the branch collar.

Things You Will Need

  • Household bleach
  • Pruning clippers
  • Pruning saw


Oak trees can grow tall, trees of such heights may be unsafe for a person with little or no experience to climb and cut. In such a case, it would be in your best interest to call on a professional tree trimming service.


Do not prune oak trees during their growing season. This falls between April and June. The reason is there is a high chance of your oak tree developing wilt if pruned during this period.

All oak varieties have to be pruned during their dormant months. At this time, the sap isn’t flowing actively through the oak tree.

Another word of caution is not to place a ladder on uneven ground. Do not place them at the back of a truck either!

As I have mentioned before, oak trees are hard body trees, this means their branches are thick and strong. Consider this when cutting them off and make sure the ground area is clear before you cut.

Failure to do so could mean a heavy branch falling of the person standing below.

Most importantly, do not prune oak trees that are close to utility lines to avoid electrocution.

How Often Should I Trim My Oak Tree?

Similar to other trees, Oaks should be pruned every 2 to 3 years when they are in their early stages, and every 3 to 5 years when they are older.

Oaks are active through April to July. For this reason, you should not attempt to trim them.

To be sure you’re on the safe side, keep a calendar date between the 1st of April and the 1st of October as the period you shouldn’t prune.

Topping Oak Trees: Good or Bad?

Oak trees can be topped, nonetheless, experts suggest it not a good practice for any tree. These experts also insist that the size or age of the tree doesn’t matter.

Topping your oak tree would mean limiting the photosynthetic engine of the tree (the leaf area). It will also reduce the vigor of the tree, leave it prone to insect attacks, and trigger internal decay.

Topping your oak tree would also mean a drop in aesthetic value and a promotion of breakage, thanks to the poor structure of the crown and branches.

Topping is also time-consuming, expensive, and it is not condoned according to professional forestry ethics.

Avoid topping your oak tree!

Dangers Involved In Trimming An Oak Tree

Oaks that have reached full maturity can grow between 60 to 100 feet. That’s quite an intimidating height to climb, especially when you have sharp cutting tools in hand.

If you must do the job yourself, then you need to be equipped with a safety harness and a hard helmet.

A well-strapped harness will keep you from accidental falls, while the hard helmet will protect your head from a falling branch.

Always be vigilant when cutting so you can quickly spot signs that show a branch is about to break and get out of the way.


Oak trees require little pruning to remain healthy and in shape. The only difficulty you would face is climbing oak trees of great heights.

With the right precautionary measures, you would be fine.

So, that’s how you trim an oak tree, large or small.

Be as safe as you trim!

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