Badly Pruned Trees OR How Not to Prune Trees


I have a love affair with trees.

It’s true. I love their beautiful branch architecture, foliage and the dappled shade that they provide. Living in the desert Southwest, shade is a valuable commodity with the relief it offers from the intense sun and cool temperatures it offers.

desert Southwest

For all these reasons and more, I can’t fathom why people would prune their trees like this, stripping them of all their beauty and much of their function.

Badly Pruned Trees OR How Not to Prune Trees

Badly pruned trees

The phrase that comes to mind when seeing something like this is badly pruned trees or how ‘not’ to prune trees.

Unfortunately, this is just one of many trees in this parking lot that have fallen prey to terrible pruning practices.

As a certified arborist, I see many bad examples of pruning, but I can honestly say that the trees in this parking lot are the worst.

Badly Pruned Trees OR How Not to Prune Trees

Years ago, my husband and I used to live next to the area in Scottsdale and the appalling pruning that was done to the trees was well known by me.

On this lovely day, the kids and I were on our way home from the Desert Botanical Garden when we drove past this shopping plaza. I quickly made a detour to see if anything had changed.

Sadly, they hadn’t. So, I took out my camera and started taking photos.

See if you can guess what each badly tree is:

Badly Pruned Trees OR How Not to Prune Trees


Badly Pruned Trees OR How Not to Prune Trees


Badly Pruned Trees OR How Not to Prune Trees


Badly Pruned Trees OR How Not to Prune Trees


Feel free to leave your answers in the comments section. After guessing, click here for the answers with examples of what the trees should look like when properly maintained.

Needless to say, you don’t need to know what type of trees they are to realize that they have been ‘butchered’.

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
8 replies
  1. biobabbler
    biobabbler says:

    WHY, oh why, would someone dramatically reduce the amount of shade cast by a tree in the desert? The mind reels. =) Shade is gold in the desert.

  2. trav4adventures
    trav4adventures says:

    I can't really tell WHAT these trees are! I often wonder WHY our desert trees are cut back so severely in the last spring/early summer…YES, when we NEED their shade! DUH!

  3. Lesley
    Lesley says:

    Do you have any advice for badly pruned rosemary shrubs? Its not pretty! just green and new growth on the top 1/3, and the bottom 2/3 is just exposed brown woody stems. Do you think they will grow back out, or if they can be saved by being cut down very much, as in rejevenative pruning?

  4. says:

    Hi Lesley,

    Great question1 Unfortunately, rosemary do not seem to respond well to severe pruning. You could certainly try, with the expectation that you'll probably end up replacing it, just in case it does grow back.

    I hope this helps!


  5. Danni Black
    Danni Black says:

    Wow, that is definitely a botched tree trimming job. My husband and I have been wanting to get our trees trimmed for a while now so we will be sure to do our research and find a company that will do it the right way. Thanks for sharing!

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