Hickory Nut Tree Pruning: Tips On Pruning Hickory Trees

Hickory Nut Tree Pruning: Tips On Pruning Hickory Trees

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Pruning can be confusing for some gardeners. This is because there are separate rules for different plants, periods of the year, and even zones. Pruning hickory trees is not really necessary for fruit production once the trees are mature, but it is an important part of training the plant as it grows. Trimming a hickory tree when young promotes sturdier limbs and a better habit for future flowering and production.

Trimming a Hickory Tree When Young

Learning how to prune hickory trees during their early years is a crucial step for healthy trees and greater nut yield. Other reasons for hickory nut tree pruning might be aesthetics and ease of maintenance. Removal of broken or diseased stems over the tree’s life can be done at any time but early training should occur when the tree is dormant. As with any tree pruning, sanitary practices and correct cut methods increase the benefits and reduce possible harm to the plant.

Bearing trees and shrubs need a little guidance when they are babies. Young trees need to have 1 or 2 good central leaders, which form a scaffold for the peripheral growth. Pruning hickory trees within their first or second year also allows the plant to develop good air circulation to reduce disease and pest issues.

Nut production is best where trees receive good sunlight to the interior, promoting more blooms and, therefore, more fruit. Once the leader is established, remove any V-shaped growth which can become weak, but retain any U-shaped peripheral growth. This will reduce the chances of breakage that may invite disease and pest problems.

Mature Hickory Nut Tree Pruning

Trees started as seedlings may take 10 to 15 years to bear nuts. Those that you purchase as grafted plants can produce in as little as 4 to 5 years. During this period of growth before nut production, maintaining a strong, open canopy is key to future nut development.

Once trees are established and have a healthy form, the only real pruning necessary is to remove weak, diseased, or damaged plant material. During the dormant period is the best time for such maintenance but you can remove damaged limbs at any time if they pose a hazard. Destroy diseased limbs but save any healthy wood for your fireplace or to cure for smoking.

How to Prune Hickory Trees Correctly

In addition to well-honed tools and clean surfaces, it is important to make cuts correctly. Never cut into the main stem when removing a limb. Cut just outside the branch collar, using a slight angle that will force moisture away from the newly cut surface. This helps prevent rot as the cut surface heals.

If you are not taking a branch all the way back to the central stem, cut it back to a node. Avoid leaving branch stubs, which take longer to form wound wood and can reduce the appearance of the tree.

Use the proper tool for different wood sizes. Loppers and pruners are generally only suited for removing wood that is ½ inch (1.5 cm.) or less in diameter. Larger branches will require a saw. Make the first cut on the underside of the branch and then finish the cut on the upper surface of the wood to reduce the chance of tearing the wood.

This article was last updated on

Best Time of Year to Trim, Prune Trees (Hint: It’s Not Fall)

For some reason, many people believe tree pruning in the fall is the perfect time of year, especially where four seasons are present. The bright leaves begin falling, and some large limbs look a little iffy. But that assumption could damage your precious trees or even kill them even mature trees.

“The fall is not the time to learn how to prune. Trees are preparing for dormancy then, and it’s taking all the good stuff out of its leaves to store,” says Tchukki Andersen, staff arborist for Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) in Manchester, N.H. The organization offers training and resources for tree care companies.

If you just go willy nilly and start cutting tree branches, you aren’t going to see success, the arborist states. If there isn’t an absolute reason to do prune trees in the fall, then don’t. Save your tree care pruning when the tree is actively growing in the early spring or completely dormant in the winter months.

She does stress that qualified tree care specialists are pruning trees every day year-round without a lot of detrimental effects.

“However, tree service professionals know more on how to care for the health of a tree,” she states. “They understand its stages and processes such as dormancy and new growth.”

Andersen adds that many homeowners really don’t know what kind of trees are on their property until a crisis happens. Learning about those trees and their needs for staying healthy can add value to homes and add shade and beautification to the landscape.

She recommends before pruning lower branches or any other part of the tree to first get an assessment from tree trimming professionals or an arborist before doing anything with your trees.

Principles of Pruning, Part 1: When and Why to Prune

Shade trees can be a great addition to any landscape, whether a sprawling estate, college campus or the lawn of a homeowner. Pruning shade trees is an important step to take to ensure a long, healthy life for the tree, and can be considered both an art and a science.

“We prune for a specific reason,” said Dr. Jeff Iles, chair of the Department of Horticulture at Iowa State University. “We try to correct the tree’s architecture, we try to make it structurally sound, and if we are lucky and good, that tree will have a long and functional life.”

Basically, pruning is the removal of plant parts for a specific purpose. Pruning trees when they are young can make the biggest difference, Iles said. It is important to try to envision the tree 20-30 years down the road, because it won’t look anything like it does now. Pruning is the dormant season is recommended by Iles, because the leaves are gone—the tree’s architecture can be seen easily, there are no insect or disease pressures to worry about and the wounds created in the dormant season will quickly heal when the tree begins to grow again in the spring.

“Pruning is a little bit like raising children or dogs or cats…it requires constant vigilance, so at least once a year,” Iles said. “I realize that might be a daunting task, but trees are constantly growing so visiting a shade tree at least once a year, maybe twice is a really good schedule to get on.”

Tools of the trade

Iles said that there are only a few tools that are needed to prune shade trees. High-powered equipment is not needed, and a pair of quality pruning shears, which can be purchased at any garden center or mass merchant is a tool that should be obtained.

A folding saw it also good to have, with sharp teeth that cuts both on the push and pull stroke. A good pair of gloves, to keep your hands safe, is good to have on hand and to keep in mind.

Check out the next installment of the Principles of Pruning here.

For more information on pruning trees, go here.

Pruning Trees - When to Prune

Pruning your trees at the optimal time will speed the healing of the wound and reduce the stress on the tree. Generally, the best time to prune trees is when they are dormant. However, there are many exceptions to this rule depending on the type of tree and the type of branch you want to trim. Once you know when to prune, read up on how to prune too,

TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Karen Thurber adds, "Avoid pruning trees in the fall. Trees that are pruned just before winter do not have sufficient time to heal before the cold weather sets in and will be more susceptible to winter injury."


Your evergreen firs and pines may be pruned any time of year, but pruning during the dormant season may minimize sap and resin flow from cut branches.

TIP: Karen suggests, "Prune pine trees when the needles on the new growth, also referred to as candles, are not fully mature. Remove up to 2/3 the length of the candle."

Hardwood Trees and Shrubs

Prune these in the dormant season to easily visualize the structure of the tree, to maximize wound closure in the growing season after pruning, to reduce the chance of transmitting disease, and to discourage excessive sap flow from wounds. Recent wounds and the chemical scents they emit can attract insects that spread tree disease. In particular, wounded elmwood is known to attract bark beetles that harbor spores of the Dutch elm disease fungus, and open wounds on oaks are known to attract beetles that spread the oak wilt fungus.

Take care to prune these trees during the correct time of year to prevent the spread of these fatal diseases. Contact your local tree disease specialist to find out when to prune these tree species in your area. Usually, the best time is during late winter just before the spring growth starts.

Flowering Trees and Shrubs

Trees and shrubs that flower in early spring (redbud, dogwood, etc.) should be pruned immediately after flowering (flower buds arise the year before they flush, and will form on the new growth).

Flowering trees susceptible to fireblight, including many varieties of crabapple, hawthorn, pear, mountain ash, flowering quince, and pyracantha, should be pruned during the fall or early winter. Fireblight is a bacterial disease that can be spread by pruning. Check with your county extension agent or a horticulturist for additional information.

Trees and shrubs that flower in the summer or fall always should be pruned during the dormant season (flower buds will form on new twigs during the next growing season, and the flowers will flush normally).

Dead Branches

These can be removed any time of the year.

TIP: Karen recommends, "Begin pruning and shaping your tree when it is young. Shaping your tree early will reduce the amount of required pruning as the tree ages. Removing small branches, rather than large branches, allows the tree to quickly heal and reduces the stress on the tree."

Pests and Diseases

Like most hickory trees, shagbark hickory nut trees are susceptible to canker, a wood-rotting fungus that will kill the tree. Keeping trees well-watered and scraping off discolored wood may help slow the spread of canker.

Shagbarks also are vulnerable to anthracnose, which causes brown spots on its leaves. While it may lead to leaf loss, anthracnose isn't considered a threat to a tree's health.

Among the insects that plague the shagbark hickory are aphids and the aptly-named hickory bark beetle. Keeping trees well-watered is one way to avoid insect pests, but spraying with an insecticide (which is labeled as safe for the tree) is usually the only way to eradicate the bugs completely.

During the first couple growing seasons, your newly planted tree is expending a lot of energy trying to get its roots established in the soil. Especially during the first few summers of your new trees life, it will have a difficult time dealing with heat and drought. You can make this easier by providing water and covering the soil with wood-chip mulch. Deep watering can help speed the root establishment. Deep water consists of keeping the soil moist to a depth that includes all the roots.

Not enough water is harmful for the tree, but too much water is bad as well. Over-watering is a common tree care mistake. Please note that moist is different than soggy, and you can judge this by feel. A damp soil that dries for a short period will allow adequate oxygen to permeate the soil.

You can check soil moisture by using a garden trowel and inserting it into the ground to a depth of 2", and then move the blade of the trowel back and forth to create a small narrow trench. Then use your finger to touch the soil. If it is moist to the touch, then they do not need water.

Watch the video: Pruning Young Trees