The Ultimate Guide To Pruning Trees In The Winter

Winter is the perfect time to take control and improve the health of your overgrown and struggling landscape plants. Below are our top 5 benefits of winter (or dormant) pruning, a step-by-step guide to pruning trees in the winter, and what plants to prune in the winter.


Five Reasons To Prune Your Trees & Shrubs This Winter

In the video above, Eichenlaub crew leader and Pennsylvania Certified Horticulturist (PCH) Aaron Boynton explains the benefits and provides some great tips.


1. Take control

The Ultimate Guide To Pruning Trees In The Winter- Reasons To Prune In The Winter- Using pruning shears to cut branchesThe winter is a great time to prune overgrown and out-of-control plants, because to do it right you will need to take out some major branches leaving areas with no leaves. Why not do this in the winter when all the leaves are gone. 






2. Spring vigor

Pruning in the winter will allow for all of the plants’ stored energy to be pumped into the remaining stems allowing the plant to leaf out and better recover from a rejuvenation pruning.



3. Fungus and insect control

Some serious plant problems such as fireblight and oak wilt can be spread if susceptible plants are pruned during the growing season.



4. Better results

The Ultimate Guide To Pruning Trees In The Winter- Reasons To Prune In The Winter- Nicely trimmed bushes to look circularWe can see the branching structure and form of the plant much better when the leaves are off of the tree or shrub. This will help us make better cut selections.



5. Stop the bleeding

Pruning when cold reduces the oozing of sap from fresh cuts. Loss of sap from the tree results in a reduction of vital energy



Guide To Pruning Trees In The Winter


1. Assess Your Tree

The first step on how to prune your trees in the winter is to inspect the tree to identify dead, damaged, or diseased branches. Look for branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other.



2. Gathering The Right Tools

Depending on the type of branch, you may be using different pruning tools. Use sharp and clean pruning shears for smaller branches. For larger branches, use pruning saws or loppers.
Ensure all tools are properly sanitized to prevent the spread of disease.



3. Determine The Pruning Objective

The Ultimate Guide To Pruning Trees In The Winter- The Winter Guide To Pruning Trees In The Winter- A man accessing his trees

Next on how to prune your trees in the winter is deciding on the pruning objective. Decide on the purpose of the pruning, whether it’s for safety, health, or aesthetics. Aim to maintain the tree’s natural shape while removing unwanted growth.






4. Make Clean Cuts

It is important to make clean cuts when pruning your trees. Use the three-cut method for larger branches to prevent bark stripping and damage. Make an undercut on the bottom of the branch, followed by a top cut slightly further out. Finish with a final cut close to the trunk to remove the remaining stub.



5. Remove Dead Or Diseased Branches

Cut back dead or diseased branches to the nearest healthy growth point. Cut just outside the branch collar to promote proper healing.



6. Thin Out Overcrowded Branches

The Ultimate Guide To Pruning Trees In The Winter- The Winter Guide To Pruning Trees In The Winter- Someone pruning their tree branches in the winter while wearing gloves.Identify branches that are crossing or overcrowding the tree canopy. Remove selected branches to improve air circulation and sunlight penetration.




7. Maintain Tree Structure

Prune to maintain a balanced and open canopy, allowing for even growth. Avoid removing more than 25% of the tree’s foliage in a single pruning session.



8. Shape The Tree

Consider the desired shape of the tree and prune accordingly. Encourage upward growth by removing downward-facing branches.



9. Clean Up And Dispose Of Debris

The Ultimate Guide To Pruning Trees In The Winter- The Winter Guide To Pruning Trees In The Winter- A clump of leaves on the ground underneath pruning shears.Remove all pruned branches and debris from the area around the tree. Dispose of branches properly by composting or recycling where possible.








10. Seek Professional Help When Needed

Seeking professional help can not only save you from having to do it all yourself, but they are also experts in pruning. They can offer landscaping maintenance for all four seasons!

For large or complex pruning jobs, consider hiring a certified arborist. Professional arborists can offer expert advice and ensure the safety and health of the tree.




What Plants To Prune In The Winter

The Ultimate Guide To Pruning Trees In The Winter- What Plants To Prune In The Winter- green landscape with evergreens and shrubsIt is important to understand that not all plants require winter pruning. For instance, some plants may have dramatically reduced flowering if pruned in the winter! So what types of trees should I be pruning in the winter? We have compiled an overview of the types of trees that benefit most from winter pruning in Pittsburgh.

A great start to winter pruning is to start on evergreen shrubs and trees. Evergreen shrubs like yew, holly, or boxwoods and evergreen trees like spruce or fir are still dormant in late winter and early spring. This is a great time to prune them before they grow again in the spring.

Another tree that benefits from winter pruning is a shade tree. Shade trees, such as oak, sweetgum, maple, katsura, and hornbeam, can benefit from pruning in late winter or early spring.



End Note:

You may think that the winter is not the time to start pruning some of your trees and shrubs but that can be further from the truth. Pruning in the winter comes with many benefits such as easily seeing what you are working with and being able to access your branches easily.

Although there are times when you can get the job done yourself, the rule of thumb is if you can reach the branch you want to cut from the ground, it may be time to seek a professional. Contact Eichenlaub if you have questions about pruning or if you are seeking some assistance for your landscaping maintenance.