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Pruning Trees in Winter: The Best Time of Year to Cut Back Trees

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Here in the Pacific Northwest, trees are a landscaping focal point for many homes and businesses. This makes tree pruning one of the most important elements of proper landscape maintenance. Pruning trees in the winter is common practice and yields the most beautiful results when spring comes around.

Why Is Tree Pruning Necessary?

Why not just leave trees alone and let nature run its course? After all, many people prefer a more wild, untamed landscape. The most important reason to cut back trees is safety. This is especially true with large trees, which can be at risk for dropping heavy, dead branches that can injure people and/or cause damage to property.

Pruning techniques can also be used to influence the future growth pattern of a tree. This can improve the tree’s structural integrity or give it a more beautiful shape. It can also encourage the tree to steer clear of power lines, homes, or other important structures. Pruning can even make a tree less “dense” so it lets through more light.

If you’re worried about your trees looking too manicured, it’s also possible to do light pruning without taking away their natural beauty.

When Should Trees Be Pruned? Why Winter?

Winter is the best time of year to cut back trees, because most plants are dormant in the coldest months of the year. During its dormancy period, a tree’s growth slows, it consumes less energy, and it stops generating food. The process is a lot like hibernation.

While they’re dormant, trees are much less susceptible to potential harm caused by puning and less likely to be damaged by fungus and insects, which also slow down in winter. When done right, dormant pruning encourages trees to flourish in the spring by priming them for fast, healthy regrowth.

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The process of winter tree trimming is especially important for deciduous trees (trees that drop their leaves in the fall) because it’s much easier to see a tree’s structure when it’s bare and not obscured by foliage.

How to Prune Trees in Winter

Safe and proper pruning requires expertise, tree knowledge, and a clear understanding of the end goal for the tree’s health and appearance. Here are a few general rules:

  • It’s best to prune on a dry day with clear weather.

  • Dead and diseased branches should be removed first, unless they’re integral to the tree’s structure.

  • Smaller, overgrown branches can be trimmed or removed to let through more light and air.

  • Trees should be pruned with the goal of fostering a healthy, long term structure.

  • It’s important to identify potential risks and obstacles, such as power lines, and use pruning techniques to encourage the tree to avoid them.

Many factors can complicate the pruning process including the tree’s health, bad weather, and the presence of nearby structures. The right approach also depends on the tree’s age. When done by a professional, tree pruning is faster, safer, and more conducive to long term landscaping goals.

Get Your Trees in Good Shape this Winter

At Creative Landcare, we offer high-end landscaping services at affordable prices. Our team of landscape technicians and horticulturists know how to care for your trees and encourage them to flourish beautifully in the spring. Give us a call today to learn more about our landscaping packages!

Robin Paschall