Lion-Tail Pruning: Not Worth the Risk

larger tree with wide branches

Generally, the aim of our blog is to provide you with two resources:

1. Education to help you understand why your plants do what they do.

2. Best-practices that you can use right now to be proactive with the health and maintenance of your trees and shrubs.

However, we also need to issue warnings about practices that are unsafe for your trees and shrubs. Throughout our posts we frequently discourage “tree topping,” a dangerous practice that cuts off the entire top of a tree. However, a new pruning practice has recently gained traction that goes against industry standards:

Lion-Tail Pruning

Lion-Tail pruning is a practice that can be equated to “gutting” a tree. A dangerous majority of the inner branches are removed during this process, as well as 50%-75% of the tree’s entire foliage. There remains only a small tuft of foliage on the end of the branch, resembling a lion’s tail—hence the name.

Usually, the homeowner’s intent is to reduce the number of leaves that end up on the ground. Unfortunately, because leaves are essential to the process of photosynthesis, poorly executed cuts and aggressive branch removal actually forces the tree into shock. Overcompensating for its loss, the tree rapidly produces an excess of new growth sprouts—called “suckers.”

Lion-tail pruning not only ruins the tree’s aesthetic, but also creates hazards. Aggressive cuts leave open wounds that don’t heal quickly, making it easy for birds and insects to transport diseases and parasites. The structure of the tree is also jeopardized. Instead of the weight being evenly distributed across the branch, it is now concentrated on the end, causing an unnatural amount of stress. This leaves the branches vulnerable to breakage.

Dangers of Lion-Tail pruning

● Unnatural weight distribution (End-heavy branches)

● Branch breakage

● Sun scalding

● “Sucker” growth

● Rotting and cracks

● Increased disease and insect vulnerability

Tree Pruning Services

Pruning is more than hacking away at a tree with a saw. It is a specialized procedure, requiring arborists to adapt their strategy with each tree in order to meet its specific needs. Aggressive pruning can cause aesthetic and structural damage to the tree, decreasing its ability to produce food, while increasing its susceptibility to disease and damage from storms. ISA Certified Arborists (like those at CVTS-L) will bring the knowledge and skillset to ensure the beauty, health, and safety of the trees on your property.