The size of the branch determines the location of the pruning cut. A small twig or branch can be pruned back to a bud or lateral branch. On a small branch make the cut one-quarter inch above the bud, and slant the cut away from the bud (see diagram).
1. Natural target pruning is the technique used when cutting beyond the bark ridge and branch collar (collectively called the branch shoulder). see diagram below. This cut provides a physical barrier to disease and injury within the intact branch shoulder. This compartmentalization of the wound stops injury from spreading into the main trunk of the plant where it could spread throughout the plant and be damaging to the plant as a whole. The wound size is also smaller allowing callus to grow quickly over the wound and limits potential exposure to insect and disease infestation.
2. Large branches or limbs (those to heavy to hold while cutting) are removed by a series of three cuts. The first cut is made on the underside of the limb about 12 inches from the branch crotch and should go about one -quarter of the way through the limb. The second cut is made on the top side of the branch about 2 inches farther out on the limb from the undercut. Cut down until the branch cracks off. As you are completing the second cut, careful to watch for the branch suddenly dropping or moving quickly as the branch weight accelerates limb removal. The third cut is made on the top side of the stump left over, just outside of the bark ridge and branch collar. See the diagram (on next page) to determine where the final pruning cut should be made. Be sure to support the branch stump when making the final cut to avoid tearing the tissue when completing the cut.
Three cut method diagram for pruning large branches: