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The Best Time to Prune Common Landscape Trees

Because of the specific growing habits and physiology of each individual species of tree, trimming and pruning them should also be done with care and heavy consideration for best results. There are lots of factors to consider before you prune. Here are several very common landscape tree species and a general breakdown of when and how to prune them that best suits their needs.

Oaks: Oak trees have a very specific window of when you should NOT prune them, because of the disease oak wilt. The disease is caused by a fungus (Ceraticystis fagacearum) that is spread by a common type of beetle (Nitidulid beetles). These beetles are most active during the spring months, generally from February through May. Never prune oak tress during this time, because the open wounds caused by pruning sap over (a natural tree response to injury) which then attracts the insects and also provides an open easy access for the fungus to get inside the tree. The best time to prune oaks is during their dormant season when the beetles are least active, usually November through January. When you make a cut as you prune, cover the wound with a sealant that’s safe for the tree- like a warm wax, latex paint, or pitch specially made for sealing tree grafts and wounds. Pruning younger oaks is important to starting the tree properly. Pruning to keep an even shape that’s well balanced is most important for oak trees. As they age, pruning becomes more about removing dead and diseased wood than maintaining shape.

Maples: Maples are pretty forgiving and don’t necessarily have any special considerations for pruning and trimming. The only exception is to avoid pruning maple trees in the early spring. Maple trees move their sap in heavy amounts in the spring, and if you make a cut to one during this time, the tree will bleed heavily. Continue on further into the spring as the tree is budding and growing new leaves- if you trim maples then, they won’t put as much energy into healing the wound as they put into growing their leaves, which could result in added disease. This also applies to when maples drop their leaves in the fall. Otherwise, maples can be trimmed just about any time. Summer and early winter are good times for different reasons, mostly so you can judge the aesthetics of your cuts. In the summer when the tree is fully leafed-out, you can trim and prune while judging the tree’s full leafed out form. In the winter, you can easily see crossing branches that need to be pruned, imbalances in form, and other basic structural issues without the leaves in the way. One different consideration all together is the silver maple. Silver maples sucker often and you can trim down these suckers at any time of year. 

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