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When and How to Prune a Christmas Tree

Written by: phs Greenleaf

phs Greenleaf has been providing planting and landscaping services to businesses for over 25 years, including indoor and outdoor plants, artificial and live planting, living walls, grounds maintenance and Christmas trees and decorations.

When and How to Prune a Christmas Tree

We are now deep into the festive season, and it’s likely most people have their decorations up already or are in the final stages of planning them. 

When we think of gardening indoors or outdoors at this time of year, Christmas trees are usually the focus of our attention. 

Pruning a Christmas tree can keep it more attractive and symmetrical while also improving its lifespan significantly. 

But not everybody knows how to do this, or even that they should. 

Pruning doesn’t just improve the health and appearance of your Christmas tree, it maintains size and shape too and can help to manage density and foliage. 

When to Prune a Christmas Tree

While evergreen trees stay green all year round, this doesn’t mean they don’t go through cycles. 

Conifers often shed and renew their foliage. 

Spruce, pine and fir are the trees most commonly used as Christmas trees, and they can be pruned all year round. 

Pruning in late summer and autumn is usually the best course of action. Firstly, the summer months are when they are most commonly attacked by parasites, so cutting branches then helps to keep your tree safe and healthy. Secondly, this is great timing for the tree to grow a flush of new buds just in time for Christmas. 

How to Prune a Christmas Tree 

While pruning is crucial to maintaining your Christmas tree’s shape and health, too much can damage the tree and leave wounds which allow bacteria to easily enter. It is best to avoid this by being sparing with your cuts. 

Trim the tree at an angle and use a pruning shear or loppers. An electric chainsaw can be used for larger trees to make the job less difficult and time consuming. 

Conifers grow very fast. If grown in a pot, you are unlikely to notice this, as the tree will be confined to the size of the pot. However, outdoor trees with sufficient ground space will become very large very quickly. 

In either case, follow these steps to prune your Christmas tree effectively: 

  1. Cut back any ugly, protruding or unnaturally positioned branches. The width of the tree’s base should be two thirds of its height. 
  2. Remove any dried, damaged or diseased branches. They will waste the tree’s energy which could otherwise be used on growing new branches. This also helps to prevent the disease from spreading. 
  3. Cut 2-3cm above a good bud and remove all buds below it to prevent leaders developing. If multiple leaders do appear, choose the weakest one and prune it back.  
  4. If your Christmas tree is a pine, trim all terminal shoots on each lateral branch to encourage buds. This is not necessary for other kinds of Christmas trees. 

Can I Kill My Christmas Tree by Pruning it Wrong? 

In general this is very unlikely, but if fresh wounds from pruning are exposed to cold or frost this may cause severe issues. 

However, it’s fairly easy to avoid this: 

  • Conifers do not regrow from cut points, so do not prune the tree from the very top, or shorten main branches. 
  • Don’t cut the parent branch or the collar of the tree as the tree’s main defences work from here, including the tissues used to heal wounds. Damaging this is irreversible. 
  • Always cut at a 45 degree angle and never a perfect right angle. This will reduce the chance of disease developing and prevent water from collecting on the wound which will cause rotting. 

Need Help with This? 

If you’re a commercial organisation who displays Christmas trees in the UK, from pubs to offices and everywhere in between, we are here to help. 

While pruning a tree can be relatively easy if you follow this guide, it can also be very time consuming and difficult, especially if you have multiple Christmas trees or very large ones. 

phs Greenleaf is the #1 supplier of Christmas trees for rent and hire across the UK. 

Real and replica trees are available and we are able offer a wide range of additional services and bespoke extras. 

We have managed Christmas decorations for organisations as varied and well respected as Boots, Fuller’s Brewery and Brighton Marina. 

To learn more about what we can do for you, and to make your Christmas decorations easy, effortless and appealing, take a look at our Christmas tree hire page or contact us now! 

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