The Difference Between Tree Trimming and Pruning

Different people have different interpretations between tree pruning vs trimming. In fact, some people assume that they are one in the same, but there are some key differences in the definition between trimming and pruning, as we’re exploring in this guide. It’s time to identify if your plants need a little bit of a prune, or if it is time to bring in tree trimming services to give your garden a proper cleanup. Keep reading to learn the difference between tree trimming and pruning!

Most Popular Privacy Trees

What is Tree Trimming?

Leyland Cypress Trees in a Row along Road as hedge

Tree trimming is the art of trimming back branches that have become overgrown. For instance, if you have a pathway lined with trees that have grown into your powerlines this would result in a need to trim them back.

Trimming isn’t exclusive to trees, and this has become something of a catchall term for trimming trees, shrubs, even bushes. Anything that grows in your yard!

Tree trimming is also an important part of maintenance, and it plays a bigger part than just getting the leaves and branches out of the way. Professional tree trimming services know which tree shoots and dead branches to remove to help the trees or bushes to grow in the way you intend. There’s also an art to making the trees look great. It’s a bit like grooming a pet; if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s not likely to look good. 

What is Tree Pruning?

Tree pruning is similar, but with some vital differences. When you are pruning trees, shrubs, and hedges, your focus is on the aesthetic purposes of your plant rather than functionality. You want the tree or plant to look as good as possible. Read more about Basic Pruning for Trees.

People who are pruning will often focus on branches and flowers that are dead, along with the growth of the plant such as; keeping it short, making it bushier, or ensuring branches don’t cross. It can be quite precise, whereas tree trimming tends to be about stripping away the bulk of overgrown plants. Additionally, annual pruning is a must to sustain the look of a plant, whereas trimming should only be done if necessary.

We have a great blog on instead of overpruning choose smaller trees to fit your planting spot.

Tree Pruning Tools Differences

There are some important differences to recognize between the equipment you’re likely to use for tree trimming compared to tree pruning. 

Pruning may need you to be more accurate and specific about the areas you’re removing. Specific pruners or hand shears are used. Some of these have a telescopic arm to allow you to reach higher within the branches called hedge trimmers. Garden scissors can also be very helpful for pruning, for thinner and easier branches to trim away.

If you’re looking to trim bigger sections of trees and bushes then you might want to take a different approach. The main tool you’re likely to find useful is a pair of loppers. These are used to cut thick branches, and you can use these to cut out larger sections of trees and bushes.

If you’re trying to tackle tall trees then it is best to call in certified arborist or landscaping services, especially if climbing or ladders need to be involved.

Frequency of Pruning & Trimming

Flowering trees in spring orchard on sunny day

There isn’t an exact answer for how frequently you should be pruning or trimming, but there are some guidelines that can help you.

Most large trees don’t need to be trimmed yearly, they can be trimmed every 3-5 years unless they are an especially quick-growing species of tree. Fruit trees may need a bit more maintenance, the branches tend to grow very quickly.

In terms of pruning, you may find that you are in more demand when it comes to maintenance. Most bushes and plant species that need pruning require you to do so at least once every year. While other fast-growing plants may need to be pruned every 3-6 months.


As you can see, there are some subtle differences between trimming and pruning. Although different both of these actions are essential for your yard. It might be a good investment to have tree services along with pruning services readily available for your yard’s maintenance needs.