When is the best time to prune?
The answer depends on the species of plant and the type of pruning that you are doing.
Any Time: If you are selectively pruning and are removing less than 10% of the plant’s canopy, it is usually ok to prune any time. If you are simply removing diseased, dead, or broken branches then any time is the right time to prune those off.
Early Fall: Early Fall is not the best time as it may encourage soft growth which will then freeze and be susceptible to disease and cause the plant stress. Once leaves begin to change color, it is best to wait until they have fallen to do any pruning.
Winter: Winter is a good time to prune most deciduous plants as they are usually dormant, and you won’t disrupt their active growth. Try to avoid pruning in very cold weather however, as this may increase the risk of branch dieback from frost crack. Winter pruning will stimulate Spring growth.
Late Winter or Early Spring: Late Winter or Early Spring is the best time to prune evergreens. They are still dormant while the soil thaws and are less prone to dehydration.
Spring: Spring pruning will cause your plants to grow vigorously. This is the best time if you are doing a large-scale reduction on a planting or rejuvenating an established hedge. Try not to prune after the leaves first emerge to avoid accidentally pruning off sprouts and suckers which are growth regulators of the plant. Certain species “bleed” when they are pruned, if you don’t want to deal with the mess from them dripping, save their pruning for Fall if you can.
Summer: Summer is generally the worst time to do any pruning of active foliage or branches. This opens the trunk and branches up to sun damage during the heat of Summer. Pruning dead branches should cause no harm or stress to the plant, however. Trees and shrubs will always benefit from dead tissue being removed.
Conclusion: Most plants are prone to disease or pest infections if pruned at the wrong time, it doesn’t allow time for the plants to heal over any wounds while those pests and diseases are less likely to swoop in and establish themselves. You want to get to know the plants that are on your property and identify the best time to prune each one. Along with a good care routine, pruning them properly and at the right time can help ensure that your plants will remain their healthiest and give you many seasons of enjoyment!