Five Reasons To Prune Your Trees This Winter

Pruning is a key part of keeping trees healthy and safe to live with in your Minnesota yard. It’s also one of the only landscape maintenance tasks that doesn’t have to be done in summer. In fact, there are plenty of reasons it’s better to prune trees in the winter.

Why wait for your yard to be covered in dead branches? Pruning your trees over the winter will help your trees that look great, are less likely to drop limbs, and will have better health! 

Winter Pruning is good for your trees

At a glance: why prune your trees in the winter?

  1. It’s easier to see the structure without the leaves.
  2. Lowers the risk of interrupting the tree’s growth cycle and reduces impacts from stress, such as drought, pests, and diseases.
  3. Areas of a tree with dead wood are easier to see.
  4. Lowers the risk of spreading insects and diseases, such as emerald ash borer, Dutch elm disease, and oak wilt.
  5. Reduces the impact on sensitive landscapes.
Dormant Pruning Benefits Infograph

Insects and diseases are dormant

Some trees, such as oaks and elms should only pruned in the winter unless there is an urgent reason to do so. As an example, beetles attracted to the sap of a fresh cut spread Oak Wilt. Rainbow Treecare follows the University of Minnesota Extension’s guidelines for pruning and insect and disease management. The long-term health of your trees is our primary consideration. That’s why we follow the most up to date industry standards on pruning.

Less impact to your landscape

Another reason to prune in the winter is that there is minimal impact to your landscape. Foot traffic, branch removal, and equipment can all affect sensitive plantings. Pruning during the winter helps reduce the impact to your property by allowing the frozen ground and snow cover to protect your turf and perennials.

Tree structure is more visible with no leaves on the trees

Urban trees provide aesthetic beauty and increase your property value. Pruning during the winter allows the arborist to spot tree defects more easily, as well as view the tree’s entire structure without the obstruction of leaves. Managing tree defects and maintaining proper structure are imperative to both tree health and optimal visual impact.

What are the signs there are dead branches or deadwood in my tree?

  • Clinging dead leaves while other branches are bare. (Except for oak and beech trees which often hang on to dead leaves long into the winter.)
  • Flaking bark that exposes smooth wood underneath.
  • Large amounts of fungus along branches.
  • Small twigs and branches that are not green beneath the bark or that feel lighter and snap easily.
  • Branches and twigs that do not have any live buds.
  • A “branch collar” forming around the dead limb. This is a protective measure by a tree done to stop the spread of disease to healthy parts of the tree!

How do I know my tree needs trimming or pruning?

Young trees should be pruned to establish good form. Mature trees need regular pruning to remove dead or diseased limbs. Proper pruning that removes weight from the ends of the tree branches reduces the likelihood that branches will fail.

Additional frequently asked questions about winter pruning

Properly trained experts will focus on removing deadwood and broken, damaged, or weakly attached limbs. Deadwood removal takes away food sources for fungi that decay trees. Each pruning cut must be made in the correct manner at the branch collar to allow the tree to most effectively build a protective barrier over the cut. If the branch collar is removed or cut improperly, it makes a tree more likely to suffer decay and fall apart later on in its life.
Oaks and elms should only be pruned during winter. Oak wilt is a fatal fungal disease spread by beetles that are attracted to sap that gets exposed when a branch is cut. Symptoms include yellow leaves, sudden leaf drop, and death. Once infected trees decline and die rapidly—in as little as 6 weeks. Dutch elm disease is a fatal fungal disease spread by bark beetles. It can also spread to nearby trees through root systems under ground.
Trees can be removed any time of year. Winter tree removal offers some advantages including reduced landscape damage due to hard frozen ground and dormant plants. Stump removal generally must be done when the ground thaws. Trees—especially hazardous or damaged trees—can be removed any time of year.

Should I have my trees pruned this winter?

If you you’re ready to trim your trees, our ISA Certified Arborists can help. In fact, we can manage everything to keep your trees and shrubs healthy and looking their best. Contact us to schedule a consultation today!

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