Many homeowners think that pruning during the winter is unnecessary due to the slowed growth and lack of leaves found on many trees during the colder months. In reality, this is one of the best times of year to do your pruning. Without leaves, you can get a good view of every single branch and most of your trees will be dormant.
Pruning during the winter can be beneficial for your trees by helping them produce more flowers or fruit come spring and keeping pests away. It is also essential for maintaining the proper shape of your tree’s branches and to make sure it appears aesthetically pleasing.
One of the biggest benefits of pruning your trees during the winter is that you are able to prune your tree while it is dormant. This is good because it will create wounds on the plant at the ideal time to encourage the most growth when spring arrives.
When should I prune my trees in the winter?
Your climate and geographical location will impact the most ideal time to prune your trees during the winter. While we cannot tell you exactly when this will happen for your area, you should aim for the period after the peak of winter but before new growth begins in spring. This is usually a four-to-six-week window that is ideal for winter pruning.
Which trees should I prune in the winter?
Only certain trees should be pruned during the winter as the process can be harmful to certain species. We recommend only pruning the following trees during the winter months:
- Fruit Trees: While each fruit tree is different and may require special handling, most fruit trees will flower on growth from the last season. This means that pruning old growth during dormancy will cause you to lose a few flowers and fruits, but the pruning will promote growth, resulting in larger and better-tasting fruits during the next season.
- Summer Flowering Trees: Trees that bloom in the summer are ideal candidates for winter pruning to encourage luscious blooms. Popular variations include Rose of Sharon, Smoke Tree, or Vitex.
- Roses: Certain varieties of roses, such as climbing and hybrid tea, should be pruned during the winter, immediately before the leaf buds appear. If you live farther north and use winter protection for your roses, pruning when you remove the protection should be ideal.
- Hydrangeas: Two hydrangea species, H. paniculate and H. arborescens, feature blooms on new growth and therefore benefit from winter pruning. This will help promote new growth and flowers in the spring. Keep in mind that other varieties, such as the common H. macrophylla, should not be pruned in the winter.
What trees or plants should not be pruned in the winter?
For some trees and shrubs, pruning during the winter can be harmful and is not recommended. The list below features some of these plants.
- Bleeding Trees: Trees that produce sap, such as elms, birches, maples, and walnuts, produce more sap if they are pruned during the winter. While it will not harm them, you will have an easier time pruning these during the summer.
- Spring Flowering Trees and Shrubs: These trees and shrubs should be pruned in the spring, immediately after they flower. Common varieties include lilac trees, azaleas, and forsythia.
- Gardenias: The ideal time to prune gardenias is immediately after they bloom.
- Old Fashioned Roses: Unlike the varieties discusses above, old-fashioned roses only flower once per season and should be pruned during the summer after they bloom.