Large Tree Pruning and Care

(Adapted from the Nebraska Forest Service with permission).

Storm damage to large trees can cause many problems. These problems can exist immediately after the storm or become evident many months or even years later. Since large trees involve large branches and heavy weight, it is best to leave this kind of storm repair to qualified professional arborists. Here are some things that you can do to help larger trees recover from storm damage.

Tree Inspection 

Inspect trees carefully following any heavy storm, particularly if the tree in question has suffered previous storm damage. Look for splits and cracks in the trunk or major limbs. Make note of any areas where water appears to be seeping from within the tree. Inspect the root collar area (at the base of the tree) to look for uplifted soil or disturbed roots. If any of these conditions exist then it is important to have your tree inspected by a qualified professional arborist.


Pruning large trees should be left to a professional arborist. Working in larger trees can be dangerous due to the heavy weights of branches. In addition, larger trees may be located near or under utility transmission lines. Working around utility lines is dangerous. Special training is required for arborists to prune trees when a utility line is involved. If you suspect your tree needs pruning contact a qualified professional arborist. If utility lines are involved contact your local utility company immediately.

The top priority for pruning after a storm should be to make the tree safe. After this has been accomplished, the tree should be evaluated for reconstructive pruning needs. The object is to maintain as many live branches in the crown of the tree as possible so that sufficient leaf cover is maintained to return the tree to normal vigor. At the same time it is important to removed severely damaged branches and minimize open wounds that will lead to decay.


Determining whether or not a tree should be removed is a difficult decision for most homeowners. Major splits or cracks in the main trunk or in one or more major limbs may render the tree unsafe and require removal. In some cases, cable and brace work may be a viable option. Cable and bracing should only be done by a qualified arborist. If done improperly, the tree will remain in an unsafe condition.

If more than 50% of the tree's living crown has been destroyed then removal may be recommended. If the root system of the tree is intact, then the crown will re-grow. Think carefully about the function that your tree performs in the landscape. If this function (screening, shade, wind protection) is still being performed, then you may want to try to salvage the tree for a few more years while you plan for and begin replanting.

Although tree removal is a last resort, there are circumstances when it is necessary. An arborist can help decide whether or not a tree should be removed. Professionally trained arborists have the skills and equipment to safely and efficiently remove trees. Professional Arborists In all cases where larger trees are involved it is best that homeowners seriously consider the use of a professional arborist.