When Is The Best Time To Trim Trees?

best time to trim trees is in the winter when the tree is dormant - RTEC Treecare tree service doing work on dormant tree
RTEC Treecare crew pruning a dormant tree in winter

Tree trimming (“pruning”) is key to tree maintenance, so it’s only natural our Certified Arborists often get asked, “When is the best time to trim trees?”

There isn’t one correct answer; the best time to trim trees depends on the type of tree and what you would like to achieve.

But for a simple answer, the dormant season between late fall and early spring is the best time to trim trees.

Why Is Winter The Best Time To Trim Trees?

  • In winter, branch defects and structural issues are plainly visible with the absence of leaves and clear sight of the tree limbs and branch collar.
  • Arborists can tell the difference between a live branch and a dead one, even if there are no leaves.
  • In the cold months, there is less risk of disease or pest infestation.
best time to trim trees 1

Timing Really Depends On Your Tree Pruning Goal:

  1. If your goal is to stimulate a vigorous burst of new growth in the spring, the best time to trim your tree is in the winter dormant season.
  2. If your goal is to direct the growth by slowing the branches you don’t want, or to slow the development of a tree or branch, the best time to trim is summer, soon after the seasonal growth is complete.

 Unless there are mitigating factors, RTEC is able to prune most trees year round.

Book A Tree Trimming Consultation

Concerned about your tree but don’t know when the best time is to have it pruned? You don’t need to wait for winter; talk to one of our Arborists now. Our Certified Arborists will provide you with the best recommendation for when to prune your tree, get you signed up, and schedule the tree work for when it is best for you and your landscape.

Not All Species Should Be Pruned Year Round

With proper technique and skill, most species can be pruned year-round; however, it’s key for the health of certain species to be pruned at a specific time of year.

Important Tree Care Tip: It’s important to remove dead or diseased branches as soon as possible, as they pose a health risk to the tree and a safety risk to people and the property.

best time to trim trees Flowering Trees:

If you have a spring flowering tree and your goal is to increase flower production, then it’ll be important to take into account the time of the year that the tree blooms. For trees that bloom in the spring, the best time to prune is when their flowers fade. For trees and shrubs that flower in mid-to-late summer, the best period to prune during is winter through early spring.

Crape Myrtles:

Crepe Myrtles should be pruned after the last frost of the year in order to produce a vibrant bloom.

Oak Trees:

The optimal pruning period for oak trees is during the dormant season, late fall/winter. This is recommended because oak wilt and other diseases are active in spring and summer and can infect a tree with open wounds. However; when tree companies abide by ANSI Pruning Standard and perform proper cuts with clean equipment, contracting a disease during or shortly after tree pruning should not be an issue for a healthy tree.

Elm Trees:

Because of Dutch Elm Disease, it’s safer to trim elm trees in the dead of winter, as this disease isn’t active during the winter season. With that said, just like any tree that is susceptible to disease or insects, proper pruning with sanitized equipment should be enough to keep Elms from contracting Dutch Elm Disease.

Maple Trees:

When Maple trees are pruned during the winter sap flows from the pruning cuts; generally, this will not hurt a mature tree. To avoid this issue altogether, wait until summer to trim maple trees. Once the leaf buds open, the sap will no longer leak out from the pruning cuts.

Fruit Trees:

If you have fruit trees, it’s best to prune in late winter, as it will be better for fruit production and overall health. Pruning fruit trees in the spring or summer can lead to additional issues such as slowed fruit ripening and potential sunburn. If you have just planted your fruit tree or if your tree is fairly young, it’ll be important to have your tree pruned and properly trained and protected for future growth. If your tree has reached three years of age, less pruning is required.


Like trees, pruning bushes depends on the type of species; however, when in doubt always prune in the dormant season (winter).

  • For bushes without blooms (i.e. burning bush, boxwoods, barberry) prune these any time except in late autumn. Bushes pruned in late fall may not have enough time to harden off the pruning cuts before the first frost. This could cause damage to the bush.
  • For early spring blooming bushes (i.e. lilac, forsythia, and rhododendron) prune in late spring immediately after they finish blooming. If you wait to prune these types of bushes during summer or winter, you will see lower amounts of spring bloom.
  • For bushes that bloom during the summer (i.e. butterfly bushes and hydrangeas) prune these bushes in winter while they are dormant or in early spring before new growth develops.

Realized now is the best time for you to have your trees trimmed? You can reserve a pruning appointment with one of our Certified Arborists by calling 703.573.3029 or by reserving an appointment online.