Benefits of Winter Pruning (For Your Trees & Your Wallet)


Did you know? You can prune your trees in the winter – and in most cases winter pruning is better for you and for your trees!

Why? Well, several reasons.

But first, a caveat – trees and shrubs that generally produce flowers in early spring develop their buds before winter. If you prune those plants in winter, the flower buds will also be removed. In that instance, it is better to wait to prune after they’ve finished flowering. Late spring flowering trees and shrubs are okay to prune in the winter though. Ask us if you’re not sure which your trees are!

Other than that, trees and shrubs can actually benefit from winter pruning.

Trees Are Less Stressed

As you would expect, when trees or shrubs are pruned, they spend a lot of energy trying to heal their wounds and produce new growth. When you prune in the winter, the tree has more time to heal before the spring growth, and before insects and disease attack again during the warmer months.

Winter Storms Are a Breeze

Unhealthy or under pruned trees can be a hazard in winter storms or even in winter weather. Wind, ice, and snow can all negatively affect a weak tree, and can cause hazards to your yard and home. Dormant pruning removes these hazards, rejuvenates weaker trees and makes them safer, and removes dead and diseased wood.

There’s Less Mess

In central New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania, the ground usually reaches freezing points, so our heavy equipment does less damage (and creates less mess) for your yard and landscape. This not only allows us to work more efficiently, but it reduces costs for you. If you have large pruning jobs or even tree removals, you might want to consider getting it done this winter.

Trees Won’t Get the ‘Flu

Despite how dead dormant trees may look in the winter, the benefit of cold winters is that they stop or slow down the progression and spread of diseases in plants and trees, making it the ideal time to prune.

Some trees in particular, such as elm or oak, or trees infested with fire blight (especially some varieties of Bradford pears and apples), are best pruned in winter. This minimizes the risk of spreading Dutch elm disease, oak wilt, and other tree diseases that are caused or spread by insects, bacteria, fungi, or parasites.

We Can See Clearly Now, The Leaves Are Gone …

The number one reason for winter tree work might be the most obvious – we can see the structure of the tree better in winter since there are no leaves covering the branches. We can much more easily tell whether or not a tree is in need of pruning, and can more easily identify dead or dangerous branches that should be removed.

What if I can’t/don’t want to prune in the winter?

Should I still prune trees in spring or summer?

Absolutely! Spring and summer are still great times to prune trees and shrubs, although it’s often done for different reasons than winter pruning.

Below are some reasons to prune in spring and summer:

  • On some types of trees, it’s difficult to tell whether a branch is dead or dormant, so it’s better to wait until warmer weather
  • If you see dead, damaged, or diseased branches, they should be removed right away, regardless of the time of year
  • Once a tree has fully leafed out, you can may want to prune it to improve the overall look
  • Sometimes trees and shrubs grow too large or get in the way over the growing season
  • You want to raise the tree canopy to improve your view
  • Increasing air circulation or allowing more sunlight to reach the ground by opening up the tree

Some underlying issues cannot be spotted until trees have fully grown their leaves in the warmer months. Some trees might develop other issues as they grow, which may need to be addressed then.

Proper tree and shrub trimming and pruning keeps your yard and landscape looking its best – it will produce healthy, safe, and beautiful trees!

Contact us today to see what time of year would work best to prune your specific trees.

Bill Grundmann

Bill is the owner of Organic Plant Care, LLC. He takes an integrated approach to tree care, focusing not only on the trees themselves but also on the surrounding environment, managing tree health from the "ground up" - healthy soil equals healthy plants. Bill is a New Jersey Licensed Tree Expert and NJ Approved Forester with over 35 years of experience in the tree care industry.