When is the best time to prune trees?

August 09, 2021 4 min read

man pruning a tree

Just like humans, trees are complex beasts, and no two trees behave the same way. Pruning one tree could be disastrous for another. Understanding your trees needs and timing are the most critical factors for pruning; when to get stuck in also depends on the reason you want do the tree pruning. Timing can make or break the health of a tree, so it’s important to do your research thoroughly.

The different pruning requirements

Every tree has different pruning needs, such as those outlined below. We’ll explore each of these scenarios in greater detail in this article.  

  • pruning to encourage new growth
  • pruning to reduce growth and improve shape
  • pruning to maintain and improve tree health
  • to ensure the safety of trees.

When is the best time to prune trees to increase growth?

The more the tree is pruned back in the winter months the more vigorously it will flourish in springtime. Therefore, if you want to encourage new growth, then late winter and very early spring tree time is when pruning is recommended.

Even if a tree is newly planted in the winter months, don’t be afraid to prune straight away as this is the best time to achieve the tree height and shape you desire later (formative pruning).

For deciduous trees (those that lose their leaves in winter), it can be beneficial to prune in winter as you will have easier access to trees with less sap bleeding, and a better view of branch formations before the spring foliage starts to grow.

If you’re looking for some starter trees to plant before Spring, check out our range of deciduous trees, or visit our current selection of feature trees, and shrubs. And we're adding to our stocklist all the time, so it's worth checking in regularly. 

When is the best time to prune to reduce growth?

New growth after summer pruning will be considerably less vigorous than the growth that comes after winter pruning. If you need to reduce the growth of an out of control or ugly looking tree, then you will need to do your tree pruning during summer. This way you don’t stress the tree. Just be careful to only prune off diseased, dead, damaged or rubbing branches. Avoid pruning any major branches as over-pruning in summer can leave your tree’s foliage susceptible to sunburn damage.

When is the best time to prune for safety reasons?

The best time to prune trees for safety reasons is right away as soon as you notice the problem, but whatever you do, don’t attempt hazardous tree pruning yourself. If you suspect that a tree or parts of a tree might be structurally unsafe, get professional tree advice and leave the tree pruning or tree removal to the experts.

Trees that have branches that fall like eucalypts or which are interfering with power lines or are have dead limbs all pose risks to people, animals and the space around them. 

Even if you feel you could safely prune your hazardous tree/s, if you attempt to do this and your incorrect pruning causes injury or losses to someone else at any time, insurance claims will be refused and you may even be liable for the damages.

When is the best time to prune for repairing damage?

If you suspect your tree is damaged or unhealthy, it’s best to have someone experienced come and prune back the damaged area of a tree a soon as you notice it. Collisions, lightning strikes, storms, bug infestations and poor pruning in the past can all cause obvious signs of tree damage. Trees can also be damaged from drought, infection, chemical poisoning and soil deficiencies and this damage can sometimes be subtle to the eye.

It’s best not to delay when you notice a damaged tree. Wounded trees which are left untreated can become at risk of infection and dying, and end up costing a lot to remove in the long run.

When is the best time to prune to maximise flowering?

The ideal time to prune flowering trees and maximise their flowering potential is just after the trees’ flowers have faded and the petals have started to drop and before new growth starts.  

Pruning to shape a flowering or ornamental tree in its first few years helps improve how much it flowers. Most flowering trees do not require a great deal of pruning after this initial shaping period.  

Conclusion

Depending on the area you live in, there can many rules surrounding tree pruning, based on tree type, location and the extent of work you would like to do and how it could impact the safety of others, their property, public land etc. 

Sometimes you need to lodge a formal application to your local council before you prune a tree, especially if it is situated on council land or area that has a protection order covering it.

So before you get stuck into any sort of tree pruning, it’s worth checking whether your plans could be restricted by any legal requirements, especially near boundary zones of your property.

Lastly, when in doubt about how much to prune, it’s better to err on the side of caution and not cut off too much OR to ask an expert for help.

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