Winter Pruning For Trees

Posted by kelly@apfgarden.com BigCommerce on Mar 6th 2021

Winter Pruning For Trees


Winter is an excellent time to prune deciduous trees. Trees need pruning for a variety of reasons. Young trees need training to produce a structure that will be strong and beautiful for years to come. Mature trees may need to be thinned or branches removed.

Winter is an excellent time to prune deciduous trees. Trees need pruning for a variety of reasons. Young trees need training to produce a structure that will be strong and beautiful for years to come. Mature trees may need to be thinned or branches removed. There are also trees that you do not want to prune in the winter. It’s important to know what your tree needs and what your own goals are to take the right measures in pruning your tree.
 
Know your tree. Some trees require much less if any pruning at all during this season. Many plants have already formed their buds for the upcoming season so many flowering trees should not be pruned except if they need it for health, structure, or safety issues. For these types of trees, it is better to prune after they are done flowering.
Trees to avoid pruning in winter: Dogwoods, Saucer Magnolias, Serviceberry, Redbud, Fringe Tree, Crabapple, and Flowering Cherries.
 
Visualize your pruning goals and make a plan. The best tree pruning practices come before any corrective measures need to be taken. If young trees are pruned and cared for to have the target structure then tree maintenance becomes a much easier task. If you must make corrective pruning decisions, make sure to take your time and visualize the effect your cuts will have on the tree before ever grabbing your gloves.
 
Keep your tools maintained. Dull tools will make rough or incomplete cuts on branches. Use a good sharpener or even replacement blades to do a good job for your tree and to stay safe. Keep tools cleaned to keep trees healthy from harmful pathogens. Lack of care also shortens the lifespan of tools, requiring replacement or repair kits.
 
Cut off malformed, broken, or diseased branches. Using a sharp pair of pruners or loppers, remove any branches that are weak to avoid pest or disease infestations. When working with diseased material, you may need to sanitize your blade between each cut.
 
Make sure your tree has one strong leader. Most trees do best with a single leader, that is the tallest and strongest branch of the tree. Some trees tend to grow competing leaders, and this can weaken the strength of the tree. Likewise, if a leader is damaged or broken, another branch can be trained to be the new leader using tree stakes and plant ties.
 

Pruning Essentials

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Cut off crossing branches and those that are clustered too closely. Avoid having branches rub against each other and places for water and debris to collect. These areas become susceptible to damage and disease and will have an unsightly structure.

 
Avoid cutting more than a third of the tree at one time. Cutting too much all at once will send the tree into shock and the plant will overcompensate by growing suckers and water sprouts which are undesirable and hard to control. Oftentimes, a good pruning is not a drastic change but a subtle improvement.
 
Cut off suckers and water sprouts. To prevent the return of unwanted shoots use Sucker Stopper after pruning.

 

 

Avoid topping! Cutting off large branches from the tops of trees should only be done when necessary. This is called topping and produces a bad structure that may be weak, send the tree into shock, or at the very least look unsightly. If a tree must be reduced in size it is best to do a crown reduction which is to cut certain branches out entirely. When pruning these large branches, use a good pruning saw and employ the three-cut method to ensure the weight of the branch does not tear wood and bark off of the tree as it comes down. First, a cut is made on the underside of the branch. Then you cut the branch off further out than the first cut. The third cut is to cut the branch off at the branch collar. The branch collar is the swollen portion of the tree where the branch comes out of. It is from the collar that the tree will seal off and heal the wound from the cut. The branch collar should never be cut. A tree seal is not necessary when cutting off branches.
 

 

 

Thin your trees. For the best growth and health of the tree, there needs to be sufficient sunlight and airflow getting through the branches. Sometimes trees will grow too dense. Trees may then stop branching on the inside which may make future pruning more difficult. For the best results, thinning is the proper pruning technique. This can be done about every 3 years. When thinning, you cut branches back to a side branch that is at least a third in size of the branch being cut. Remember to cut at most a third of your tree at once.
 
Tree work can be dangerous. For big jobs please contact a certified arborist to conduct the work. Please stay healthy and stay safe!
 

 

Winter Pruning for Trees

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