Tree Care

Arborist Advice: Why Should You Prune Your Trees During the Dormant Season?

By Arbor Day Foundation | March 1, 2017

Guest Post by John Lang at Friendly Tree.

The snow may still be falling, but your trees need care during every season. Pruning during the dormant season when buds have yet to open and trees are in hibernation, provides numerous benefits.

“Applying proper pruning techniques at the correct time of year is an essential component of maintaining urban forests,” says Keith Wood, community forestry program manager for the Colorado State Forest Service. “By being proactive and pruning trees during the late winter, residents can help maintain the health, appearance and safety of their trees for the long term.”

Well-maintained trees are an asset to any property, and can actually increase a property’s value by up to 14 percent. A healthy tree in good condition can be worth up to $10,000, proving that maintaining your landscape truly is a good investment.

The Benefits of Pruning in Late Winter and Early Spring

Better Visibility

In the dormant season, foliage isn’t an issue. You (or your arborist) will have a clearer picture of what branches need to be removed and which areas are diseased or problematic. Since branching patterns are easier to see in the dormant season, arborists can also perform structural pruning more easily and make more precise cuts.

Less Intrusive

In the winter months, when outdoor living is at a minimum, an arborist won’t need to worry about disturbing people on the property, garden beds aren’t in bloom and the overall impact to the property is substantially less significant.

Helps Control Disease

During the warm season, fresh cuts are more vulnerable to insects, which are hosts to tree-killing bacteria and fungi. Pruning during the dormant season protects your trees from the spread of disease and makes them less vulnerable to attack once temperatures heat up and insect activity increases.

Some trees, like oaks, should only be pruned during the dormant season because they are especially susceptible to oak wilt disease, which is known to spread extremely fast in the spring and summer.

Faster Healing Process

When you prune a tree, you are actually wounding it. Like people, trees need adequate time to recover from their wounds and bounce back. The dormant season, when trees are already at rest, is the best time for them to heal. Pruning trees before new growth begins exposes them to less stress and allows for more robust new growth in the spring.

Protection from Harsh Weather

Without dense foliage in the way, arborists can get a better picture of the tree’s storm readiness, meaning how it will handle extreme weather. Removing weak and vulnerable branches gives trees more structural strength to withstand severe weather, especially wet spring snows and high winds.

Benefits the Existing Landscape

Purposeful pruning opens the tree’s canopy, allowing more sunlight to reach grass and other plants at a time when light is scarce.

Check out this step-by-step guide on proper pruning.

Saves Time and Money

Dormant season pruning is generally more efficient than pruning during other seasons. Bare limbs allow for better access to trees, which means pruning takes less time. Bare branches are also much lighter than those laden with foliage, which makes them easier to handle, with less potential for damage.

It’s important to note that if a job requires removing large branches, running a chainsaw overhead or removing entire trees or trees near a structure, you should contact an insured, certified arborist.

Your trees take care of you and your property by providing shade, oxygen and aesthetic beauty – now is the time to say “thanks” by giving them the care they need. Proper pruning paves the way for healthy spring growth, giving your trees the best chance to thrive.

About the Author

John Lang is a Certified Arborist and a member of the Friendly Tree team, a family-owned New Jersey tree care service, dedicated to the thoughtful and careful maintenance of your trees and shrubs. Friendly Tree Service has been in business for 26 years and remains passionate about trees and nature. With a highly trained staff that treats every property as their own and state of the art equipment, Friendly Tree is on the cutting edge of the art and science of Arboriculture.

Read 8 Tree Myths Dispelled.

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  • Reply Steven March 6, 2017 at 5:18 am

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  • Reply iTopTopics March 7, 2017 at 6:57 pm

    Great advice for Fall gardening tasks! We referred the Hardiness Zone map from arborday in our article for early Spring planting tips here:

  • Reply Drew June 1, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    I didn’t realize how many great reasons there were for pruning your trees. Great advice for taking care of the plants around your yard.

  • Reply Marcus Coons June 26, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    I had no idea that well-maintained trees could increase a property’s value! We want to make sure we keep our trees looking good and want to make sure we find a professional we can trust to help. As I see it, taking the time to properly maintain your trees can add to the beauty of your home and reduce the chances of accidents in your home.

  • Reply Tree Service Buford July 22, 2017 at 6:27 am

    I have a Yard in that in need tree pruning services.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Violette Lebrac August 14, 2017 at 9:37 pm

    I like that you talked about avoiding pruning in summer because it makes the tree more likely to get a disease or infestation. I have an oak in my backyard that needs to be trimmed really badly, but I don’t want it to get infected. Waiting until winter might be a better option for trimming my tree without harming it.

  • Reply Croydon Gardener August 29, 2017 at 1:20 am

    I just want to include a small detail many people forget. Clean your garden sheers regularly. It’s very important because otherwise the germs on the sheers might be transferred to the branches you’re cutting. I personally pour a small amount of rubber alcohol over my shears. It’s just enough to get the job done. Out of all the garden maintenance jobs, I think tree pruning is the hardest, wouldn’t you say?

  • Reply from September 1, 2017 at 7:19 pm

    Ꮃhat’s up, of course this articlе is actually niϲe and I have learned
    lot of thіngs from it aƄout blogging. thanks.

  • Reply Ken November 2, 2017 at 7:44 am

    “The dormant season, when trees are already at rest, is the best time for them to heal.” If that isn’t a contradiction I have yet to read one. Are you suggesting they “heal” while resting?

  • Reply Ashley Turns December 18, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    Thanks for pointing out that pruning when there are no leaves on the trees means that the job will take less time and the limbs will be easier to handle. My husband and I want to have our trees trimmed and we are wondering when the best time is to contact a service to do it. We will definitely have to have a company do the pruning when there are no leaves on the trees so that it will take less time and be easier for them.

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