Pine Tree Trimming: How To Trim Pines Safely, Pruning Pine Branches, Steps

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | October 18, 2023

Man on a ladder with cutters performing pine tree trimming after learning how to trim pine trees, pine tree branches, how to prune pines and evergreen limbs, and the step for trimming ornamental pines.

Did you know that correct Pine tree trimming can not only reduce potential damages to your home and power outages, it’s essential for maintaining the health of your ornamental pine trees and evergreens.

Pine trees need air circulation to help them stay healthy, but before you tackle the job yourself, there are a few things to know.

This complete guide explains how pruning pine trees can help improve the health of your trees, and offer pine tree trimming tips to make it easier.

It also outlines the best time to trim pine trees, the benefits of proper pruning, and when you should (and how to) hire a professional tree trimmer.

Pine Tree Trimming: How To Prune Pine Trees Safely

If you’re ready to remove unhealthy or unsightly branches from different types of pine trees, follow these steps.

Graphic illustrating safely pruning pine trees, showing the parts of a pine tree and tips on how to trim Pine trees alongside images of pruning tools.

They’ll ensure you are properly prepared and don’t miss any important elements while pruning:

1. Get the Correct Equipment

For small Pine trees, you can likely get by with gardening shears for thin branches and a small hand saw for larger ones.

If you’re working on a larger tree, you might need a chainsaw to get through extra-thick branches. Don’t know how to use a chainsaw?

Don’t try to figure it out as you go, read the instructions first and, if in doubt, call an expert (more on that in the next section).

Regardless of your tree’s size, make sure you wear gloves and goggles to protect yourself from scratches and flying bits of wood or debris.

2. Trim Branches by One-Third (How to Trim a Pine Tree)

A good rule of thumb is to trim young Pine tree branches by about one-third.

Another way to avoid over-trimming (while still shaping the tree well) is to make sure each branch is about six inches shorter than its center trunk.

3. Cut Away the Crown

When working on a young tree, cut away about one-third of its crown (the top of the pine tree) each year.

Close-up of pine tree branches with autumn foliage in the background.

This practice encourages a thicker, greener Pine tree.

4. Remove Dead and Diseased Branches

Finally, cut off any dead or broken branches. If it doesn’t have any green foliage, that means it’s dead.

Pine branches are likely diseased if they meet any of these criteria:

  • The inner needles are brown or falling out.
  • The needles on new growth have turned brown, gray, or yellow.
  • Tree sap is oozing from the branches.
  • Canker sores (dead patches)2 appear on the tree stem or branches.

When cutting diseased branches, be sure to cut approximately six inches away from the diseased portion to prevent spreading.

5. Proper Cutting Technique for Pine Tree Trimming

Whether you’re cutting off a diseased branch or trimming around the Pine tree crown, this basic cutting technique will help you avoid stripping the bark and promote faster healing:

  • Cut partially into the bottom side of the branch
  • Cut a few inches to the right of that cut, cutting all the way through and removing the majority of the branch
  • Cut the remainder on the other side of the initial cut, leaving a stub several inches from the trunk

6. Don’t Prune Too Much

Limit yourself to cutting away about one-third of the tree, maximum.

Over-pruning will leave you with an unsightly tree,3 and it may also interfere with the tree’s long-term health and growth.

7. Candle Pine Tree Branches in the Spring

When new growth shows up in the spring, you can use candling to create a denser and more robust tree.

What is candling? This process involves pinching off new Pine tree growth tips in the middle (before they can become pine branches).

If you choose to do this, do it by hand. Sheers may damage the needles and cause them to turn brown.

Reasons To Trim Pine Trees Regularly

Because of how naturally eye-catching shade trees are, you might be tempted to let your pine trees grow without any pruning or trimming.

Remember, though, that pruning isn’t just about aesthetics (although regular trims will keep your landscaping trees looking nicer). Here are some additional reasons to make pine tree trimming a priority:1

  • Get rid of dead or diseased branches
  • Ensure even branch weight and appearance (so your pine tree doesn’t look unbalanced or start to tilt in one direction)
  • Protect houses, garages, street lights, and people from falling branches
  • Avoid co-dominant stems, which weaken the entire tree

Pine Tree Trimming: When and How To Hire a Professional Pine Tree Trimmer

Whether you don’t trust yourself with a chainsaw or simply don’t have the time for pine tree trimming, a professional, also known as an arborist, will gladly help.

Pine tree trimming professionals can use specialized equipment, and if your trees are very tall, you may want to let them handle it.

Lush green Pine trees with their Pine branches and needle-like leaves, with a distant forest in the background.

These guidelines will help you ensure you’re partnering with an experienced and competent tree trimming service:

Make Sure They’re a Member of the ISA

Anyone can say they’re an arborist. However, not all can say they’re part of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA for short).

The ISA even has a convenient “verify credential” tool that makes it easy to find out if an arborist is legitimate.4

Simply type in their name or certificate number and hit the “search” button.

Check Reviews or References

Contacting references allows you to connect directly to previous customers who can speak to the arborist’s quality of work, professionalism, promptness, etc.

If you don’t have time to do this, though, you should at least read online reviews to get a general idea of their work quality, reliability, rates, and other vital factors before making your final choice.

Compare Quotes

It doesn’t matter how badly you want or need your trees trimmed. Don’t rush and hire the first person you find.

In addition to making sure they’re licensed and have positive reviews, get a quote to find out what they’ll charge you and why.

Put quotes from a few Pine tree trimming professionals side by side to determine which one offers the best deal and has the best reputation (remember, never make a choice based on the cost of arborist alone!).

Frequently Asked Questions About Pine Tree Trimming

How Much Can I Expect To Spend on Pine Tree Trimming?

The taller your Pine tree is, the more expensive trimming will be. Generally, if a tree is over 60 feet (pine trees can easily exceed 100 feet but typically reach at least 70-80 feet),5 it will cost between $400 and $1,800 to prune it.6

What Time of Year Should I Trim My Pine Tree?

Prune your Pine tree (or hire someone to prune it) in the late winter or early spring. At this point, you won’t have to worry as much about pests or diseases.

Can Trimming a Pine Tree Kill It?

The pruning process can be risky if you don’t know what you’re doing. For example, if you cut off the top of a Pine tree, you could potentially kill it,7 or at least set its growth back several years.


1University of Florida. (2020, January 24). Why and how trees and people benefit from pruning. University of Florida. Retrieved October 13, 2023, from <>

2Corella, K. (2023). Canker & Rust Diseases:. Retrieved October 13, 2023, from <>

3National Library of Medicine. (2021, August 23). Impact of heavy pruning on development and photosynthesis of Tilia cordata Mill. trees. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved October 13, 2023, from <>

4International Society of Arboriculture. (2023). Verify an ISA Credential. Trees Are Good. Retrieved October 13, 2023, from <>

5State of Maine. (2023). Conifers. Retrieved October 13, 2023, from <>

6Noel, S. (2023, April 5). How much does tree trimming cost? Home Guide. Retrieved October 13, 2023, from <>

7Purcell, L. (2014, June 14). Question: Is Tree “Topping” A Good Method, And What Happens To The Tree After It Is Topped? Purdue University. Retrieved October 13, 2023, from <>