Skip to main content Skip to navigation
Washington State University
WSU Puyallup Ornamental Plant Pathology

Pruning Elm Trees

elm tree in winterThe irrigation system should be turned OFF in early September to allow the trees to harden-off before the onset of cold winter temperatures;  this will reduce winter kill.
Prune after the trees have dropped their leaves … late fall, winter, early spring.

Pruning guidelines:

  1. Remove all dead branches.
  2. Remove or reduce co-dominant branches … if there are parallel branches remove the one closest to the main stem … prune so that the crown is balanced on all sides.
  3. IF there is no obvious leader, select one upper branch to become the leader, remove all other nearby competing branches.
  4. IF a leader already exists, reduce the size by 1/3 – 1/2, and remove all the small branches within 6″-12″ of the tip of the leader.
  5. For cultivars that have close-spaced branches along the main stem, remove every other branch along the stem to open up the crown.
  6. Remove all branches that are growing towards the main stem … new growth should be away from the main stem.
  7. Remove all branches on the lower 1/3 – 1/2 of the tree, however, in the case of trees with very small diameter main stems,  do not completely remove all of the lower branches, but rather, prune them back by 1/2 their length … this will help to develop caliber during next year’s growing season.
  8. DO NOT secure the trees to stakes or poles during the winter … wait until spring to do this.