For most people, winter is a time when yard work and lawn maintenance can take a backseat. Snow, ice, and freezing temperatures are more than enough of an excuse to forgo your usual planting routines, but that doesn’t mean that you should stop altogether. In fact, depending on the kinds of greenery that you have, it may be necessary to get out and do a little winter pruning.

So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the basics of pruning during the winter months. We’ll look at what needs pruning the most, how you can do it effectively, and what you can expect as a result.

winter pruning


Why is Winter Pruning Necessary?

Even before we get into the particulars of doing this procedure during winter, it’s imperative that we understand what we are trying to get out of it. Pruning is a lot more than just clipping some branches and leaves here and there. There is some science behind it, and you can expect phenomenal results if you do it right.

Winter pruning is vital to your plants because stimulates better growth and resilience in the spring and summer months. Pruning while the plant is dormant ensures that it will come out swinging once the ground has thawed and it’s ready to grow again.

Additionally, if you remove dead or dying pieces from your plants, it will ensure that they don’t succumb to disease or starvation in spring. The best way to think about winter pruning is that you are prepping your plants for the thaw so that they can start on the right path when the time comes.


When to Prune

Although various plant species can benefit from pruning at different stages during winter, we usually recommend that you take care of everything later in the season. Ultimately, you want to avoid pruning before the harshest winter weather (as that can adversely affect the plants), but well before the spring thaw.

As a rule, you want to start pruning about a month or so before spring is set to arrive. That being said, it’s imperative that you know when that happens based on your location and your climate so that you can be accurate.


Different Plant Types

Because there is such variation in the kinds of flora that you can have in your yard, you don’t want to utilize the same pruning methods for each one. Instead, adjust your pruning as necessary to ensure that you get the most from each plant. Here’s a general guide on how to go about winter pruning.


Because these plants and trees are not as affected by the winter weather, you don’t have to do much to keep them healthy. Your primary concern should be shaping them and removing any dead or dying pieces. Also, keep your cuts on new wood, as old wood won’t bounce back as quickly.

Fruit Trees

If you want to make sure that you will get a full batch of succulent treats come summertime, then now is when you want pruning to work for you. Each type of tree is a bit different, so read up on them beforehand so that you don’t make cuts that can harm it.

Overall, however, removing some branches and shaping the tree during the late winter (when frost is no longer in the forecast) should encourage the tree to bear larger and juicier fruit. Because more nutrients are stored in the roots after pruning (since there isn’t as much tree to nourish), they will go into the fruits that remain.

Summer Blooming Plants

Once again, you want to wait until there is no chance of frost before you start pruning these items. Your primary focus should be too thin out the interiors and shape the plant as you see fit. In some cases, you may be able to cut most of the branches off, and the whole thing will regrow in the spring, leading to a more vibrant display in the summer.


Depending on where you live, you may have covered your roses to protect them from the winter. As such, wait to prune them until after this covering is taken off. Remove old buds and shape the plant as you see fit. If they are climbing roses, then you may have to wait until just before the thaw so that you don’t damage the plant in the process.


Oaks, crab apples, and elms have strict pruning windows during the winter to avoid pest infestation. If you have these trees in your yard, be sure to check the best times to prune them so that bugs and other critters can’t burrow into the cuts and infect the wood.


What NOT to Prune

Some plants can be harmed if you try to prune them during this season, so avoid it at all costs. If anything, this just gives you more of an excuse to stay inside and drink hot cocoa all day.

Once-Blooming Roses

If your bushes only bloom once per year, then you don’t want to cut them when they are dormant. Instead, do your pruning in late summer after they have flowered.

Sap Trees

Maples, dogwoods, and birches are prime examples of trees that will “bleed” sap if you prune them in the winter. Although this doesn’t harm the tree, it can be quite messy when spring arrives, so just avoid it altogether.

Spring-Flowering Shrubs and Trees

These plants are best pruned after they are finished flowering, not during the cold season. If you do your pruning during winter, they won’t be able to flower in spring, so they will look dead all year long.


The Bottom Line

When it comes to pruning you can do a lot of it yourself, but don’t hesitate to call a professional if you aren’t sure what needs winter pruning. Whether you just don’t have the time or you’re nervous about damaging your plants, hiring a pro will alleviate a lot of that stress.

If you’re looking for assistance, contact Precision Tree Service. Our expertise and experience will ensure that your plants will recover beautifully when the spring thaw arrives. Contact us today, and we’ll assess your yard and provide a quick estimate.

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