When is the Best Time to Trim Tree Branches? - An Expert's Guide

Generally, the best time to prune or trim trees and shrubs is during the winter months. Many believe that the best time of year to prune trees is as soon as the bright leaves begin to fall, but this assumption could harm your trees. Arborists agree that the best time to prune trees is usually in winter, after the trees are dormant. However, it's not always that simple.

It's never a bad time to remove dead, damaged, or sick branches. Pruning during dormancy encourages new growth as soon as the weather begins to warm up. The lack of leaves after autumn allows you to easily identify branches and branches that need to be removed. When it comes to pruning, timing is everything. Pruning wounds will harden faster if pruning is done in early spring before the trees sprout their leaves.

Some trees, such as birch and maple, bleed excessively if they are pruned at that time. Bleeding does little harm to trees, although homeowners are often concerned. Bleeding can be reduced by pruning in late spring when trees are full of leaves. When needed, trees can be pruned at any time of the year, but healing will not be as fast as when pruning is done in early spring. Extensive pruning in late summer or fall will remove nutrients stored in branches before they can be moved to the trunk and roots.

Fall pruning can also stimulate growth late in the season, which may be susceptible to frostbite injuries. As a general rule, light summer pruning can be done on most deciduous trees and shrubs. More intensive pruning should be done when the tree is dormant, preferably in late winter before active growth begins. Trees such as maple (Acer) bleed their sap a lot and should be pruned in winter while the trees are inactive. Spring-blooming shrubs, such as lilac and forsythia, bloom with the growth of the previous season and should be pruned within two weeks of flowering.

Pruning at any other time will reduce or eliminate flower display. If you're ready to try pruning, here are a few different types of trees and the best time of year to prune each one. By pruning and trimming trees in specific ways, you can encourage fruiting and flowering, shape plants into specific shapes, and control plant size. Cutting larger roots on a mature tree can affect the tree's ability to absorb water, or it can make the tree unstable. Pruning fruit trees allows you to have an open crown instead of a messy and overwhelmed crown of branches that block sunlight from the rest of the tree. Other tree maintenance practices include consulting a professional arborist if a large tree appears to be hollow, has a cracked trunk, or has extensive regressive branch death.

Cutting tree branches in summer and early fall (during the growing season) can be particularly harmful because it stimulates new growth in the tree. I recommend leaving large, established shade trees to qualified arborists and tree care professionals. In some cases, it may be better to remove the tree completely and plant a more appropriate tree instead. Tree branches are pruned for multiple reasons, all of which result in a better-looking, better-performing tree.

The position of the tree branch in the trunk remains essentially the same throughout the life of the tree. By helping a tree establish a main tree and a dominant leader, a strong tree is created that is ultimately capable of withstanding winter storms and strong winds. Although trees grow quite naturally without pruning, this routine landscape maintenance allows trees to reach their full potential and live a long life. Before attempting any type of tree trimming, it's important to consult with tree trimming professionals or an arborist first.