When is the Best Time to Trim Trees

Professional Tree Care

Many people ask when the best time to prune a tree is during the year. The answer to this can be explained in three parts which will be described below.

The Full Picture

First of all, a tree is a living organism that reacts to internal and external factors in order to advance or prolong its life as long as possible, this can be done by directing energy into specific portions of the canopy or branches to absorb more sunlight or focusing on growth around a wound. Secondly the type of pruning you complete along with the time you do it is extremely important for the health of the tree. Finally, when pruning your tree there are certain techniques that should be followed to ensure the tree is not harmed and the pruning can be considered beneficial. Before making any decisions on when or how to prune a tree it is best to contact a certified arborist to help you through the process and hear their recommendations for your tree.

Your Trees are a Living Organism (even when they are dormant)

Trees like other organisms come in all shapes and sizes. They have the ability to grow and expand depending upon the environment in which they are located while being completely stationary. To consider that a living organism can grow to such an extent using nutrients from the soil, water, and sunlight is such an amazing and exciting thing! A tree will transition from growth to dormancy depending upon the season and the amount of daylight during the time of year.

The Best Time to Prune Trees

During the spring and summer, the tree is in a growing phase in which the cambium, a portion of the tree located below the bark, expands in diameter. The roots and branches elongate given that there are nutrients, water, and enough sunlight to support this growth. The branches grow by extending the terminal buds at the end of the branch. The tree is able to use the fibrous roots found in the soil for water and nutrient uptake. The main goal of the growth is to increase the number of leaves present on the tree therefore increasing the surface area and absorbing more sunlight.


Spring is also the time when you see the most fruit or flower production on trees. Trees drop the seeds that they have produced in many different ways that can include “the helicopters” known as samaras on maple trees to the “snow-like appearance you notice in July from cottonwood seed dispersal.


During the winter months the tree transitions into a dormant phase in which they halt water transportation to the canopy and expansion of growth in the branches and roots. This is due to shorter days and less sunlight in which deciduous trees, one that goes through leaf drop and leaf growth again in the spring, begin their transformation into fall color, leaf drop, and then dormancy.

The When and Where of Pruning

While we are pruning trees we consider three main factors before we have our crews on site. The first thing we consider upon inspection of a tree is can the requested goal be accomplished for the client based upon the health and overall well-being of the tree while keeping our crews and residents safe. Next while inspecting we look to see if the tree is in good condition, the structure can be supported throughout the lifetime, and the tree is not considered hazardous or dangerous. Finally, once we have decided that the tree can be pruned safely we consider the species of tree and the time of year.

Location Location Location

Trees that are planted in residential and commercial areas will have a different growth habit than a tree in a forest. Trees that are planted in urban settings have the ability to grow without competition from other trees that in a forest would be planted growing closer and competing for the same sunlight and nutrients. Trees in a forest also have a more upright growth with the majority of limbs reaching up to break through the forest canopy while a tree in a residential area will have the ability to grow limbs lower to the ground and not as tall of a canopy. Certain trees should not be pruned during specific months due to environmental factors like susceptibility to fungal issues or open wounds allowing vectors to introduce disease. One of the best things to consider when wanting to prune your tree is what is the species and where are you located geographically. There are many goals when it comes to pruning a tree and many outcomes that can occur.

Tree Pruning Factors

We often receive specific requests for the clearance or raising of limbs off structures and roadways to allow pedestrian and vehicle traffic to go by without any contact. There are also things like structural and dead wooding that are crucial for all trees and sizes in urban settings to undergo. A tree will react to pruning or damage by compartmentalizing the wound and growing a layer of bark over it. In order to do this the tree must have sufficient health in order to firstly process the wound, secondly fight off insects or fungi, and lastly be able to transition energy from the branch tips and roots into the section that it is trying to protect. Although arborists are able to prune 365 days a year it is often brought up what is most beneficial to the tree? The answer will always be what you have in the ground and where you’re located.

Winter Pruning

Winter is a great time to prune a tree given the fact that if deciduous the leaves have already fallen and the entire structure can be seen from the ground. It is easier for a climber to visualize what needs to be done and the route that needs to be taken to get there. Limbs carry less weight due to the leaves already dropping during the fall and generally, results can be seen by the resident immediately. Dormancy in the tree allows limbs to be pruned without additional stress and upon spring the tree is able to direct its energy into closing that wound. Another instance is the pruning of evergreen limbs in the winter. The build-up of snow or ice can cause tearing or breakage in the limbs of the tree, raising the point to be proactive in the care of your tree and if you are concerned about heavy limbs it is best to speak with a professional. This is not to say that a tree cannot be pruned in the spring or summer, rather that research should be done on what insects are active during that time frame along with weather associated with geographical locations.

Knowledge is Key

Proper technique and the current Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), ANSI A300 standard practices along with the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), practices and procedures should be adhered to. The use of proper equipment in tree care along with the best practices in management will ensure that your tree is proactively cared for and prevent improper pruning and plant health care methods.

The Tree Experts Have You Covered

The topic of when is the best time to trim a tree comes down to geographical traits along with environmental factors. A tree can be pruned in the spring, summer, fall, and winter given the fact that the tree is in the clear of seasonal pests, diseases, and a degree of health that can support the pruning. It is also very important to consider what species of tree you have and the location it is in. Oftentimes trees are planted in locations that will not support their growth habit, are too close to a unit or home, or will not allow them to grow to their full potential. Some species of tree produce more fruit or flowers than others and when planting near a patio or walkway this can become an issue for tracking things inside. This will lead to the eventual removal of the tree and can come down to a hazardous removal if the tree is not continuously monitored. Pruning is best to be completed by a certified arborist and one that is able to assess the situation as a whole keeping in mind the goal and safety of their crews, the client, and of the tree.

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