The Best Time of Year to Prune Trees

And the Worst


There’s a best time of year for many things. Swimming outdoors, wearing a heavy coat, traveling to a certain place. While there may be exceptions in these cases, following specific guidelines is always recommended. The same goes for the best time of year to prune trees.

When to Prune Trees

No matter what season it is, you always want to prune damaged, diseased, or hazardous branches asap. For most trees, pruning is best done while the tree is dormant during the late winter. It’s easier to see what branches are being cut before all the leaves grow back. Pruning at the “wrong time” may not kill plants, but it can affect flowers or fruit growth, lead to weaker branches, and even disease.

Some other seasonal guidelines include:

  • Prune spring-flowering shrubs and trees immediately after the flowers fade.
  • Plants that bloom in the summer—including deciduous trees and shrubs—are pruned during winter or early spring, before breaking dormancy and new growth buds.
  • In areas with harsh winters, prune in the late summer to encourage new growth that might not harden before the cold weather arrives.
  • In warmer-winter areas, timing varies depending on the plant’s native climate.
  • Thin plants in summer when it’s easier to see how much thinning is needed.
  • Prune evergreen trees and shrubs—that don’t drop their leaves—during the dormant winter months.
  • Broad-leaved evergreens are usually best pruned in late dormancy or in summer.
  • Conifers are pruned only in their first two or three years to form their basic shape; from then on, they’re best left alone.

Not the Best Time of Year to Prune Trees

There are some guidelines on when not to prune certain plants. If you live in a region with colder winters, try not to prune later than one month before the first frost. An early frost may damage the plant where it’s been cut. Pruning during an extra wet season also makes plants more susceptible to disease.

If you have any doubts about the best time to prune a particular plant, contact the team at Cardinal Lawns for more guidelines.

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