How to - Techniques

Pollard a tree to inhibit its growth

Manage a tree's size using this dramatic pruning technique

After being pollarded, the tree may look like a barren stick, but after a few weeks, vigorous, leafy growth will begin to develop from dormant buds around the cut-wounds and under the bark near the trunk of the tree. During the first few months, all the energy the tree was saving to produce foliage will be diverted to developing new growth. Tender young saplings will explode from the tree and grow four to six feet in height. By the end of the summer, the ball-like canopy will be clearly visible.

Once a tree has been pollarded, it can be left to recover, but it should be pruned regularly. Lake recommends pollarding the tree every two to three years to maintain the results of the initial pruning. This will encourage new growth and help keep the tree's shape and height.

Before pollardingAfter pollarding

Trees that will withstand the pollarding technique
Depending on the species, some trees thrive after being pollarded, while others will not survive. According to Lake, willow trees have a 95 per cent success rate after being pollarded, but beech trees should never be pruned using this technique. With the exception of yew trees, there are not many conifers that will tolerate being pollarded.

Trees that will thrive after being pollarded:
• Oak - Quercus spp.
• Catalpa - Catalpa spp.
• Maple - Acer spp.
• Linden - Tilia spp.
• Mulberry - Morus spp.
• Redbud - Cercis canadensis
• London planetree - Platanus x acerifolia
• Tree of Heaven - Ailanthus altissima
• Willow - Salix spp.
• Hornbeam - Carpinus spp.
• Black locust - Robinia pseudoacacia
• Horsechestnut - Aesculus hippocastanum

As certain trees age, their inner branches and trunks can become brittle and thin, making them extremely top heavy without any support to carry their weight. Pollarding the upper branches can help rejuvenate an entire tree, ensuring that it will have a long and healthy life.

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