Subordinate Tree Pruning

When you call your local tree service for pruning, you may not realize that there are several different types of pruning services available. There are many factors that go into deciding the type of pruning we do on the trees in your landscape, including the tree species, its growth form, size, maturity, tree health, and the homeowner’s needs. In this blog, we will discuss a specific type of tree pruning called subordinate pruning.

Subordinate pruning is a type of pruning we use to create a more desired structure in trees that have multiple dominant stems, also called “codominant stems.” You can read more about codominant stems by following this link. The problem with codominant stems is that the union between the multiple leads sometimes has “bark inclusion” which causes the structure of the tree to be very weak. Trees that have weak branch unions have a high risk of limbs breaking and causing damage to anything around them. A tree with one main leader or trunk and smaller branches stemming from it is a preferred and generally provides a stronger structure.

ideal tree structure

One species that is very prone to codominant leaders is the Red Maple. These are very popular trees in the local landscape. Ideally, we would begin selecting our main trunk from a young age and start pruning from the other stems.  The idea behind subordinate pruning is that we select the trunk that we would like to reduce and prune only from that stem. By doing this consistently over a few years, we are allowing our selected dominant trunk to develop more growth while training the less stable stem to remain smaller.  

red maple codominant stems

When you remove one stem’s leaf and food source, it reduces the growth on that stem. Taking very little or no leaf from the other stem will allow it to grow as it normally would, surpassing the subordinated stem. This process should be repeated every two to three years to encourage this growth.

The desired outcome is a tree with less risk of breakage and increased stability. We strive to be preservers of trees, so we don’t have to be removers of trees. There are many factors that play into preservation, and subordinate pruning is sometimes a necessary step to achieve a long, healthy life for your tree.  If you have a Red Maple or another tree in your landscape you are concerned may need subordinate pruning, give us a call today. You can also follow this link to have an approximate pruning price emailed to you.