Pruning Basics

Learn How to Prune with Trees Atlanta

You can learn how to prune young trees with us! There are a few simple steps to get started, including watching prerequisite educational videos, attending Pruning 101 class or watching the virtual webinar, and taking a simple 5-minute quiz. After completing these easy steps, you are now ready to practice with us!

Class materials and more information on advancing your pruning knowledge is below.

Pruning Young Trees

Want to know the best way you can help an urban tree live a long, healthy life? Prune it for good structure early in life. While mature tree pruning needs to be done by a professional arborist, you can learn to prune young trees that can be reached from the ground or a step ladder. For trees that are beyond the size you can reach safely from the ground, hire an arborist.

Why do urban trees need pruning?

Trees planted in yards, parking lots, parks, and along streets encounter very different conditions than trees growing in a forest setting where they develop alongside many other trees. Instead of experiencing competition for sunlight, they are often given full sunlight and have no need to focus their growth upward toward the sun. If left unmanaged, trees growing in full sun often don’t reach the same height or have as strong of structure as trees that grow alongside other trees.

Trees in urban settings also need pruning for practical reasons, such as providing clearance for pedestrians on sidewalks or cars that pass on the street. Of course, strategic pruning is also done for aesthetic reasons, too.  In all cases, there are guidelines you should follow in order not to damage the tree or cause excessive loss of canopy or limbs that may result in harm or death of the tree.

The Trees Atlanta Way

Trees Atlanta plants over 7,000 trees in urban areas each year. We care for each tree we plant for a minimum of 2 years which should be enough time for them to establish where they are planted. Part of our care schedule includes pruning.

We prune young trees to promote strong structure and help the trees live longer lives. With thousands of trees planted each year, we have a lot of pruning to do. Our staff and volunteers return to the trees we plant generally between Years 2 and 5 to check for any structural needs. Making strategic cuts while a tree is smaller can create better form and make a huge difference for the tree’s lifetime of growth.

Become a Certified Tree Pruning Volunteer

Pruning is a skilled volunteer role at Trees Atlanta and requires training. You’ll learn pruning basics and how to use the proper tools, and we’ll guide you along your learning journey. There are several levels of training that will help you to become more proficient as you practice with us at volunteer projects.

Before you can prune trees with us, volunteers must complete Pruning 101 and 102 and complete these steps to become a Certified Tree Pruner:

  1. Watch the prerequisite educational videos (about 1 hour) by Dr. Ed Gilman from the University of Florida’s Environmental Horticulture website (Video Resources listed below). All students who want to register for Pruning 101 are required to watch this video in advance of attending the class.
  2. Create a volunteer profile (if you do not have one yet): complete this form to get started.
  3. Watch the Pruning 101 webinar. Complete the virtual training by watching the Pruning 101 Webinar (50 minutes). Students can watch Trees Atlanta’s Pruning 101 Webinar to review basics at any time.
  4. Take the quiz. After you watch the prerequisite videos and complete the Pruning 101 class, please complete and submit the 5-question quiz to get marked as Pruning 101-qualified.
  5. Take Pruning 102. After completing Pruning 101, you can then advance to Pruning 102 that covers additional techniques and allows you to continue practicing with guidance. We are currently offering Pruning 102 as in-person classes. Find and register for an upcoming class listed on our Calendar. After completion of Pruning 102, you will be a Certified Tree Pruner and eligible to volunteer at pruning projects.

Trees Atlanta Certified Tree Pruners are invited to further their pruning skills and learn to tackle our most challenging trees during Pruning 103. This last class in our series will build your confidence and have you feeling ready to prune on your own!

Pruning 101 can be completed virtually at any time. Check out our Calendar for upcoming Pruning 102 and 103 classes.

Video Resources

Prerequisite instructional videos that you must watch before watching the Pruning 101 virtual class takes approximately 1 hour total. Please watch the following instructional videos from Dr. Ed Gilman, Professor Emeritus, Environmental Horticulture Department, University of Florida.

Tree mechanics and structure video


If you’d like to learn even more, feel free to watch his other videos in his Arboriculture Video Series. They are a wealth of information and will improve your understanding of trees’ pruning needs.

Pruning 101 Webinar

Questions? Contact Susan Pierce Cunningham at

See all Volunteer Pathways, including all Certified Volunteer training programs.