When is the Best Time to Prune Trees and Shrubs?

Pruning trees and shrubs is best done during the winter months, between late autumn and early spring. This is the ideal window for pruning, as the leaves have fallen and before the flowers appear. However, the requirements for pruning will vary by species and purpose. If pruning is necessary due to dead branches or a safety hazard, it can be done at any time.

It is important to note that harmful diseases can be easily spread if trees and shrubs are pruned at the wrong time of year. For example, oaks should never be pruned during the summer months due to oak wilt, a disease spread by pests that can infect and even kill oaks. The best time to prune oaks is during the winter months of December, January, and February. Most deciduous trees should be pruned between February and March.

The absence of foliage at this time of year gives a clear view of the tree and allows for the selection and removal of appropriate branches. Additionally, plugging or compartmentalization of wounds occurs more rapidly just before the start of growth in spring. When transplanting a tree, it is necessary to cut 1/3 of the top so that the tree can survive the “impact of being transplanted”. If a tree is damaged during a summer storm, it is important to cut off necessary branches as soon as it is safe to do so.

Tree care specialists are pruning trees every day throughout the year without many detrimental effects. Late winter and early spring pruning helps trees sink all of their energy into producing healthy new growth once the climate warms up. Utility companies often prune trees to clean them, but aesthetics are not always taken into account. Cleaning the crown of a tree strengthens it overall and prevents future damage to both the tree and surrounding property, while increasing safety.

By pruning trees in specific ways, you can encourage fruiting and flowering, shape plants into specific shapes, and control plant size. Knowing when to prune trees keeps them healthy in the long run and sets them up for a robust growing season. If you are trimming shorter trees yourself, look for tree clippers with long reach poles so you can keep your feet safely on the ground. Trees that get the right amount of pruning when young will need less excessive pruning as they grow.

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