When to Trim Trees and Shrubs

Gloved hands pruning a rosebush.
Don’t be afraid of pruning your roses — there’s little you can do that you can’t correct the next time. (©New Africa, Adobe Stock Photos)

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.

Clipper trimming tree branch for spring tree care
Small tree branches can be pruned at any point during the year.

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.

Danny Lipford trims trees and bushes while wearing safety glasses
Gas-powered hedge trimmers make landscaping jobs more efficient, but they also can result in tears.

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