Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

When to Trim Trees and Shrubs

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Cut larger limbs while trees and shrubs are dormant.

When is the best time of year to trim tree limbs and cut back shrubs? -Ann

The best time to prune or trim trees and shrubs is during the late winter while they’re dormant. Pruning during the dormant season is ideal because:

  • The wounds heal faster, keeping the plant strong.
  • There is less risk of disease or pest infestation.
  • There is less sap flowing. Bleeding sap doesn’t really hurt the tree, but it’s messy and can attract pests.
  • It’s easier to see what you’re doing while the leaves are gone.

Pruning Guidelines:

  • Conifers: Prune in late winter while fully dormant.
  • Nonblooming Trees and Shrubs: Prune in late winter while fully dormant.
  • Summer-blooming Trees and Shrubs: Prune in late winter.
  • Spring-blooming Trees and Shrubs: Wait until immediately after they bloom. They are the exception to the rule, but you still should prune them as early as you can.


You can remove dead or damaged limbs any time.

You can do the following any time of year:

  • Trim back small tree branches (the size you can cut with handheld lopping shears).
  • Lightly shape hedges and conifers.
  • Remove dead or diseased branches. If you live in an area prone to hurricanes or ice storms, it’s important to remove weakened branches in the fall – it’s better to prune at the wrong time than to have your tree injured by a storm!

Further Information

Julie



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5 Comments on “When to Trim Trees and Shrubs”

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  1. herson rodriguez Says:
    March 30th, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    Hi! I HAVE A SICK VERY OLD TREE, it has developed kind of big tumors like on it’s branches, now do I cut them off and how can I stop them from growing back again. This tree is a Ceiba Pentandra in Puerto Rico, thank you

  2. Chris Francis Says:
    November 15th, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    @ Herson Rodriguez:
    I have never seen a Kapok tree, so that may be something that is unique to the species, but I would suspect that what you are seeing is either callus tissue forming over wounds or a result of a pest (insect, viral, fungal, etc…). I would not recommend cutting them off just yet. Find a Certified Arborist in your area to examine the tree. Search “ISA Arborist” Expect to pay for the consultation, just like you would pay a doctor for his medical advice and knowledge. I hope that helps.

    CHRIS FRANCIS
    * ISA Certified Arborist
    * Alabama State Licensed:
    – Tree Surgeon
    – Landscape Designer
    – Landscape Contractor
    – Pest Control Supervisor

    Chris Francis Landscapes

  3. bob Rehkemper Says:
    August 21st, 2013 at 9:21 am

    I cut limbs and the mulberry limbs cut are dripping sap. Is it ok to paint and try to sealcut limb? What material should I seal it

  4. Chris Francis Says:
    August 21st, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    Pruning paints are not necessary and actually cause more harm than good. Just let it drip. It will stop. You likely cut the limb too close to the trunk and removed all or some of the branch collar. The only time to use pruning paints are when particular diseases are known to be in the area, such as Oak Wilt.
    CHRIS FRANCIS
    • ISA Certified Arborist (#so-6157A)
    • Alabama State Licensed:
    – Tree Surgery
    – Landscape Design
    – Setting of Landscape Plants
    – Ornamental & Turf Pest Control Supervisor
    • ALNLA Certified Landscape Professional
    • AUFA Certified Urban Forester

    CHRIS FRANCIS TREE CARE

  5. Janet Stewart Says:
    November 16th, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Hi, I have a holly, not sure if it is male or female and I want to trim it to a nicer shape. Can I do this now? What is the technique?
    Thanks.

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