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Winter Dormant Tree Pruning

Written By: Daniel Allen - Master Arborist for SuperTrees® Utah

As an arborist, one question I regularly get is “when is the best time to prune my trees?”

The short answer is that winter is the best time to prune your trees.

The more in-depth answer is that we are actually talking about the dormant season. -If “dormant season“ seems ambiguous, it just refers to the time that the leaves are off of deciduous trees, which roughly coincides with winter.

Pruning during the dormant season will cause the least amount of stress and give the tree the most amount of time to recover before the rigors of another growing season.

That said, modern tree science informs us it is acceptable to prune trees any time of year as long as the tree in question is not otherwise under stress (e.g. insects, disease, drought, transplanting, etc.) Also, in some situations/climates/tree species, dormant season is not recommended because of disease/decay concerns. This is why it’s best to check with an ISA Certified Arborist before going ahead with pruning (aka tree surgery).

Furthermore, young trees can tolerate pruning (surgery) better than old trees, so it is important to regularly maintain your trees.  A regular pruning regime minimizes costs and liabilities while maximizing tree aesthetics and structural integrity.

The idea is that when we make regular small investments in pruning, we can avoid having to make drastic intervention later in a tree ‘s life when it will have more difficulty recovering.

So, just like the best time to plant a tree is “20 years ago,” the best time to prune a tree is “a couple of winters ago.” Why not do it now?


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