When to prune your trees

The reason you are pruning your trees will be the determining factor in deciding when you should prune them. Most times of the year are appropriate for pruning, as long as you know what you’re doing and why.There are many reasons people prune their trees.

The main four are as follows:

  • Restricting the tree’s growth so that it will maintain its current size and shape. You may need the tree to stay short, even ‘dwarf’ sized, for landscaping purposes.
  • Improving the tree’s productivity so that it will produce more flowers, foliage or fruit. This is especially important if you will be collecting the fruit or if the tree is highly visible.
  • Keeping the tree healthy by getting rid of dead or diseased limbs. Dead and diseased limbs can cause damage to the tree, fall on people or property, and they take away from the aesthetics of the tree.
  • Training the tree while it is young so that it will grow into the correct shape. It’s much easier to shape a young tree than to call in a professional for a larger one.


It’s most common to prune trees during the winter when they are dormant. If you are looking for major growth in the spring, winter is the best time to prune, although you should wait until after the coldest part of the winter is over. This should still be well before spring in virtually every region of the country.

Trees that should be pruned in winter include crape myrtles, chaste trees, crab apple trees, poplars, spruce and cherry trees.


Early spring is the perfect time to prune trees that flower in mid- to late summer. Because they bloom out later, you can wait later to prune them. Contrary to many people’s beliefs, not all plants and trees flower in the spring. This will give you a break between winter and spring pruning.

Trees that do best when they are pruned in the spring include apple trees, flowering dogwoods, and peach trees.


If your purpose is to reduce the tree’s growth, you’re better off pruning it during the summer, when it is healthy. Prune as soon after the tree’s seasonal growth is complete, but well before fall in order to control its growth rate. Pruning during the summer, while the tree is full of leaves, can be useful if you need to see which branches cannot adequately hold weight.

You should prune maples, birches, dogwoods, walnuts and elms during the late summer.


One word: don’t! For some reason, fungi spreads more rapidly in the fall than any other time, putting your trees at great risk for diseases. Also, trees that are pruned mid-fall don’t seem to recover as quickly or as well as those pruned in winter or early spring.


Simple tasks like removing dead limbs or light pruning (small stems and limbs) can be done any time. However, you should definitely stick to these guidelines for anything more intensive.