How to Prune a Maple Tree to Keep It Small

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Learn how to prune a maple tree to keep it small from our arborist. This simple guide will teach you everything you need to know about pruning a maple tree.

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Pruning a maple tree is an important part of keeping it healthy and promoting its growth. If you want to keep your maple tree small, you’ll need to prune it regularly. Here are some tips on how to prune a maple tree to keep it small:

-Start by removing any dead or diseased branches from the tree.

-Then, cut back any branches that are growing out of place or are too long.

-Next, thin out the tree by removal sucker growth and water sprouts.

-Finally, cut back the tips of the branches to encourage new growth.

The Benefits of Pruning

Pruning a maple tree correctly will ensure that the tree remains healthy and vigorous. By removing dead or diseased wood, you allow the tree to direct its energy towards new growth. Pruning also helps to control the size and shape of the tree.

Pruning Reduces the Size of the Tree

Pruning a maple tree is necessary to keep it the size you want it to be, and to remove any dead or diseased branches. Pruning also keeps the tree healthy by allowing air and light to reach the inner branches, and by preventing overcrowding.

There are two main types of pruning: heading cuts, which remove the tips of branches, and thinning cuts, which remove entire branches. Heading cuts cause the branch to grow back denser and smaller, while thinning cuts result in a more open canopy.

You should prune your maple tree every year or two, depending on its size and how fast it grows. The best time to prune is in late winter or early spring, before the tree begins to produce new leaves.

If you have a maple tree that is too large for its location, you can reduce its size by making heading cuts. Start by pruning one-third of the longest branches, cutting them back to a side branch or bud. Make sure that you evenly space out these cuts so that the tree is symmetrical.

You can also use heading cuts to create a more compact crown. To do this, simply prune all of the branches by one-half. Again, be sure to make your cuts evenly so that the tree retains its shape.

Thinning cuts are made by removing entire branches at their point of origin from the trunk or from larger branches. This type of cut allows light and air to reach the center of the tree, and prevents overcrowding. Thinning cuts also help reduce wind resistance, which can damage or even topple a large tree.

When making thinning cuts, always choose branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other, as well as those that are growing straight up or down (these are called vertical leaders). You should also remove any weak or diseased branches. It’s important not to overdo it with thinning cuts—remove no more than one-quarter of the live branches per year.

Pruning Increases Air Circulation

Pruning your maple tree on a regular basis will ensure that plenty of air can circulate throughout the entire tree. This is important for several reasons. First, it helps the tree to grow evenly. Secondly, it allows the leaves to receive the sunlight they need to photosynthesize properly. And finally, it helps to prevent diseases from taking hold in the tree.

Pruning Stimulates New Growth

One of the primary benefits of pruning is that it stimulates new growth. The cut leaves a wound on the tree that the tree will heal by producing new cells. This process of closing the wound and producing new cells is called cambium formation, and it starts as soon as the pruning cut is made. Depending on the time of year, you may see this process happening within a few days or weeks after pruning.

The Best Time to Prune

Pruning is an important part of maple tree care. It helps to shape the tree, remove any dead or diseased branches, and promote new growth. But when is the best time to prune a maple tree?

Pruning in the Spring

Pruning in the spring is the best time to prune a maple tree to keep it small. The tree’s sap is flowing at this time of year, so pruning will not shock the tree. In addition, pruning in the spring will allow the tree to heal itself more quickly.

Pruning in the Summer

Summer pruning is generally avoided because it can encourage sap bleed and new growth that may not have time to harden off before winter. However, if you must prune in the summer, selective pruning of problem limbs is best done when the tree is actively growing.

Pruning in the Fall

One school of thought believes that pruning in the fall is best because the plant is preparing for winter dormancy and will heal faster. Fall pruning also provides an opportunity to shape the plant before new growth begins in the spring.

However, some gardeners believe that pruning in late winter or early spring is best because it gives you a clear view of the plant’s structure and how you want to shape it. Late winter/early spring pruning also does not shock the plant as much as pruning in the fall.

How to Prune

Pruning a maple tree is not as difficult as it may seem. By following a few simple steps, you can keep your maple tree healthy and looking great. Pruning also helps to encourage new growth and keeps the tree from getting too big.

Step One: Assess the Tree

Now is the time of year to prune most trees in the Northern Hemisphere. To learn how to prune a maple tree, or any other tree for that matter, you need to understand a little bit about how trees grow. A tree’s natural shape is dictated by its species, but to a large degree, its form is also influenced by the environment in which it grows.

Topping, the indiscriminate chopping of branches back to stubs, is detrimental to the health of any tree and should never be done. It not only removes the leaves that the tree needs for food production but also encourages weak, rapidly growing suckers to replace the lost branches. These suckers are typically much smaller in diameter than the branches they replace and are very difficult to control.

Step Two: Cut Away Dead or Damaged Branches

Use pruning shears to cut away any dead or damaged branches. Make each cut at a 45-degree angle just above a node (where the leaf meets the stem). Doing this will encourage new growth.

Step Three: Cut Away Crowded or Rubbing Branches

Start by removing any dead or diseased branches, then cut away any crowded or rubbing branches. Make your cuts just above a node (where the branch meets another branch or the trunk). Make sure each cut is at a 45-degree angle, facing away from the main branch.

Step Four: Cut Away Weak or Leaning Branches

Once you’ve removed the crossing and rubbing branches, cut back any remaining weak or leaning branches. These branches are more likely to break in a storm and can cause damage to the tree.

To prune a weak or leaning branch:
-Find the branch collar, which is the thickened area where the branch joins the trunk.
-Make your cut just above the branch collar.
-Don’t try to save a weak or leaning branch by bolting it to the trunk with nails or wires. This will damage the tree and make it more likely to break in a storm.


In conclusion, pruning your maple tree will ensure that it remains healthy and vigorous for years to come. It is best to prune in the late winter or early spring, before the sap starts flowing. Be sure to sterilize your pruning tools before you begin, and make cuts at a 45-degree angle, just above a bud.

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About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books