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The APA Certified Aesthetic Pruner® designation indicates a high level of proficiency in applying the art and science of aesthetic pruning in a variety of situations. CAPs are adept pruners who understand the biology of woody plants as well as design and art principles.

APA certification has 4 sections.

1. The first section is the application and portfolio.

2. The second section is the written exam. The written exam verifies the applicant’s knowledge in six main areas: horticultural and arboricultural practices, legal and ethical issues, and art and design principles. Those who have successfully completed courses in Basic Horticulture, Plant Identification, Arboriculture and Aesthetic Pruning should find the exam challenging, but passable. The seven categories covered on the test are: 1) Establishing young trees; 2) Pruning considerations and concepts; 3) Tree biology; 4) Art & design; 5) Safety; 6) Tree law; and 7) General plant considerations.

3. The third section is the verbal exam. The oral exam involves a virtual meeting with three Test Administrators via Zoom. While looking at photos of a garden, applicants are asked various questions about the garden’s design and how it would be better served through the practice of aesthetic pruning. Additionally, specific questions regarding aesthetic pruning, plant health, and other arboriculture related topics will be asked by the Test Administrators.

4. The fourth section is hands-on pruning videos made by the applicant. Once the portfolio is approved applicants will receive guidelines on creating three self-made, hands-on pruning videos. Applicants will need to purchase a container plant which will meet the requirements specified in a document you will receive after your application is accepted. The pruning videos will need to show the pruning plan, the applicant pruning the plant, and a summary of the work that was done. Sample videos are available on the APA website Certification page. The Hands-On Pruning Videos are evaluated in four main areas: Tree Assessment, Quality of Plan, Pruning Skills, and Aesthetics.

Steps to Become an APA Certified Aesthetic Pruner® (CAP)

  1. Become an Associate Member of the APA. Doing so provides you access to many resources, including educational videos, that are useful in preparing your application.
  2. Be a professional pruner.
  3. Be knowledgeable of arboricultural concepts and design principles. Review the Certified Aesthetic Pruner application for additional resources.
  4. Create a portfolio of 15 woody plants that includes examples of pruning cuts. See full requirements in CAP application.
  5. Complete the CAP application. See requirements in CAP application.
  6. Submit the application, portfolio, and fee of $95.
  7. Portfolio is scored by three Test Administrators and if it receives a passing score of 75% a letter will be sent to the applicant describing the three parts of the CAP test.  The three parts are: Three short applicant-made hands-on pruning videos, a virtual oral exam, and an online written test.
  8. Applicant must create three pruning videos of a pre-approved container plant.
  9. Applicant must upload these videos for Test Administrators to evaluate and score (50 points total).
  10. Applicant will take the oral exam online through Zoom (60 points total).
  11. Applicant will take the online written test through Classmarker.com (100 points total).
  12. If applicant receives a cumulative score of 75% from two out of three Test Administrators they pass the CAP exam.
  13. The applicant will be notified if they passed or not within 30 days.
  14. We strongly recommend joining the APA CAP Mentoring group.

CAP Mentoring

Are you interested in becoming an APA Certified Aesthetic Pruner® (CAP)? APA members are invited to join the CAP mentoring meetings listed in the events pagewhich provide support to pruners preparing for the CAP exam. (Non members can become members and take advantage of this opportunity). Meetings cover a range of helpful topics including portfolio review. Dina Blackwell and Eric King chair the meetings and make themselves available outside the meetings as well. Email Dina or Eric to find out more and get support in the application process. 

P.O. Box 5163, Berkeley, CA 94705


The Aesthetic Pruners Association is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization.

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APA Certified Aesthetic Pruner® is a Trademark of Aesthetic Pruners Association, Inc.

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