When Should I Prune My Trees & Shrubs?

Blog Category: Tree Care
January 28, 2022 by Seth Balvanz
view from the trunk of an elm tree looking up at the tree canopy

Pruning is essential to maintaining the health and beauty of trees and shrubs. A common question our arborists are asked beginning in early spring is, “When should I prune my trees?”. While the answer varies depending on the species as well as the situation, there are preferred pruning seasons for many trees and shrubs.

Conifer Trees

Conifer trees and shrubs have several prime pruning periods dependent upon the variety. Most pine varieties should be pruned in mid to late June after the tree candles (the upright buds found on branch tips) have elongated. Spruce trees, however, can wait until early July to be pruned. As pruning encourages new growth, it is not recommended to prune conifer trees in late summer or fall. New growth produced during this time frame will not have time to harden off before cold winter temperatures.

Broadleaf Evergreens

Pruning recommendations for broadleaf evergreens are different than that of conifer evergreens because they reproduce through flowers instead of cones. Broadleaf evergreens, such as such as holly, azalea, boxwood, and andromeda, should be pruned in the spring after they have flowered.

Deciduous Trees

Heavy pruning of most deciduous trees, including oak, maple, birch, ash and elm is best done during the dormant or winter period. Wounds resulting from fresh pruning cuts often heal faster in the dormant season and the cooler temperatures prevent disease transmission. Winter pruning also ensures that the wounds are exposed for a limited period of time before new growth begins in the spring.

Blooming Shrubs

Properly pruned flowering shrubs will produce more robust, long-lasting blooms. Similarly to broadleaf evergreens, most early spring blooming shrubs, such as forsynthia, should be pruned after they’ve flowered. Summer and fall blooming shrubs, such as beautyberry, should be pruned in late winter or early spring before new buds begin to form.

While these are general pruning guidelines, there are situations when immediate pruning is required, no matter the season. Examples include removing deadwood from a tree or shrub, achieving more ground clearance, clearing space around a building, and removing hazardous tree limbs or intersecting branches. It is important that these conditions are addressed in a timely manner. Falling branches may damage property or cause injuries.

Do you have trees and shrubs in need of pruning? Our team of ISA Certified Arborists and trained maintenance professionals always love to talk trees and plants. Give us a call at 515.987.0800 or request a quote online to get started.