A Lesson on Pines

As a pine tree ages, interior and low branches die off from lack of light and energy. To keep a pine tree healthy, spring candling, winter needling, and cutting out branches to retain its shape are necessary.

Before pruning, you first study the natural shape of the tree. This may conflict with your desired shape. Strive to bring out the best potential for its natural beauty according to its natural shape. (See Figure 1)

Start in the winter by removing needles. Removing needles can reveal the graceful limbs and trunk of the tree, allow light and air to penetrate the center of the tree and lower branches, and help reveal its natural shape. (You can do this now too, but winter is the best time of year.)

After you’ve determined its shape, (and your desired shape), the way to achieve this is by pruning or “candling”. Candles are new growth on a pine. They develop from fall through winter until spring. To learn how to candle refer to Figure 2 and watch the How-To video. Candling is done in May and early June.

1. Control the length the branches
2. Make a greater number of branches
3. Make branches more dense

Through proper pruning, you can direct the energy flow and achieve your goal for shape, density, and form. You can direct where new development is likely to take place and create optimum opportunities for future growth.

pine tree shapes

Figure 1: Natural shape of pine trees

candling pines

Figure 2: Direction of growth
that occurs from your cuts