Crossed Branches and Pruning

When pruning shrubs and trees there are certain characteristics you need to look for to determine where to cut, how to cut, when to cut, or even what to cut. It’s like a good mystery movie with the who, what, when, and where! One very important thing to watch out for is crossed branches (this would be a who). Crossed branches are branches that have grown into a position where the bark rubs against the bark of another branch or trunk.

crape myrtle flowers

Crossed branches can rub when the wind blows gradually scraping away the bark and causing damage. If left long enough the branches will gradually merge together possibly making the form of the plant look a little less desirable.

The other day when out in the garden I took a short video that demonstrated what it looks like when branches cross. It happens fairly frequently and even more so with fast growing plants like crape myrtles. This video on crossed branches highlights a crossed branch on our of our crape myrtles. As a bonus you get to see a honeysuckle trying to girdle a tree!


Tips Keep in mind when pruning:

  • Use a sharp saw, blade, or pruning shears.
  • Clean the blades periodically. If a plant that is diseased needs cut clean before using on another other plants.
  • When pruning large branches first cut underneath the branch to sever the connected wood from the trunk. Then cut from above. When the branch is separated it will break down to the first cut.
  • If cutting the end of a branch cut above a node. Notice where the node is point as that will be the direction of the new branch that emerges. That is how you can control the form of the plant!
  • Make cuts at angles that allow water to drain off quickly. Flat cuts can retain water on top of them for longer periods which makes the branches more prone to diseases and fungal issues.