tree being trimmed by a certified arborist on a crane in southern california

When is the best time to trim trees? As certified arborists, we get this question a lot from clients looking to maximize the aesthetic and health of their trees. There may not be one concrete answer, but there are some general guidelines to follow. Continue reading to receive answers to the most common questions people have when it comes to trimming and pruning your trees.

The best time to trim trees occurs somewhere between the colorful changing leaves of fall and the beautiful flower blooms in spring. For the most part, you can’t go wrong trimming or pruning trees anywhere between late fall and early spring. Make sure to contact your local arborist or tree maintenance service before the spring blooms pop up. With that being said, routine trimming to eradicate weak, diseased, or dead limbs can be achieved anytime throughout the year without causing any extra damage.

Why is Late Fall Through Early Spring the Best for Tree Trimming & Pruning

Fall and winter are the best times to trim trees because that’s when they enter into a dormant stage without growth. This idleness mixed with the colder weather results in a perfect setting for pruning and trimming trees. For example, if you prune or trim after new growth commences, you might halt the plant’s ability to bloom in the next year. 
Keep in mind, the sturdier ground of winter allows arborists easier access to the tree and the naked canopy results in an uncompromised view of the branches. Learn more about tree pruning here.

What is Your Trimming/Pruning Goal?

  1. If your goal is to encourage rapid new growth in the spring, it’s best to trim your tree in the winter dormant season.
  2. If your goal of pruning/trimming is to manage growth by stunting the branches you don’t want, the ideal time to trim is during summer, which is directly after the seasonal growth period ends.

When is the Best Time to Trim Different Species of Tree?

Oak Trees

Like most trees, the best time to trim oaks falls during the dormant season in late fall/winter. This is suggested as oak wilt and various other diseases are active in the spring and summer months and may infect a tree with open wounds. On the other hand, when an experienced arborist abides by ANSI Pruning Standards, there shouldn’t be an issue with disease.

Elm Trees

Due to the occurrence of Dutch Elm Disease, it’s best to trim elm trees in the dead of winter. That’s because the disease is dormant during the winter months, which makes it a safer time to expose open wounds on the tree. With that being said, hiring a certified tree maintenance company that uses proper tools will help protect your elm from a disease no matter what season trimming occurs.

Pine Trees

Pine trees are among the easiest to maintain because of their natural cone shape that seldom needs correction. You can prune pine trees to correct damage at any time of year and it’s the only tree we are allowed to trim in the late fall or winter. With that being said, it’s not advisable to trim pines in the summer months.

Crape Myrtles

Ideally, crape myrtles need to be trimmed after the first frost of the year to ensure a colorful bloom.

Palm Trees

When it comes to palm trees, the purpose of pruning is necessary for ridding the tree of brown fronds (palm leaves), flowers, and fruit. Therefore, palm pruning isn’t governed by the time of year. On the other hand, it’s simply best to trim palm trees whenever it looks like they need it.

Bushes and Shrubs

Much like trees, the ideal time to trim bushes follows a general guideline but vary slightly bases on the specific species. For example, bushes without blooms (burning bush, boxwoods, and barberry) can be trimmed anytime except for late Autumn. On the other hand, early spring blooming bushes (lilac, forsythia, and rhododendron) are best when trimmed directly after they finish blooming. When in doubt, it’s always best practice to prune in the winter season (dormant season).

Final Thoughts

There are many different factors to sift through when deciding on the best time of year to trim your trees. That’s why we offer a free quote and consultation on our tree trimming and pruning services. Our highly trained and certified arborists know exactly what to look for when it comes to caring for the health and safety of your trees. Give us a call to set up a visit today!