Maple trees are strong, tall trees with leaves that turn vibrant colors in the fall. Maple trees can grow up to 150 feet tall, so it is important to prune maple trees when they are young and small, as this will help the maple tree maintain the right shape as it continues to grow.
Maple trees will lose large amounts of sap when pruned, as this is the trees’ way of responding to a wound. Losing sap does not mean that the tree is suffering or dying. As long as you prune the maple tree in the right manner at the right time, your maple tree should survive any cuts you make.
If you have a sapling that you want to prune, we recommend waiting until the soft sapling has matured into a young tree. Saplings cannot endure pruning as they will lose too much sap to survive. Wait until the sapling has matured into a young tree before you prune so that it does not lose too much sap to survive.
Best Time to Prune Maple Trees
As maple trees can lose large amounts of sap when they are pruned, it is recommended to prune in late spring or summer, but you can also prune during the dormant months in late fall and winter.
Pruning Maple Trees in Spring or Summer
Pruning maple trees in late spring or summer means significantly less sap will come from the cuts. Many pruners recommend pruning during this time so that you do not have to deal with excessive amounts of sap that will come from the cuts.
Trimming Maple Trees in Fall and Winter
You can also choose to prune maple trees during late fall and winter when the maple tree is dormant. During this time, there is no growth or budding on the trees, which will allow you to reach branches that you may otherwise not be able to reach when the foliage is full in spring and summer.
The downside to pruning in late fall and winter is the sap. The later you wait in winter, the more sap will seep from the cuts. Root pressure builds up in the tree and reaches its peak during late winter. This causes sap to easily flow from any cut you make in the tree during this time, even the small ones.
The Choice Yours When You Decide To Prune.
If you prune in late spring or summer, know that the sap will be significantly less, though the growth will be full and potentially difficult to navigate while pruning.
If you prune in late fall and winter, know that the sap will flow freely from even the smallest cuts you make with the benefit of pruning during these months being no foliage or growth to fight while making cuts.
How to Prune Maple Trees
To prune maple trees, you will need to have a sharp pair of pruners so that you make clean cuts to the tree. We will separate this section into two categories: pruning young maple trees between 3 and 10 years old and pruning mature maple trees older than 10 years old, as the methods for pruning will differ depending on the age of the tree.
Pruning Young Maple Trees Between 3 and 10 Years Old
Maple trees less than three years old are still considered soft saplings. This means that the sapling is too weak to endure pruning and will likely lose too much sap if pruned. For this, we recommend pruning maple trees once they have reached at least 3 years old.
When pruning maple trees between 3 and 10 years old, you will only want to focus on removing dead or weak branches on the tree. Leave everything else in place until the tree reaches 10 years old, cutting off dead or weak branches each year until then.
This stage of pruning is imperative if you want to give your maple tree strength and shape. Pruning at an early age between 3 and 10 years old will significantly reduce the amount of pruning you would need to do for a tree 10 years and older.
You can cut off healthy branches of the maple tree if you are trying to give the tree a shape that you want it to grow. Just remember that cutting too many healthy branches can cause the young tree to die, so you should only focus on cutting one or two healthy branches each year between 3 and 10 years of life.
Pruning Mature Maple Trees Older Than 10 Years
Trees that are older than 10 years will not require as much pruning as younger trees as long as you have pruned the tree correctly during its first 10 years of life.
For trees that are over 10 years old, you should keep all healthy branches in place. This is not the time to try to reshape the tree. At this age, the tree is the shape it will need to remain.
Instead, you should focus on dead branches that need to be removed. Removing dead branches will allow the energy of the tree to move to other areas of the tree. This will help create new growth and keep the entire tree healthy.