Bending a Tree to my Will

Hi Folks

I have a beautiful, huge Oak in the front yard. One of the things I like best about it is a large branch, probably 6-8 inches in diameter, that runs out across the yard, probably 15 feet long. Looks very cool.

However, as this tree has grown, the weight of the branch has made it (the branch itself) hang very low to the ground, so that when fully “leafed” it nearly touches the ground, and getting under there with the mower and such has become a real pain.

I can push up on the branch and raise it about three feet with relative ease, which would make all the difference in terms of getting around it. It is about six feet off the ground where it meets the tree trunk.

What I want to know is, if I propped it up with a 2x4 or similar, would it over time take on that new angle and stay like that? Would this hurt the tree in any way?

Any suggestions would be welcome, besides cutting the branch off. I am prepared to live with it before I do that. But one of these days I know I am going to lose an eye to this thing trying to mow underneath it.


Trees can be bent and eventually they will stay how they are forced because of new cell growth over a period of years. The oak will however always have gravity pulling down on all that extended mass on the long branch and slowly revert back to hanging low to the ground. You’d have to trim off mass from the far end of the branch if the prop is to ever be removed.

Rather than propping it up from the ground with a 2x4, a more invisible option would be a wire secured on the main trunk, pulling up on the branch in question. Use a come along winch to tighten the wire, or prop it up with a 2x4 temporarily and secure the wire in place. Also, be sure to put something between the wire and the tree itself so that the wire doesn’t bite into the tree.

As Harmonious Discord said, the tree will eventually give to the pressure, and you’ll be able to raise it up a bit more every year if you wish it to be higher. It will never really stay like that without support though… The branch is thick enough now that it will just sag again if the support is removed.

a cable even passed through garden hose piece will deform a tree under tension, the tree will grow around it (it will leave a depression). better would be to use a number of wide straps provide the tension.

Thanks for the suggestions. I like the idea of a cable- once the leaves are back on the tree it shouldn’t even be very visible.


Take care if using a cable. When it snaps (and it will one day) you’ll have a couple of tonnes of wood moving downwards very fast. Bad news for anything or anyone underneath.

Not a good place for a bench then. :smiley:

I’ve seen on This Old House where they have an aborist come in to do similar work. They usually end up using a cable as suggested, but they drill through the tree and use eye bolts and large washers to provide the anchor point. The tree will eventually enclose the hardware, but apparently it’s not an issue when compared to losing a large part of the tree via breakage,

on that show they may have been doing a one time stabilization of a limb. if you were training a limb that same technique may not work for either the tree or hardware.

Putting a support under the branch actually makes it weaker, since the limb no longer needs to support it’s own weight. After enough time should the support come out from under the limb it’ll drop right to the ground and likely break off. Supporting the branch is still what you need to do, but there better ways to do it.

The problem with wrapping anything around the branch is girdling.
This not only risks killing the limb, but as the branch continues to grow it will try to grow around the loop. Eventually, as johnpost said, either the new growth will envelope the loop (looking something like this } { until the bark meets, this can take years) if the loop is loose enough. A tight loop is more likely to girdle the branch and kill it.

The better option is to attach the wire to a wood threaded eye screw in the trunk and a machine screw threaded eye bolt with a thick washer or a couple of thinner ones under the nut for the branch (stainless steel if you can get it). In the case of the branch you’ve got the largest diameter you can find, the longest length you can find. Finding the right length is gonna be your biggest problem, 10" or 12" would work fine for your branch, 8" might work too.

Drill a plumb hole through the branch, same diameter as the bolt, and a counterbore hole (preferably with a “flat-bottomed hole” drill bit like a spade, brad point, or Forstner) the size of the washer on the other side. The counterbore only needs to go through the bark, not much deeper. The counterbore hole in the bark should be elongated so it looks like this ﴾﴿ with the curved cuts meeting, like an eye. This is the orientation for a hole in a tree trunk, your “eye” should have its long axis in line with the length of the limb (the points of the wound point to the trunk and branch tips). I’m not remembering if you want to remove everything down to the wood or not, but that shaped wound heals much faster than a simple round one.

For the trunk side the largest diameter, longest length wood threaded eye screw you can find, the longer the better. It’s a whole lot easier to screw them in if you drill a properly sized pilot hole first. Leave an inch or so of the eye screw’s shank visible, room for the tree to grow and still replace the eye screw if necessary (the screw-eye in the limb, not so much).

Steel cable is probably the best choice to run between the eyes, chain would work too. At first it will be under tension because you’ll most likely be pulling the branch up, as the branch grows it’s the weight of the branch that the wire must carry. So chose the wire size real carefully, basically bigger is better. Remember you need to support the limb and any snow or wind loading, you’ll probably want something thicker than you think you need. Push the limb up to a little higher than your desired height with a 2x4 attach the wire and your done.

This is very similar to the way trees with twin leaders (one tree, two trunks pretty much the same size) are repaired when they crack at the fork. You drill two holes through the trunks and use a steel rod to pull the trunks together.

CMC fnord!

In the longer term, it’s probably going to be better if you cut the branch off. If it comes away of its own accord it might damage the main stem.