Friday 7 September 2012

Garden myths debunked: Part 2. Tree paint

Tree paint helps wounds heal

In my time, I have made a hundred thousand pruning cuts. Never have I used tree paint, and never will. Trees suffer broken limbs all the time. Nature has subtle ways of self-healing and excluding wound disease. A layer of paint works against nature and provides a barrier behind which fungal rots thrive. Painting wounds with sealant will do no good and may do harm.

No tree paint here, even on the birdbox!

Observe the torn branches inflicted when farmers flail their hedges, or when shrubs in retail car parks are ‘pruned’. No tree paint there (except in the shop!). Such mutilation does not look lovely but trees and shrubs always recover.

Severe deer damage.
Two years on,
healing continues. 
Use of tree paint goes firmly into the bin: for clean cuts, bad cuts, gashes, slashes and animal damage, let nature do the work.

The world of arboriculture has acknowledged this truth for years. Some practitioners admit they use tree paint, but only when the customer insists! Those confident of their craft, refuse. The tree-lopper who knocks on your door will probably use tree paint. It’s like having a sign on his head saying, “I’m a cowboy”.

There will always be special pleading that paint is needed in one’s own specific case. I cannot put my hand on my heart and say that in this big wide world this is never so, but it will be extremely rare.

A surprising footnote
My above remarks are about paint that seals. Other chemicals and biological agents applied to wounds are sometimes worthwhile. The nodiggardener confesses to having rubbed soil on wounds, but that’s another story.

A major cut - one year on


  1. I agree that sealing tree paints and similar products are utterly useless, except to the manufacturers making money out of flogging them to the gullible public. However, trees cannot heal damaged tissue. Instead, they wall off the damaged areas from healthy ones through a process called compartmentalization. It is their defense mechanism. The damaged tissue, or decay, will remain isolated within the tree for life. Evidence of this is seen when a felled tree is examined.

    1. Roy Sinclair, Snettisham8 September 2012 at 14:26

      I also agree with this myth - it's a money-making con!

      In addition to your very valid point Louis, flush cuts destroy the tree cells that seal off the wound from the healthy part of the tree. Therefore, pruning cuts should be made on the outside of the branch collar.

  2. Thanks for this Roger. As you say, many of us in the tree care care industry have been advising against the use of tree paints or so called 'wound sealants' for a long time. It is far better that where pruning is being considered it is thought through beforehand to ensure that it is appropriate for the species of tree and really achieve the intended objectives . The position and size of pruning wounds is very important. Poor pruning can lead to quite a range of problems with tree health and can cause early decline. On a slightly separate but linked issue, tree work is a potentially hazardous operation and in many cases should be carried out by those with appropriate training, experience and insurance.


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