Is it Wrong to Prune a Tree in Autumn?

Pruning trees is intended to stimulate new growth or to remove branches that could become a danger in the winter. Most experts agree that major pruning should not be done in the fall, as it can damage or even kill trees. However, it is acceptable to prune dead, sick, or damaged wood, as well as anything on the property that could be hazardous. When it comes to pruning trees, understanding how a tree grows can help us understand that pruning should be done during a fast-growing season so that the tree can quickly compartmentalize the wound.

For most trees, this period is late winter or early spring. In autumn, pruning should be focused on removing dead, dying, broken, or dangerous limbs. This maintenance pruning can be done at any time of the year, since safety is always the main concern. Major corrective pruning should be done during the dormant winter season or early spring.

During this time, all potentially harmful pests of the tree remain dormant. When spring arrives, the tree grows rapidly to help seal the wound and protect itself from damage. Pruning trees at the right time is crucial to keeping them healthy. During the fall, the internal systems of the tree begin to slow down as it prepares for dormancy.

Water from tree tissue begins to turn into starch which insulates cellular tissue from freezing damage. Do not cut leaves and buds in autumn as this can remove flower buds that a tree has already set during summer growth. These buds remain dormant during the winter months and bloom in spring. Having an ISA-certified arborist examine your trees before pruning them is essential for proper care.

Allowing the tree to form rolled wood and cut itself leads to increased tree vigor and faster recovery. Despite this, major pruning can still irreparably harm a tree's overall health. When there is a risk of certain diseases such as oak wilting, painting the wounds of tree pruning is an important protective measure. Trees that receive the right amount of pruning when young will need less excessive pruning as they grow. Because some trees can ooze sap when pruned in winter, it is better to wait until summer to prune maple, birch, dogwood, walnut and elm trees. Once a tree develops an injury, whether caused by pruning, cutting or illness, the lesion is sealed by the tree. Winter is an excellent time to prune most trees and shrubs in northeastern Ohio.

Pruning trees at the right time in fall or winter cannot compensate for damage caused by excessive pruning, lion's tail or hedging.

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