Late winter ideal time to prune trees

January 31, 2022


Late winter is the ideal time to prune branches on trees, according to experts with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. When done correctly, pruning in the winter is less risky to tree health.

“Now through early March — just before trees come out of dormancy — is a great time to get outside and prune your trees,” said Jennifer Teegarden, DNR cooperative forestry outreach specialist. “As trees become active in spring, they are able to quickly heal the pruning wound.”

Wintertime pruning minimizes the risk that an open pruning wound could invite pests or diseases. Pruning oak trees should be avoided from April through July, when beetles that can spread oak wilt are feeding on tree sap, which is present at new wounds.

Tree pruning tips:

  • Trim branches before they grow to 2 inches in diameter to minimize wound size and damage to the surrounding bark.
  • Don’t cut flush to the trunk. Preserving the branch collar (the area where the trunk slightly bulges around the branch) allows the wound to heal quickly and not decay.
  • Use the three-cut method for larger branches to minimize damage to the bark. Information on this method can be found the pruning trees and shrubs page of the University of Minnesota Extension website.

Pruning trees benefits yards and homes by:

  • Reducing the need for a larger pruning job in the future and improving the tree’s health.
  • Helping trees survive storms with fewer dropped branches and less damage.
  • Improving safety by removing branches that overhang or block walkways or roads.
  • Maintaining the aesthetic of yards and enhancing the beauty of the tree.

More tree care tips are available on the tree planting and care page of the DNR website.