Tree Pruning: When to Attend to It

The moment you think about tree pruning is the time to act…

It’s a common question among our clients: When is the best time for pruning my trees? And it’s a question with as many answers as there are people who care to comment. There are kernels of truth to ideas that some trees prefer pruning at some times over others, and that tree pruning at various times of the year produces different effects. However, the answer can generally be kept fairly simple: When you remember that your tree needs pruning, that’s when you should do it. Your tree is healthier pruned, no matter the time of year.

tree pruning
This willow is safer and healthier now that dead limbs have been removed. Tree pruning is vital for tree health.

Removal of dead, diseased or problem limbs can be undertaken at any time without negatively affecting the tree. This makes up the bulk of tree pruning requests. Sometimes, though, people simply want their tree cleaned up and thinned out a bit (and kudos to them for seeing the importance of such maintenance!). Attending to this in late winter or early spring – before the buds swell – will maximize growth in the coming year. Conversely, pruning during or soon after the leaves come out can retard growth. The tree has just expended most of its energy in putting out new shoots and leaves, so it has few resources left to compensate for what has been removed. Normally this isn’t a problem, but if too much is removed during this time of major energy output, the tree can become stressed and, thus, more susceptible to disease.

Pruning when the tree is dormant – after it has lost its leaves and before buds swell in the spring – allows the tree the most time and energy for healing its wounds. It gets a full growing season to compartmentalize those pruning points. Furthermore, at the time of tree pruning, pests are also dormant and won’t use the wounds as points of entry.

Fruit and other flowering trees can be pruned at various times to various effect, depending on your desire to enhance flowering, develop proper structure, or thin fruit. Other trees may be susceptible to certain pathogens that follow particular transmission schedules, so pruning is generally avoided during this time.

All of this aside, though, we can’t emphasize enough that one of the most important things you can do for the health of your tree is to keep it properly pruned. No matter the tree, no matter the season, if you look out your window and are reminded that your tree is in need of a little TLC, give us a call. We will come out and assess the tree, as well as provide a free tree pruning estimate. If we determine the tree would be best left alone for a few weeks before pruning, we’ll let you know. Just make the call. Your tree will thank you with a long and productive life.