Tree and shrub pruning should be a part of your yard’s annual maintenance schedule. While the typical tree pruning cycle is three to five years, the type, size, and health of your tree play a critical role in finding the cycle that is best for the tree. With one exception, the best time to prune a tree is while it’s dormant, which occurs during the winter months.
WHEN SHOULD YOU PRUNE A TREE: WINTER PRUNING
Pruning during the winter months ensures your tree is dormant. Pruning during dormancy is the most common practice and allows for a literal burst of new growth in the spring. Wait until the coldest part of winter has passed. Dormant pruning also helps with disease management.
WHEN SHOULD YOU PRUNE A TREE: SUMMER PRUNING
Summer pruning is only advised if you’re looking to direct the growth by slowing (pruning) the branches you don’t want. This should be done shortly after seasonal growth is complete. By pruning the unwanted branches, you are reducing the amount of food being sent to the roots and stunting growth.
WHEN SHOULD YOU PRUNE A TREE: PRUNING GUIDELINES
The guidelines of what and when to prune are relatively straightforward. Winter dormancy, when possible, is best with one exception.
- Conifers: Prune in the late winter while still fully dormant.
- Non-blooming trees and shrubs: Prune in late winter while still fully dormant.
- Summer-blooming trees and shrubs: Prune in late winter while still fully dormant.
- Spring-blooming trees and shrubs: Prune immediately after blooming.
If you’re pruning blooming trees to enhance flowering, follow these two guidelines.
- Spring-blooming trees: Prune when their flowers fade
- Mid- to late summer-blooming trees: Prune in late winter or early spring
WHEN SHOULD YOU PRUNE A TREE: YEAR-ROUND PRUNING
Throughout the year, you can manage your trees and shrubs by trimming back small branches, lightly shaping your bushes and hedges, and removing dead or diseased branches. If you live in an area prone to ice storms or hurricanes, remove loose and dead branches year-round to prevent further damage to the tree during a storm.