Winter Tree Pruning Tips

What to Cut & When


Now that colder weather has arrived, it’s time to start thinking about pruning most of your trees and shrubs—but not all of them. Here are some winter tree pruning tips to keep in mind.

Winter Tree Pruning Tips

It’s the time of year when most plants go dormant, making it the best time to do most of your pruning. While you should still wait until late winter/early spring to do any cutting, it’s time to start planning and contacting any professionals if needed.

Don’t wait too long though. You definitely want to prune before any new growth appears. Shaping trees in the winter is easier because you can see what your tree already looks like without all the foliage in the way. Since pruning promotes regrowth, it’s best to wait until right before the spring, when the plants are ready to bloom.

When you’re ready to start:

  • Pick a mild, dry day to cut. If it’s too cold or wet the wounds may not heal as well and you could also be dealing with disease.
  • Cut at the node where one branch attaches to another.
  • Cut the dead and diseased branches first.
  • Remove any lower evergreen branches you don’t want, then work on the overgrown and smaller branches throughout to increase light and air circulation.
  • Keep the branches that maintain the shape and structure of the tree.

What to Prune When

Not all plants should be pruned in the winter. It all depends on when it will bloom. Winter is the time to prune evergreens, shady trees like oak and maple, and plants that sprout new buds in spring—such as the butterfly bush, hydrangeas, and roses.

For plants with blooms on last year’s branches, wait until the flowers fade to prune. This works best for magnolia and cherry trees, azalea, forsythia, lilacs, rhododendron, and other spring bloomers. If you cut these plants too early, you’ll cut off the buds that would’ve opened this spring.

Pine trees can wait till June or early July to be pruned. If the tree is too big to reach the branches that need pruning, call the pros. They can also help you determine whether winter is the best time for tree pruning for you and offer more tips.

Tree Pruning Guide

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Learn how, when, and how much to trim or prune your trees to maximize their health and beauty. This guide covers the factors that go into tree trimming (pruning) and will help you make a more informed decision about hiring a professional tree service.