Step 1: Remove Diseased Wood
Dead and diseased wood is quite obvious, so remove this first. Although it is more difficult to see the outline of a tree in leaf, it should be easier once you have removed any unhealthy stems.
Step 2: Prune Center Stems
Take out stems that are growing toward the center of the tree. Be wary of pruning large branches that will heal slowly.
Step 3: Untangle Branches
Remove any crossing branches to prevent them from rubbing against each other and causing wounds that may result in serious damage, especially in the case of trees that bleed sap.
Step 4: Remove Weak Stems
Prune out weak stems that did not produce flowers or that have few leaves, and rub out shoots forming on the lower trunk.
Step 5: Trim Wayward Stems
Keep the tree in shape by reducing the length of wayward side stems, cutting them back by about one-third.
Step 6: The Result: An Open Canopy
The pruned tree has a better shape and a more open canopy, allowing more light into the center, and promoting vigorous stems.
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Trees that bleed sap when cut, such as the magnolia shown here, are best pruned in summer.