It’s Better in the Shade: When to Prune Trees and Shrubs at Your Home

Trees and Shrubs

A mature tree in your home can increase your home’s value by between $1,000 to $10,000.

Aside from the monetary gains, trees are beautiful, provide shade and a cleaner environment.

However, dead or overgrown branches take away from a tree’s beauty and can even weaken the tree.

This underscores the importance of pruning.

Of equal importance to pruning is understanding when to prune trees.

This guide explores the best times to prune, why and a few tidbits to make the process successful.

When to Prune Trees

The timing of when you do your pruning can be the difference between a thriving tree and one that is struggling to grow.

Winter is the best time to do your pruning, with summer being the second-best time of the year for this activity.

Here is a look at both times and why they are recommended.

Winter trees

Late Winter

This is when your trees are in a dormant state. During dormancy, a plant is conserving its energy for better conditions. To do this, it has to stop or slow down its growth.

This makes it an ideal time to prune because:

1. The prune wounds heal a lot faster, keeping the plant strong.

Just like in humans, a tree’s wound needs time to heal. When you prune in winter, you create a wound right before the season for active growth starts. This ensures your tree starts the repair process faster.

2. The plant will ooze less sap.

 Pruning in winter ensures minimal sapping from the wound. While sap is harmless, it can be quite messy and aesthetically unappealing.

3. Fewer chances of disease.

Winter comes with a lowered risk of pest infestation and diseases.

4. Visibility.

Trees have few leaves in winter. This makes it much easier for you to see what you are doing

Summer trees

Pruning in the Summer

While the rule of thumb is to prune in the winter when trees are dormant, summer pruning is also okay in some instances. It comes with the following advantages:

1. It helps cut back the vigorous growth experienced in spring and encourage productive growth. This is more so for fruit trees like apple trees.

2. It helps to avoid diseases for trees like the prunus tree in the cherry family. These trees are susceptible to the silver leaf disease whose fungal spores are airborne in September and May.

3. It helps to restrict the size of fruit bushes.

4. It can prevent overgrown spring shrubs.

While winter and spring are the recommended pruning times, this is not to say all activities have to wait till this time.

You can do the following any time of year:

  • Shape hedges and conifers
  • Trim branches that you can comfortably cut with handheld lopping shears.
    Remove dead or diseased branches.
  • If you spot some branches that have been weakened by snow, you can chop these off as well. This can prevent the whole tree from suffering irreversible damage.
  • Some basic pruning and trimming to make your home look more appealing to buyers.

Different Plants; Different Pruning Times

Here are plants and their recommended pruning time at a glance.

1. Conifers: late winter when fully dormant.

2. Summer blooming trees and shrubs: late winter.

3. Nonblooming trees and shrubs: late winter when fully dormant.

Spring blooming trees such as and shrubs are the only exception to the rule. You can trim these immediately after they bloom. These include Azalea, Roses and star magnolia.

The Worst Time to Prune

Knowing when not to prune is just as important as knowing the best times to prune.

By all means, do not prune when it’s damp.

Doing this leaves your trees more susceptible to diseases. Microbes flourish in damp weather. These microbes can wreak havoc on your trees.

Why Prune Your Trees?

Trees are pruned for many reasons. The main ones are:

  • To remove damaged, diseased and broken parts of a tree in order to maintain its integrity
  • To prevent branches from getting in the way of utility and electricity lines
  • To prevent your trees from encroaching into other people’s property
  • To maintain a tree’s natural form and aesthetics
  • In certain plants, pruning can also stimulate or restrict growth as is necessary
Trees outside modern house

Best Pruning Tips

Now that you know when to prune and when not to, here are some guidelines to help you get the best out of your pruning efforts.

1. Know When You’re out of Your Element

When it comes to pruning and other handy jobs, we are not all equal. Trying to prune when it’s clearly not your forte, will damage your tree and you can harm yourself, as well.

If it looks like it’s out of your depth, it probably is, and it’s time to call in the professionals.

2. Use the One-Third and the One-Quarter Rule

These state:

  • Never remove more than a quarter of the crown of a tree in one season
  • Maintain main side branches at least a third smaller than the diameter of the trunk
  • For most broad-leafed trees, do not trim more than a third of the tree’s height from the bottom

3. Do Not Worry Too Much About Protecting Pruning Wounds

Painting large wound encounter might help with aesthetics but it won’t reduce nor prevent decay.

4. Have Proper and Well-Sharpened Tools

Green Tops Tree Service advises homeowners not to attempt to do their own pruning if they do not have the right tools for the job.

Some of the main tools required for pruning include bypass pruners, lopping shears, pole pruners, and hedge trimmers.

5. Know the Don’ts

There are a few things that you must never do. The following are some of them:

  • Do not prune a tree in its first year, unless it’s to remove dead branches
  • Do not attempt to prune near utility conductor and electricity lines

If you find yourself not being sure about something, it is better to consult before acting.

Tire swing hanging from tree in back yard

Getting the Best out of Your Trees

Still wondering when to prune trees? It’s no doubt during winter and summer.

However, feel free to do the lesser grooming tasks throughout the year as they occur.

Well-cared-for trees could increase the value of your home, clean your environment and look absolutely stunning.

Are you looking for more ways to increase your home’s value? Check out our blog post that details how adding a pond to your home can significantly push up your home’s value.

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