best time to trim trees

When Is the Best Time to Trim Trees?: A Guide to the Best Season for Tree Trimming

November 16, 2020
Fall is when most homeowners believe is the right time to prune and trim back their trees. The truth is, for most trees, that is a little bit early. The fallen leaves do provide a better view of where pruning needs to occur, but doing so at the wrong time can damage the tree. Fall is a good time to start planning, but hold off just a little while longer. Read on for information on the best time to trim trees.

Why You Need to Trim Your Trees

There are several reasons to prune and trim your trees. It isn’t all just about the look of the tree, although that is part of it.

For the Health of the Tree

Remove all dead or diseased branches as soon as possible. Also, any branches that are too close together need to be fixed. Offshoots or stubs should also be eliminated. A tree grows strong and healthy with one dominant trunk.
Trimming away some of the higher branches allows for more light to flow in. This works to increase the number and look of the leaves on that tree, but also the plant life and lawn underneath.
Fruit and flowering trees need trimming to encourage more growth.

For Landscaping Benefits

Another benefit of pruning your trees is to achieve a landscape theme. You can cut and trim to form specific shapes.
Maybe you are looking to control the size of the tree or keep a uniform appearance in your yard.

For Safety

Falling branches can easily injure someone in the yard. Not to mention the damage it can cause to the roof or cars in a driveway.
During a storm, the wind can cause a limb to also knock down power lines. It is a good idea to keep nearby trees trimmed back to avoid any of these instances.
Tree limbs near the end of the driveway can also block the view of oncoming traffic. An unobstructed view is best for those driving by or trying to pull out.
There are times, depending on the condition of the tree, or its location, where simply trimming a tree is not enough. You may need to consider full tree removal.

Best Time to Trim Trees

So now you are asking, when should I get my trees trimmed?
The best time to trim most trees is while they are dormant. This occurs during mid-late winter. Trimming a tree is basically opening a wound. This wound will heal faster and cause less damage to the overall tree if it is dormant.
Open wounds can also spread disease if done during the growing or flowering seasons. Another obvious reason to wait until winter is all the leaves have fallen by then and you have a clearer view of what needs to be done.
If pruning starts too early while it is still warm, new growth may begin that will soon be stunted or hurt with the pending colder temperatures. So, the best season to trim trees is winter.

What About Flowering Trees

Some flowering trees do not follow the same basic pruning guidelines as listed above. Their schedule is based on if they are early or late blooming trees.

Early Blooming Trees

Some early blooming trees are dogwood, plum, and ornamental cherry.
Prune early blooming trees right after they have finished blooming. If you wait until winter to do this, they will not bloom come spring.

Late Blooming Trees

Common late blooming trees include magnolia, crape myrtle, or Japanese lilac.
Trees that flower in late spring into the summer should be pruned in early spring.
If you are looking for year-round color, there are some great options.

Types of Pruning

There is more than one way to prune a tree. The difference depends on what you wish to accomplish.

Crown Thinning

Crown thinning is the most popular type of tree trimming. It helps give the tree a great shape and appearance while allowing more sunlight to come through.
This helps strengthen the lower branches, so they are not as susceptible to wind, ice, or simply gravity.
Crown thinning should only be about 10% of the branches and only from the outer perimeter of the tree. The limbs should be two to four inches in diameter for large trees and no larger than 1/2″ on smaller ones.

Crown Raising

Crown raising is the type of pruning used when you want to remove lower branches. This can be for one of the safety reasons mentioned earlier, or just a better view.
This type of trimming works best over time as the removal of too many lower branches at once will weaken the over strength of the tree.

Crown Reduction

This form of pruning is for older trees. This stimulates new growth by removing older branches. Trim the limbs nearest the top a little shorter to lower the overall height.
However, they are only cut to the nearest lateral growth. This aids in healing and preserves the consistent appearance of the tree. Once the tree is no longer dormant, the lateral section becomes part of the crown.
If it sounds similar to crown thinning, it is somewhat. The difference is the purpose of reduction is to remove older, more brittle growth and allow for stronger new growth.

When Should You Trim Dead Branches?

While there are preferred times to prune trees for their health and growth patterns, the best time to trim dead branches is as soon as you see them.
Damaged, weak, or dead limbs and branches pose an immediate threat to both humans and property. Remove them immediately.

A Healthy Tree

Trees are the backbone of your landscape. You want them to be strong and healthy. In order to provide proper maintenance, you need to know the best time to trim trees.
If you are unsure or uncomfortable with doing this job yourself, rest assured we are here to assist. Our trained and experienced professionals will be happy to handle all of your tree care needs. Reach out to us today!