The last few inches of a young branch on a fruit tree (several branches, several trees) are dead so I plan on cutting it off.

Should I make the cut in the living section or dead section?


4 Answers 4


You should cut in the dead area so you do not provide a new wound which allows new opportunities for infection. If the branch was diseased appropriate sanitation is required on the pruning tools.

The most important thing to realize is that there is no expert answer. Arboriculture and pruning practices are changing as research is done. Findings change by region and species. This somewhat technical article provides a good summary and has a few good quotes such as:

  • Research has established that the seasonal timing of pruning determines whether it has positive or negative consequences
  • Not every aspect of pruning has a strong research foundation.
  • Removing stubs located outside the branch collar may improve wound wood development, but no documentation for this was identified in our search
  • ..whether tree health is improved by pruning.There is only a tenuous scientific link.

The living part.

You want the cut end to heal, which means that it has to be living. Also, if the branch is dying because of infection, you don't want to leave that part of the branch attached for the infection to spread.


In many cases, both.

For a branch of significant size, you should cut into the underside of the dead section (1/4 branch thickness or so - not so far as to bind your saw) near the living section, then cut from the top of the dead section an inch/2.5 cm further out (beyond the lower cut) so that the branch breaking off does not cause a damaging split into the live section. THEN cut the short stub remaining off in the live section so it can heal over.

If infection/disease is a concern, either use a different saw for the live cuts, or disinfect the saw between cutting the dead part and the live part.

Small branches can simply be sheared off with loppers in the live section.


Logically, it has to be the living part.

Before you make the cut, you have a portion of living tree, extending into a portion of dead tree. If you cut the dead tree portion, you still have the same condition: the living portion and the dead portion. If the dead portion was okay to leave, you wouldn't need to make a cut at all!

The only way to change the actual condition would be to cut the living portion. Cutting the dead portion doesn't change the structure of the branch.

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