What Is the Difference Between Tree Pruning Versus Tree Trimming?

Pruning and trimming are both excellent landscaping services that yield gorgeous and practical results in your yard. Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, pruning and trimming actually have distinct applications and functions, each with their own equipment and timetables. Learn about the difference between pruning versus trimming to give your Putnam County, NY landscape exactly what it needs.

tree trimming and tree pruning in beacon and garrison, NY

When to Use Pruning Versus Trimming

Pruning is generally associated with trees and shrubs, whose health and growth capabilities are greatly improved when infected, dead, and broken branches are cut away. Proper pruning removes potential safety hazards due to falling branches and adds to your yard’s aesthetic, allowing you to control tree shapes and sizes. Trimming, on the other hand, is applied to shrubs and hedges for design purposes. Besides promoting a clean look, trimming alleviates excessively dense bushes which block essential sunlight and moisture from reaching your landscape.

Equipment Differences

Although pruning and trimming both involve cutting methods, the tools utilized vary. Pruning is often performed with two kinds of sheers: hand sheers, which are used to cut stems up to three-quarter inches in diameter, and loping sheers, which have longer handles and the capacity to cut through stems as thick as one and three-quarters of an inch in diameter. A pruning saw may also be used in jobs concerning thicker branches. While sheers may be employed to trim trees, most trimming is done with manual, electric, or gas powered clippers.

Particular Timetables

The timing and frequency of pruning and trimming differ according to season, as well as plant and tree species. Most trees and shrubs require annual pruning, although timing depends on your desired result. Prune dormant trees during winter to promote strong springtime growth; conversely, cut branches in the summer to “dwarf” development. If your aim is to boost flowering capacity, prune immediately after a tree or shrub’s blooming cycle. Trimming is repeated twice a year for aesthetic maintenance, falling at least once just after flowering season. To optimize the health of smaller shrubs, trim before they reach a height of one foot. Related: Landscaping Care Calendar

Should you hire a professional?

Understanding the difference between pruning versus trimming can help you determine whether you need to hire a tree care professional. For instance, if simple, bi-annual trimming is all that is required for your landscape, you might choose to purchase a pair of hedge clippers and do it yourself. If, however, your yard contains tall trees and shrubs which call for pruning from dangerous heights or near power lines and other hazards, hire a professional. Timing and frequency are also determining factors. If your landscape has multiple trees and shrubs requiring expert attention to simultaneous timetables, you might want to call in a professional.


Pruning and trimming are essential landscaping techniques that keep your yard gorgeous year-round. By understanding the difference between the two, you can make informed decisions that directly affect the health and beauty of your trees and shrubs.