Pine trees are low-maintenance trees, so they do not require extensive pruning. However, regular pruning can promote denser foliage and maintain an attractive shape and size.
Remove dead branches
If needles are not growing on a branch, peel back the bark in a small area. If the area underneath is not green, then the branch is dead.
Use a three-cut method to remove large branches
If a branch is dead or dying, cut it back to the branch collar, which is the knob around the joint where the branch meets the trunk. For thick branches, utilize the three-cut method to avoid damaging the collar. Come out 12 inches from the truck and cut halfway through the branch from the bottom. Go out an additional 2 inches and cut down from the top, removing the branch. Cut the stump of the branch just beyond the branch collar.
Prune new growth
Buds only grow at the end of the current season's growth. To limit branch width, cut only new candles, or the current season's growth. For best results, prune new growth between mid-June to mid-July.
Avoid pruning the trunk
If the trunk gets pruned, co-dominant central leaders can develop. This makes the tree vulnerable to snow and wind damage. If co-dominant central leaders have already developed, choose one and cut back the others.