“Bleeding” And Pruning: What Tree Owners Should Know

Pruning your trees is a great way to help encourage healthy growth and an attractive shape. But, pruning does cause a tree to "bleed," or leak sap, for a period of time after you make the cuts. In order to ensure your pruning job does more good than harm, it's important to know the basics of bleeding and how to minimize it.

How does bleeding harm the tree?

The tree's sap is the substance it uses to carry water and nutrients to all of its tissues. When the sap leaks out through bleeding, the tree is losing water and nutrients. A little bit of loss is not usually a big deal, but you want to keep bleeding to a minimum so it does not affect the health of your tree. The sap that bleeds out can also attract insects, which may then eat your tree's leaves and compromise its health. In some cases, these insects may also carry fungal spores with them, leading to an infection. An example of this is oak wilt. The disease is spread from tree to tree by beetles, who are attracted to tree sap.

How can bleeding be minimized?

There are a few strategies that you can use to minimize bleeding after pruning:

Use sharp shears.

The sharper and more precise the cut, the less it will bleed. Keep your pruning shears as sharp as possible. If your are feeling a bit dull and beginning to make rough cuts, take them to a local hardware store – many offer sharpening services.

Cut a few inches away from the base of the branch.

You might be tempted to cut the branch where it meets that larger branch, but it's best to cut it a few inches away from its base, leaving a little stub. There is less vascular tissue at this part of the branch, so it will bleed less when you cut into it.

Prune at the right time of year.

For most trees, it is best to prune in the late winter, since the tree's vascular circulation will be slower at this time, resulting in less bleeding. Make sure you prune before the buds appear.

Do not wrap the wound.

Sometimes, in hopes of stopping the bleeding, homeowners will wrap or bandage the tree's wounds. This actually makes matters worse, since it keeps the area moist. Leave the pruning wound exposed, and any sap that leaks out will soon dry up, acting as a sort-of bandage to prevent additional bleeding.

For more information on landscape services, contact a company like Boulder Works.