When is the Best Time to Trim Trees?

When is the Best Time to Trim Trees

Trees are a valuable addition to any landscape, providing beauty, shade, and habitat for wildlife. However, to maintain their health and appearance, trees require regular pruning. Pruning, also known as trimming, is the process of removing branches from a tree to improve its structure, promote growth, and prevent damage.

In this article, we will explore the best time to trim trees, the proper techniques for pruning, and the benefits of regular tree maintenance.

When to Trim Trees

The best time to trim trees depends on several factors, including the type of tree, its age, and the reason for pruning. Here are some general guidelines to follow:

Dormant Season

The winter months, approximately November through March, are the ideal time for pruning trees, as they are dormant, and there is better visibility due to the lack of leaves. Wound closure is also heightened in late winter before a spring growth spurt, which helps prevent the spread of decay in the tree. Pests and pathogens are less likely to enter trees during this period.

For deciduous trees, late fall to winter is the recommended time for pruning, as they are in their dormant season, and it’s easy to see the framework of the branches. Diseases and insects are also gone during this time, and bleeding does not damage the tree.

Young Trees

For young trees, it’s better to wait a year after transplanting before pruning, and then remove broken or damaged branches as the tree grows. Lower branches should be left to protect the tree and provide it with nutrition in the first few years. After the first few years, lower limbs can be gradually removed as the tree becomes more stable.

Flowering Trees

For flowering trees, the best time to prune depends on what time of year they bloom. For trees that bloom in early spring, prune immediately after they finish blooming. For trees that bloom in late spring or summer, prune in late winter or early spring.

Subtropical Trees

For subtropical trees in Milwaukee and other subtropical areas, like Milwaukee, pruning can be done all year round, as they replace lost tissue constantly and have plentiful sources of sunshine and water 12 months a year.

How to Trim Trees

Pruning trees requires careful consideration and attention to detail. Here are some steps to follow when trimming trees:

Step 1: Assess the Tree

Before pruning, assess the tree for signs of disease, pests, or structural issues. Look for dead, diseased, or damaged branches, and remove them first. Also, look for branches that cross or rub against each other, and remove one of them to prevent damage.

Step 2: Plan the Pruning

Plan the pruning cuts by identifying the branch collar, the swollen area where the branch meets the trunk. Make the cut just outside the branch collar, leaving a small collar intact to promote healing.

Step 3: Use the Right Equipment

Use sharp and clean pruning tools to make smooth cuts. Hand pruners are suitable for branches up to 3/4 inches in diameter, loppers for branches up to 1 1/2 inches in diameter, and saws for larger branches. Disinfect the tools before and after use to prevent the spread of diseases.

Step 4: Make the Cuts

Make the cuts at an angle, following the natural slope of the branch. Avoid leaving a stub, as it can lead to decay and disease. Also, avoid cutting too close to the trunk, as it can damage the branch collar and prevent healing.

Step 5: Clean Up

After pruning, clean up the debris and dispose of it properly. Do not leave it on the ground, as it can attract pests and diseases. Also, do not prune more than 25% of the tree’s canopy, as it can stress the tree and make it more susceptible to disease and pests.

Why Trim Trees

Regular tree trimming has several benefits, including:

Improving Tree Health

Pruning removes dead, diseased, or damaged branches, which can prevent the spread of decay and disease. It also promotes the growth of new branches, which can improve the tree’s structure and stability.

Enhancing Tree Appearance

Pruning can enhance the tree’s appearance by removing unsightly branches and shaping the tree’s canopy. It can also improve the view and light penetration in the landscape.

Preventing Damage

Pruning can prevent damage to property and people by removing branches that are at risk of falling or breaking. It can also prevent damage to the tree by reducing the weight and wind resistance of the branches.

Encouraging Fruit Production

Pruning can encourage fruit production by removing branches that shade the fruit-bearing branches and improving the tree’s structure and sunlight exposure.


Tree trimming is an essential part of tree care and maintenance. By following the best practices for pruning, you can improve the health, appearance, and safety of your trees. Remember to prune at the right time, using the right equipment, and follow the proper techniques. If you are unsure about how to prune your trees, consult with a certified arborist or tree care professional.