Drought can cause tree leaves to die.

How to Prune Dead Leaves on Trees

by Sarah Mason

Not only are dead tree leaves unsightly, but they can increase fire and safety hazards, and decrease the health and vigor of the tree. In addition, dead leaves on trees may indicate a more severe, underlying problem, such as an infection caused by fungi, bacteria or virus, which can spread to other parts of the tree if allowed to remain. In order to avoid the problems associated with dead leaves on trees, it is important to remove them as they appear.

Sanitize your garden tools before use. Wipe off any visible dirt with a clean rag, then soak them in a mixture of 1 part rubbing alcohol (70 percent isopropyl) and 1 part water for five minutes. Rinse with water after disinfecting and allow to air dry. Sanitation is important to prevent the spread of plant diseases and bacteria.

Prune dead, damaged or diseased branches as soon as possible. While pruning can be done year-round, it's better to avoid pruning during hot dry periods or extreme cold periods.

Prune off tree limbs that do not support healthy foliage. A branch with mostly dead or dying leaves may be diseased and should be removed immediately. For small limbs with a 1/2- to 3/4-inch diameter, use bypass pruners. For medium limbs with a 3/4- to 1 1/2-inch diameter, use bypass loppers. For larger limbs with a 1 1/2- to 3-inch diameter, use pruning saws. Place your clean pruner, lopper or saw carefully above the swelling at the base of the branch -- called the collar -- where it connects to the tree trunk. Make a clean, firm cut. If necessary, more than one cut may be used.

Pick the dead leaves off of the tree by hand if it only has a few. Dead leaves are not always a sign of a serious infection and can be pruned without removing the entire branch. Grasp an undesired leaf at the base of the stem, and gently pull to remove.

Items you will need

  • Rag
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Bypass pruners, bypass loppers or pruning saw.
  • Goggles
  • Gloves


  • Always wear protective eyewear and gloves when handling pruners, loppers and saws.

About the Author

Based in Fort Worth, Sarah Mason has been writing articles since 2009 on topics including nutrition, fitness, women's health and gardening. Her work has appeared in "Flourish" and "Her Campus." Mason holds a Bachelors of Arts in economics from the University of Florida.

Photo Credits

  • John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images