When is the Best Time to Prune Trees?

Trees are an exception to the rule, but they should still be pruned as soon as possible. The best time to prune most deciduous trees is from February to March, when the absence of foliage gives a clear view of the tree and allows for the selection and removal of appropriate branches. Winter months (December, January and February) are the best time to prune oaks. Most tree branches that are cut to the trunk or a main branch require three cuts to prevent damage to the bark.

The first two cuts remove the weight of the tree branch, and the final cut is designed for the best growth of callus. Thinning must be constant throughout the tree, and only 10 to 20 percent of tree branches should be removed from the edge of the canopy. Small ornamental and fruit trees can be thinned by removing smaller branches between ¼ and ½ inch thick. Light summer pruning can be done on most deciduous trees and shrubs, while more intensive pruning should be carried out when the tree is inactive, preferably in late winter before active growth begins.

Trees such as maples (Acer) bleed heavily sap and must be pruned in winter while trees are dormant. Shrubs that bloom in spring, such as lilac and forsythia, bloom during the growth of the previous season and must be pruned within two weeks after flowering. Taking advantage of these months of inactivity gives gardeners time to develop a plan for pruning and trimming trees in their landscaping. Qualified 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 precious energy to produce healthy new growth once the climate warms up. Trees that receive the right amount of pruning when young will need less excessive pruning as they grow. By pruning and pruning trees in specific ways, you can encourage fruiting and flowering, shape plants into specific shapes, and control plant size. However, it is important to remember that not all trees need to be pruned - most gardeners do too much, not too little.

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